Tuscan Secret Spot: Colosso Appenninico in Vaglia

A 30-minute drive from central Florence lies a true Tuscan secret: a 16th-century sculpture Colosso Appenninico by Giambologna. Discover with us this obscure Mannerist masterpiece.

Colosso Dell’Appennino

Florence, Italy, is home to great Renaissance masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Brunelleschi’s dome of the Florence Cathedral. It is an art lover’s dream to visit a place with such historical and cultural importance. But there are also many lesser-known artworks in the surrounding Tuscan towns and parks. One of them is the Colosso Appenninico, or the Giant of the Apennines, located in Villa di Pratolino in Vaglia.

This Mannerist monument was carved out of local rock between 1579 and 1580. It rises 12 m high and sets in front of a big pond in a former Medici estate. The artist, Giambologna (1529-1608), born Jean Boulogne, was a sculptor from Northern Europe who moved to Italy in 1550. Some of his other works are presented today in different spots in Florence, such as the Bargello Museum or in the famous Piazza della Signoria, where you can find his most famous work Abduction of a Sabine Woman.

Giambologna, abduction of sabine woman
Giambologna, Colosso Appenninico, Villa di Pratolino, Vaglia, Italy. Photo by the author.

The Tuscan terrain surrounding this sculpture is sunny and beautiful. In contrast, Colosso Appenninico looks a little bleak — he hunches over while his gaze strays over the pond below him. The choice of a personification of nature over a classical or Christian motif is also quite odd. One study suggests that Colosso Appenninico symbolizes the mourning of the High Renaissance — Italy’s artistic golden age. The study also mentions that the artwork’s patron, Francesco de Medici, had a taste for melancholic yet heroic art.

Stefano Della Bella

Visitors can enjoy this newly reconstructed, man-made artwork in Pratolino Park. It’s open for visitors from April to October on Fridays, weekends, and holidays. The peaceful nature around it makes it only more impressive and worth a visit.

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