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Around and about Bucine: San Leolino

Towards the edge of a mountain ridge that descends from the Monti del Chianti, stretches out toward the Arno valley and Pratomagno to the north east and dominates the Ambra valley to the south east, we find San Leolino, 377 m above the sea level.

This village consists of a partially ruined medieval castle with unpretentious houses and a church along the castle walls, and a flatter borough that includes a few 15th century palazzi which used to be the homes of rich and illustrious families from Florence.

The poet Ugo Foscolo stayed in San Leolino because of his friendship with the “Donna Gentile” Quirina Mocenni Magiotti, who owned a house there.

A 16th century native son of San Leolino was Sebastiano Sanleolini, son-in-law of Guido da Montebenichi, who was quite famous as a jurisconsult, man of letters, and poet. Another Sanleolini from the 16th century, Francesco, was a member of the Accademia della Crusca.

According to the Memorie of Tito Cini, the Senese set the castle on fire about the year 1300; the Senese were at that time allies of Florence in the war against the Aretine feudal lords for control over the lands of the Upper Arno valley and Valdambra.
The name of the village is the same as that of its patron saint, San Leolino. He is said to have been a bishop of Padua who was martyred in Rome and buried in the catacombs of St Priscilla.

The church dates back to the year 1000 but has since been rebuilt and transformed in the style of the 18th century. It contains some quite valuable works, such as the temple-formed container for sacred oils on the baptismal font which can, despite several re-workings, be attributed to master stone- cutters of the 16th century. The stone tabernacle of the main altar is also artistically quite valuable, except for the modern door which was added in the 1970s. The tabernacle is attributed to Tuscan master stone-cutters of the late 15th or early 16th century. A painting on canvas from the 17th century hangs above the main altar.

The Milk Fountain
A small perennial water spring near San Leolino used to be called “Fonte Lattaia” (milk fountain) because, according to oral tradition, milknurses experienced miraculous increases in their milk production drinking of its water. These miraculous properties were known in Valdambra, Valdarno and even in the Chianti region, and attracted a constant flow of pilgrims.

It was undoubtedly a site of water-cults. A small idol from the Stone Age that has been found nearby shows how this spring has been visited,without interruption, since prehistorical times – for about four thousand years.

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