The hill got its name from the swans that would flock there. The people of Florence called them “ceceri” (from “cecio” meaning chickpea or wart) because of the excrescence on their beaks. A wealthy tradition of artisan and artistic workmanship began to grow around pietra serena stone, and lasted long throughout history. Indeed, from the Etruscans to the Romans, from the Middle Ages to the present day, the quarries were not only the place where raw material was obtained but also the school and workshop where craftsmen were trained and where continuity of every aspect of tradition was assured. A history of art, a history of social relations and of local economy and industrial archaeology blend together in this unique place. This area, which has now become a historical naturalist park, counts 19 quarries (the most important being Cava Braschi, Righi and Sarti) which have been in disuse since the early 1900s and cannot be visited. However, visitors can see the remains of a number of drystone storerooms built by the stonemasons to store their tools and the hollowed stone – rain-water drainage channels made by the masons by inserting stone diagonally into the ground. Previously Montececeri was wholly bereft of vegetation because of the quarrying, but it now is almost wholly green thanks to the plant replacement project which was introduced in 1929 by the forestry commission.
Montececeri, however, is not only quarries and pietra serena, but also a location famously linked to Leonardo da Vinci: it was from the top of the hill that Leonardo tested his flying machine in 1506. The characteristics of the location, presuming they are unchanged since then, would have been the most suited, as there is a sheer drop at the rock walls of the Sarti quarry. Leonardo mentions Monte Ceceri and drew the profile of the hills around Florence in sheet 20v of the Codex of Madrid II. Legend has it that Tommaso Masini, also known as Zoroastro da Peretola, a pupil of Leonardo’s in Milan and Florence, tested the machine, as mentioned in a note by Leonardo himself in the Codex of Flight.