Collodi is Pinocchio’s town, but it is more than that: it is one of the must-visit Tuscan villages. Here, the magic of fairy tales is intertwined with the Baroque Art in Villa Garzoni and in its garden and with the contemporary art at the Pinocchio Park.
How to reach Collodi? It’s a village under Pescia, Italy, a small town in the province of Pistoia, which can easily be reached from many of the main tourist destinations in Tuscany: Florence (70 km), Viareggio (50 km), Pisa (45 km), Pistoia (30 km ) and Lucca (18 km). If you go by car, once you exit the A11, in Chiesina Uzzanese, you will find signs indicating the direction to Collodi. By train you can get off at the train stations of Pescia and Montecatini, and from here, shuttle buses which regularly offer transport to the park, will take you comfortably to your destination. Please check the timetables, which may vary depending on the season.
If you want to move around a bit, you can make the most of the opportunity and also visit Svizzera Pesciatina with its ten castles in Tuscany.
Do you think this village took its name from the author of 'The Adventures of Pinocchio'? No, exactly the opposite! Carlo Collodi's birth name was Carlo Lorenzini, but, as a tribute to the Tuscan village where he had spent part of his childhood, he chose Collodi as a stage name. His mother was serving in Florence by the Ginori Marquises, who allowed Carlo Collodi to receive a good education. As often happened in those days, that education was carried on in a seminary even though Carlo never took vows. Instead, he went to work as a clerk for the ‘Piatti’ library in Florence, later even becoming its owner. It was perhaps his close contact with books that sparked his passion as a writer - a passion that Collodi fully cultivated: he was also a translator, an editor and a journalist.
‘Centuries ago there lived... A king! - My little readers will say immediately. No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood.' A piece of wood that has become more famous than many kings! But why is the Pinocchio book so well known? It was a children magazine, 'Il Giornale dei Bambini', which released the first episode of the story of Pinocchio in 1881, at the time entitled 'The Adventures of Pinocchio. Story of a puppet'. And to think that the author of Pinocchio wrote it reluctantly, only with the promise that the work was well paid! The first episodes ended with Pinocchio the wooden puppet who died after being hanged by the Cat and the Fox. The audience at home found a way for its voice to be heard and Carlo Collodi was forced to continue the new adventures of Pinocchio with other episodes and new characters of Pinocchio: the Land of Toys, the wooden Pinocchio that becomes a donkey and risks being turned into skin for making drums, the dogfish (which in the Pinocchio Disney movie becomes the whale in Pinocchio) in the belly of which Pinocchio meets Geppetto, just to name a few. Until the grand finale when Pinocchio becomes the Pinocchio real boy, Pinocchio father is once again young and lively and the hut is transformed into a fantastic villa... and everyone lived happily ever after! In 1883 all episodes were collected in one volume and the story of Collodi Pinocchio began... and what a story!
The Pinocchio original story has been translated into 240 languages and hundreds of Pinocchio films have been made: how can we forget Geppetto from Manfredi in Pinocchio Comencini or the recent Pinocchio by Benigni? Among the theatrical versions Carmelo Bene’s Pinocchio is worth mentioning for its avant-garde modernism. A Pinocchio Disney film has also been made. The very famous puppet Pinocchio has even become the protagonist of songs: the LP 'Burattino senza fili' by Edoardo Bennato is an example.
HOW TO START OFF VISITING COLLODI? We recommend starting right from the Pinocchio Park Tuscany, but first, let me tell you how it came to life: the fame of 'The Adventures of Pinocchio' Carlo Collodi had grown so much that in 1953, the mayor of Pescia, Rolando Ancilotti, decided to hold an international competition to build a monument in honour of Pinocchio the puppet. The winners, selected by a committee of painters, sculptors, architects and art critics, were in a tie: Emilo Greco - the sculptor who created the Pinocchio and the fairy statue - and Venturo Venturini, who instead created the Square of Mosaics. The park itself didn’t open until 1956 thanks to a donation from primary school pupils.
An open-air museum. When you visit the Pinocchio Park do not expect to find a usual amusement park made of fairground attractions. Will children be bored here, then? Absolutely not! Indeed, the fairy-tale atmosphere will take adults back to their childhood too! Upon entering the Pinocchio Park in Italy, passed the game of chess, you will be welcomed by the Pinocchio and the fairy bronze statue inserted in a splendid green area. Soon after, you will meet the puppet theatre where performances that will attract the attention of your children will take place... much better than cartoons! Once having traversed the café area, picnic tables and a few 'vintage' rides, you will enter the caravans of the fairy and the Fire-eater, full of puppets and costumes. These, like a magic bridge, will introduce you to the area of Geppetto Pinocchio wooden games. Here you must stop at the exhilarating cableway!
Then continue towards the Squares of Mosaics in Collodi where, both on the walls and on the pavement, scenes from the story of Pinocchio are recreated. Have fun recognizing them! Are your children older and turn their nose up at fairies and puppets? Don’t fear! Bring them to the new adventure route included in the entrance fee: once harnessed and helmeted, they will go on a trip passing over the river and through the trees, ending the route between the masts and sails of the pirate ship. You can have a coffee in peace in the meantime!
