Portico was founded in ancient times along the road to Florence and came to be known first as a market place during Roman times and later as a castle under the control of the Guidi Counts of Dovadola.
In 1386 the Republic of Florence had chosen Portico as chief town of its Romagna territories.
The village still retains its medieval appearance and is divided into three parts: the upper part with the castle and the parish church, the middle part with the landowners’ and aristocratic houses from the 13th and 14th centuries inhabited by Romagna and Tuscan nobles who escaped here from political fights, and the lower part with the houses of craftsmen with their workshops and of common people.
Along the Nature Trail, about 5km (two hour walk), starting from San Benedetto in Alpe tourists can find the Acquacheta waterfall, described by Dante in the 16th Canto dell'Inferno, whose name derives from its slow flow. The Montone river crosses the Piana dei Romiti until the stratified rock where the water creates a beautiful waterfall of about 70 meters which leaves the visitors breathless.
Portico is also konwn as the 'town of the nativity scenes': during the Christmas period the medieval town sets up different nativity scenes along the streets. This tradition started when the inhabitants of the town began to build the sacred representations outside their front doors. From December 8th to the Sunday after the Epiphany the streets, the green areas, the churches and the Portinari tower, in the public garden dedicated to Dante and Beatrice, are full of suggestive nativity scenes, renewed every year.
One of the hamlets of Portico e San Benedetto is San Benedetto in Alpe, whose history is linked to the Benedictine Abbey, one of the oldest of the Apennines. Hermits lived there starting in the tenth century and about a century later San Romualdo stopped here before founding Camaldoli.
Dante also stopped in these places during his exile and he told about them in the Divine Comedy (Inferno, Canto XVI). The decline of the Abbey started at the end of the fourteenth century, when it passed under the administration of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. Today, in the suggestive premises of the old mill, tourists can find the Casentinesi Forest Park Tourist Office.