Museo delle Terre Nuove is located in Palazzo di Arnolfo in the town of San Giovanni Valdarno. The museum recounts the history of how new settlements sprang up in Medieval Europe between the 13th and 14th Century. The settlements dating back to this era which were built on the Florentine territory include Firenzuola, Castelfranco, Scarperia, Terranuova Bracciolini and San Giovanni Valdarno itself.
With the Renaissance of the year 1000 came a florid period of demographic, economic and commercial growth, and increased urbanization. Sovereigns, nobles, religious institutions and municipalities began to expand their control over the surrounding territory, giving rise to deep-rooted change in the geography of the settlements. The Terre Nuove (New Lands) were thus born, and the new inhabitants could enjoy their new-found freedom from feudal ties, and the benefits of tax exemptions and the offer of a building lot on which to build their homes.
The Museum offers a combination of videos, images, interactive animation, models and historical re-enactments which perfectly illustrate how specific features of architecture and town-planning shaped the Terre Nuove in Tuscany and revolutionized spontaneous Medieval stratification and the facets of every-day life. The Museum dedicates particular attention to Castel San Giovanni, which was founded on 26th January 1299, with the aim of consolidating Florentine power in the area and the road axis along the Arno River, as well as weakening the local lords.
Between the end of the 13th Century and the beginning of the 14th Century Palazzo di Arnolfo was the seat and home of the representative of the Florentine municipality, and where the community’s council meetings took place. It was the Florentine representatives who placed their coats of arms on the outer wall, giving the building that pastiche-like appearance it still has today.