Walking through the graceful hills of San Miniato, everyone can found fossil shells that emerge from the ground.
To these fascinating presences, witnesses of a prehistory that tickles our imagination, the geological studies carried out over time have provided the unquestionable scientific explanation: In San Miniato there was the sea.
Those shells are nothing but the remains of living beings that disappeared three million years ago, in the Pliocene geological era, following a slow movement of the continents that pushed the ancient seabed upwards.
It is curious to think that the same findings have certainly happened even in antiquity, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance; but in the absence of a science that would explain the phenomenon, men have always believed it was the remains of the universal flood.
TO UNDERSTAND THE TRUTH, YOU NEEDED… A GENIUS!
In fact, the first man who ventured the right hypothesis was precisely the genius of Leonardo da Vinci.
Around 1504, Leonardo carefully studied our Valdarno from his dominant observation point on the summit of Montalbano, seeking inspiration for the project to divert the course of the Arno, commissioned by the Florentines to fight against the Pisans.
Perhaps it was precisely that “sea” of fog that sometimes lays down in the wide plain in the autumn mornings and allows only the soaring San Miniato hill to emerge as if it were an island, to reveal the arcane truth to him.
In his codices, the genius meticulously described the “sea, which at that time exceeded the height of San Miniato al Tedesco, because in the high heights of that one you can see the ripe ones full of nichi and oysters inside its walls“.
Those “nichi”, or the shells that we see today, are therefore the same that Leonardo da Vinci saw five hundred years ago!
In San Miniato there is also a recently inaugurated route, consisting of four information panels installed in places of considerable geological and paleontological interest.
The path is accessed from the Gargozzi slipper; the first information panel is located along the road that goes down to the valley. Continuing on via Gargozzi, you have to go left at the crossroads for via Marzana and, before the “La Canigiana” farm, you have to take the dirt road on the left that goes up to the “il Tufo” farm, near which you find the second information panel. Continue until you find the paved road of via Calenzano and from here on the route coincides with a stretch of via Francigena. The third information panel is located in Poggio Tagliato and the fourth and last in the rest area of the Francigena route on via Castelfiorentino.
The entire route is about 6 km long and allows anyone to “immerse themselves in this sea” and deepen their knowledge.