Near Reggello, Cascia Secrets Unveiled
Enroute to a wedding celebration near Reggello, south of Florence, we stopped for an espresso in a whisper of a town along the winding road skirting vineyards and olive groves, Cascia di Reggello.
A towering bellower flanked a medieval church graced with a Romanesque portico and we headed over to explore: what a gem, that Pieve di Cascia.
…and the poster inside in the church entryway announced a surprise: the first masterpiece of Masaccio, called “the founder of the Italian Renaissance,” in this off-the-beaten-track Tuscan village? (But how can I even be surprised at such hidden wonders after over forty years in Italy?)
A priest was seated reading in one of the pews in the nearly empty 12th- c church. When I whispered “Masaccio?” to him, he smiled, closed the book and motioned for us to follow him out the side door. He led us into the sacristy, proudly showing us the base of the bellower, indicating the massively thick walls as he put on his stole for Mass. When he heard that Pino restored medieval architecture, he enthusiastically elaborated on the history of the bellower and adjacent church.
Before the priest headed back into the church for Mass, he showed us the door to the adjacent Museo Masaccio d’Arte Sacra where elderly local volunteers serve as museum personnel, recounting the history of the artifacts with passione.
The collection of richly-embroidered vestments and altar cloths, the gold and silver ex-votos and paintings by Florentine masters all bear witness to the importance of Cascia in the Renaissance, once a part of the Florentine contado. Not surprisingly, numerous noble Florentine families had built countryside villas in the area.
…..and in the back room in the dark, we came to the museum highlight, Masaccio’s early 15th-c Triptych of San Giovenale:
….and the two volunteers indicated to us exquisite details of the triptych which we’d have missed if there on or own. We might have overlooked Masaccio’s signature on the base of the throne and certainly those two wedding rings on the Virgin’s left hand. One of our guides told us why: “Masaccio’s mother had died when he was young and his father remarried.”
As we left this gemstone of a small museum, we passed a group of Italian visitors about to enter. Like us, they know that you can seek out Italy’s treasures for a lifetime and never even skim the surface.
The Cascia and Reggello area merit further exploration – moltissimo!