Impruneta is one of the most charming towns of the Florentine countryside. Its urban planning follows the typical starburst formation, with a central focal point, the piazza, and streets radiating out from it.
The town’s first settlers arrived during the Etruscan era, as proven by several archeological artifacts. Its geographic position, its rich soil and its proximity to Florence made it an ideal location for Roman settlers.
Impruneta’s large pine-tree forests, visible from its outskirts, seem to have given it its name. Town lore describes how a group of Saint Romulus’ Christian followers, escaping from Fiesole and religious persecution, found respite in “pinetis”, or in “prunetis,” among the pines. The same Saint Romulus and his followers brought the sacred painting of Saint Luke’s Madonna to Impruneta.
The town’s growth and status are tied forever to its church and shrine, dedicated to exhibiting and safe-keeping St. Luke’s painting of the Virgin Mary. The church and its shrine were built in the 8th-9th centuries with the help of Florentine pilgrims, and contributed to the town’s popularity and growth.
Another focal point of the town is its large Piazza Buondelmonti, the town square. The piazza’s “loggiati”, arched galleries, provide its distinctive look, and as of the 500s, host cultural events and fairs, i.e. The Fair of Saint Luke. The piazza is at the exact center of the town and is surrounded by the “loggiati,” built by Gherardo Silvani in 1643 and 1670, with the aid of pilgrims’ donations, and by the church’s historical complex.
Inside the Basilica there are two aedicules attributed to Michelozzo, and inspired by similar ones found in the church of the SS. Annuziata in Florence. These aedicules are adorned by polychrome majolica by Luca della Robbia. The Museum of the Treasure of Impruneta houses a collection of illuminated manuscripts, as well as works in gold and silver, religious vestments, and other furnishings tied to the church’s history.
As far as the town’s economy and manufacturing, it centers on the Impruneta’s renowned terracotta factories, or “il cotto.” Tourism makes up a sizable portion of the town’s economic development. The beauty of Impruneta’s countryside, highlighted by olive trees and small terracotta tabernacles, represents the innate and distinctive charm of this area.
It is through a web of events, religious beliefs, displays of worship, town lore, and traditions, coupled with natural resources and their wise use by its citizens, that Impruneta derives its social and cultural identity.
During the Middle Ages, due in part to the famous Fair of Saint Luke, Impruneta held an important cultural and social place; it was, therefore, at the top of the seventy-two leagues of the Florentine state. In 1415 a statute established the municipality of Impruneta, and was thus governed by a podesta, and eleven council members. Impruneta’s league became part of the Galluzzo territory, but was subsequently divided into four areas in 1536 by Alessandro de’ Medici. These areas were: Legnaia, Santa Margherita a Montici, Giogoli e Santa Maria all’Impruneta. There were several transformations of this territory,that with further with separations from Legnaia, Casellina, and Torri, became the new municipality of Galluzzo.
Impruneta as it stands today became its own autonomous municipality in January 1929.