Set along the banks of the Arno river, San Giovanni Valdarno developed itself along the Arezzo-Florence main communication route. The village was already founded during the Medieval times and in a XIV century document a village called San Giovanni in Altura (meaning upper San Giovanni) is mentioned. Later the town took its actual name.
Masaccio's birthplace, who was born here on December 21 1401, it is characterised by the main square, Piazza Masaccio, onto which the most important buildings face, as for example, the Palazzo Pretorio, designed, according to Vasari's theory, by Arnoldo di Cambio. The ground floor has a large portico while a crenellated tower rises in the middle of the back wall with a double row of windows.
The Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie was built at the end of the XV century in order to preserve a venerate image of the Holy Virgin; it contains a series of frescoes from the XV century attributed to the painter Luberto da Montevarchi. The museum of the Basilica contains an interesting collection of paintings from the XV to the XVII century amongst which stands out a lovely Annunciazione by Beato Angelico, an early work by the painter.
The Pieve di San Giovanni Battista, built in the XIV century, was later re-structured. The exterior is preceded by a portico decorated with terracotta tondi by the Della Robbia. The interior is very simple with only one nave and wooden ceiling.
The Church of San Lorenzo has XIV century origins, with only one nave and interesting frescoes made by Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, called Lo Scheggia, Masaccio's younger brother and above the high altar is a triptych by Giovanni del Biondo.