At this point, following the indicated path, you will find yourself in a maze of paths bordered by oak groves and bamboo and boxwood hedges. This is the Land of Toys, an area of the park completed in 1972 which exhibits 21 works by the sculptor Pietro Consagra. You'll see all the main characters of the fairy tale: you can pass under the legs of the policeman, find yourself in front of the Talking Cricket and the fairy child, you will see the cat and the fox in prison, and you can look into the windows of the house of Pinocchio fairy: inside you can see Pinocchio ill who does not want to take his medicine. Further on, the rabbits with the coffin remind him what will happen to him if he doesn’t swallow the bitter concoction. The Pinocchio author took things very seriously! Imagine if he had seen the sugary version in the Disney Pinocchio movie! Certainly, however, he would have liked the great white dogfish at the Pinocchio park in Italy: a giant black figure with a wide open mouth showing tongue and teeth. Younger children must be careful, they might get scared! After the first sight, however, they will have fun climbing into the mouth of the shark, since it doesn’t close!
End your visit with an old activity that will entertain adults too: the maze! The Pinocchio Park in Collodi is so soaked in art that even the restaurant - logically called the Red Shrimp Inn of Collodi - is a work worthy of note designed by the architect Giovanni Michelucci and built in 1963.
WHAT ELSE TO SEE IN COLLODI? Once having left the Pinocchio Park, stop for a moment and look up to the left: you will see a small group of rustic houses that seem to slide off the edge of the mountain, supported by a sumptuous Baroque style villa. Here's what else you can see: the ancient village called Collodi Castle, Villa Garzoni with the adjoining garden and Collodi Butterfly House. The magic of a small Versailles in Tuscany: graceful butterflies and modern Edward Scissorhands.
- Let's start from the Villa which already belonged to the Garzoni family in 1366. It acquired its present appearance, typical of Lucca villas, only later, in 1633. The property passed to the Ardenghesca Counts in 1871 who, in turn, sold it. With its yellow plaster and rococo decorations, the villa stands in the middle of the majestic panorama of Collodi: having been built on a slope, it has 3 levels upstairs and two downstairs but only the first floor can be visited. After the staircase encircled by frescoes, you reach a long corridor leading to various rooms: the bedroom of the maid, the empire-style library, the red room where Napoleon Bonaparte seems to have stayed and the inevitable Lunch and Dance halls.
Undoubtedly the biggest attraction of the villa is the Italian-style garden which can be accessed through a side staircase. This, too, was already present in 1633, but was extended in 1652 and equipped with the typical terraces. Later, thanks to the architect Ottaviano Diodati, a hydraulic system was inserted that allowed for the creation of numerous and spectacular water features.
The visit of the garden must start from the parterre, where you are greeted by statues of Pan Falutista and Flora, and where there are also two pools with water lilies and spectacular water splashes. Two other statues of Diana and Apollo open the second part of the parterre where, within the flower beds, the insignia of the Garzoni family are represented. The parterre is surrounded by hedges of boxwood pruned in topiary art, the art of pruning plants giving them the most diverse forms. Although this activity was already practiced by the Romans, there are still many producers in the area of Pescia Italy and Pistoia who specialize in this form of green art. With skilful cuts boxwood, yew and privet can be given the form of cars, animals and even dinosaurs. But back to Collodi: after the parterre, a double staircase decorated by an impressive balustrade leads to the upper level. In the nymphaeum you will find Neptune and the Tritons with the unmissable water features. The second landing leads on one side to a statue of Pomona, protector of the garden, and on the other to a greenery scene made of boxwood hedges and adorned with statues of Muses. We then proceed towards the statue of Fame with the cornucopia from which water flows. From here two other paths lead to a bamboo grove and a labyrinth. Needless to say, the view of the garden from above is simply breathtaking and it is worth going all the way to the top ... come on, do not lose heart!
- In 2007 Collodi Butterfly House was inserted in the garden, a stone and crystal building which contains a reproduction of a typical tropical environment. About 800 butterflies live inside, both diurnal and nocturnal, which can be observed at all stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis. A truly unforgettable experience
- If after visiting the Pinocchio Park, the Villa and the Garzoni gardens in Collodi your legs feel as stiff as those of the Pinocchio wooden puppet, do not be deterred by those who say that the village of Collodi can only be reached on foot. Indeed, there are shuttle buses that depart from the entrance of the Garzoni gardens in Tuscany: they only make the outward journey but it's much easier downhill and well worth the effort! simply wander through the streets, observing the rustic stone houses, go under the arches that sustain them. admire the historical buildings such as the Church of St. Bartholomew dating back to the twelfth century, like the rest of the village. Look down from one of the panoramic places: you will be amazed! Below you will also see the highest wooden puppet Pinocchio in the world: as many as 16 meters and, commissioned by the National Carlo Collodi Foundation, it was built in Switzerland in 2009. Ambassador of all children in the world, under the huge hat it treasures a plea for their right to education and culture.
Well, have I convinced you to come to Collodi? Baroque and contemporary art, nature, history, literature, fun for adults and children! Do you think I've gone over the top and haven't told the truth?
"Lies, my boy, are known in a moment. There are two kinds of lies, lies with short legs and lies with long noses.”. Wait a minute ... Ah here! My nose is always the same size, it hasn’t grown, I have not told lies! Trust me, I will wait for you in Collodi.
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