History of the Monastery of Santa Margherita in Tosina
The Etruscan origin of the place name Tosina suggests that it was inhabited in the remote past. In fact, it was situated on the ancient road to reach Monte Falterona, a sacred mountain for the Etruscan people, as evidenced by the findings, in the mid 1800s, of a number of small votive statues in an area called “the Lake of the Idols”.
In the neighborhood of the monastery, some old inhabitants were known to say that an ancient Etruscan fountain once existed there.
After the Etruscans, the Romans came and left their footprints in the place names like Falgano and Ferrano and in places where we find isolated structural remains, such as the bridge over the river Moscia near the old Pesci mill, not far from the Agritourism of Torre Mozza and the furnace along the road to Farrano.It has been verified historically that the old buildings were often transformed or even swallowed up over the centuries by larger buildings or, otherwise, the materials were recycled. Although this meant that the past was erased, it did promise continuity.
After the Romans, the Longobards arrived
After the Romans, the Longobards arrived. After having occupied a large part of northern Italy, the Longobards settled in Tuscany and took control of the main strategic centers as well as the communication routes. And it is to them that we owe the creation of a vast system of lookout towers, all connected to one another through signals that consented the rapid transmission of messages – a precursor to the telephone.There are still traces of one of these lookout towers – inside the Santa Margherita monastery – facing the valley in direct communication with the tower at the Torre Mozza Agritourism.
From its origins to today
The origin of the Santa Margherita complex dates back to mid 11th century. The church definitely existed in 1062, as attested in a document in which the Counts of Quona entrusted the management to the priests living there under the Rule of St. Augustine. The priests offered pastoral services to the sparse population and hospitality to the pilgrims who travelled across the Apennines between Valdisieve and Casentino.
In 1153, Pope Eugene III subjected the Canonical to Camaldolese reform, after which the Camaldolese monks continued the work underway with regard to the apostolate and hospitality; hence Tosina became a strategic node road in medieval times.
From then on, many people passed through Tosina, leaving their footprints throughout history. For instance, St Francis, who is still remembered today by the fountain bearing his name in the area near the mountain pass of Madonna dei Fossi. And Dante, who took part in the Florentine army in the dramatic battle of Campaldino which, in 1289, saw the fighting of the Guelfs and Ghibellines under the respective banners of the municipalities of Florence and Arezzo. In the very interesting and well-documented book by Riccardo Nencini, “The Battle” narrates specifically how, on its first night, the Florentine army stopped at this place, the last outpost before the treacherous forest of the Pruno Mountains.
The Camaldolese monks were experts in the art of hospitality and could not have found a more suitable spot, geographically, for Tosina , which was half way between the Order’s Motherhouse and Florence. And therefore Santa Margherita became the obligatory stopping place for the prior Generals of the Camaldolese Order, who were seen in the monasteries of the Florentine countryside from the 12th to the 17th century . The pastoral management of the church was handed over to the Diocese of Fiesole, which sent one of its priest there, who was paid by the monks, while the property of the church and land remained in the hands of the Camaldolese until their ecclesiastic goods were confiscated, decreed by Napoleon in 1808. After the fall of Napoleon in the first half of the 19th century, a religious community returned anew, namely the Camaldolese nuns of Pratovecchio. However, they too were removed after another confiscation of ecclesiastic goods, carried out by the Italian state. In 1870 the complex was acquired by a private individual, Stupan di Pelago, who in 1899 sold it to Ansano Borgiotti (the grandfather of the present owner Giorgio Bieber) who, one sunny day while walking in the area with his close friend Ruggero Panerai – the famous post-Macchiaiolo painter – was fascinated by the place adorned by nature; it was the beauty of these surroundings
that brought about his spiritual need for peace and quiet.
The outdoor garden