"Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears." Italo Calvino
Vicopisano is a small medieval town located between the Monti Pisani and the Arno river. This town is rich in monuments, history and wonderful landscapes. It’s 20 km away from Pisa. Its territory is mostly hilly and there are some peaks as Monte Verruca which reach over 530 meters of height. In this town there isn’t much traffic, so it offers tranquility, clean air and lots of greenery.
HISTORY Vicopisano was situated on a hill at the confluence of two important rivers: on of these is the Arno that allowed the connection with Pisa and the sea, and the other one is the
Auser that allowed the connection with the lake Sextum, and therefore with the city of Lucca. Vicopisano has ancients origins, in fact it was founded by the Romans. Its first name was “Vico Auserio Sola” and then “Vico Auserissola”. In the VIII century, Vicopisano was under the authority of the bishops of Pisa. In 1129 it was fortified by Oberto I and it was controlled by Pisa. During the XIII and XIV centuries, in this town there were many struggles between the Guelphs and Ghibellines and between Lucca and Pisa. In 1407, Vicopisano was conquered by Florence. Then, Vicopisano rebelled to Florence after the arrival of Carlo VIII. During the Second World War this territory suffered many devastations. Today there are still many monuments which date back to the Middle Ages. In the historic center there are palaces and towers such as the “Clock Tower” and the “Brunelleschi tower”. Very important is the “Pieve di S. Maria” too, which boasts many works of art. In Vicopisano there are another two churches: “S. Iacopo” in Lupeta and “Via Crucis”.
IMPORTANT MONUMENTS THE BRUNELLESCHI FORTRESS
From the time when Vicopisano fell under Florence it was decided to build a fortress impregnable by the armies of Visconti who menaced Tuscany from the city of Lucca. So the Florentine government decided to assign the task of designing a new defensive structure to the famous Florentine architect Brunelleschi. His suggestion was immediately very innovative, as shown in a model in clay and wood. This work was intended to prevent the isolation of the fortress in case of siege, by ensuring the supply of arms, food and reinforcements by river. Nowadays the flag of Pisa is waving again on the tower of the fortress, but there aren't any winds of war, only visitors who climb to the top of the fortress to admire the view of the fields and the rolling green hills in an atmosphere of peacefulness and serenity. The fortress is open to visitors from April to July and from September to November with guided tours in different languages.
THE PARISH CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA The parish church of Santa Maria is a religious building which is located in Vicopisano. It was built in the thirteenth century on the ruins of an earlier church. The church is a well-preserved example of medieval architecture, and this is valid for both the exterior and the interior, apart from a few interventions dating back to the seventeenth century. The church represents the original basilica with a central nave surrounded by Roman and medieval columns which are not related to a pre-existing Roman building but linked to a tradition by Pisan and medieval merchants, and two lateral naves, enclosed by the outer frescoed walls.
CLOCK TOWER The clock tower is certainly one of the most beautiful and particular towers that dominate the skyline in Vicopisano. Different elements make it so interesting: its antiquity, its considerable height and the fact that over the centuries it has been re-used as a bell tower. Now the tower is used as a bell tower thanks to the addition of a roof with four slopes, but the original structure dates back to the XII-XIII centuries and it was probably built with military intentions as a clock tower in the street which led to the ancient castle of Vicopisano, in the area of the Pretorian Palace. The tower is well preserved and reaches towards the sky for a height of 20 m. Some building details connect the tower to the Pretorian Palace. Luckily, when the tower lost its original defensive function, it wasn't destroyed, but reused as a bell tower just for its considerable height. The clock that can be seen on the west side still has mechanisms dating back to the XVIII century, but has been documented since the XVI century.
THE MILL OF VICOPISANO THE FARM OF VICOPISANO "RIO GRIFONE"
The mill has its own hill with about 3,000 olive trees that produce an Extra Virgin Olive Oil labeled "VICOPISANOLIO." The olives are hand picked when ripe, are never in contact with the soil and are pressed within a few hours in the mill property. The old Tuscan mill of "Rio Grifone" is part of the Corporation of "Oil Masters", and is a founding member of the “Consortium of Tuscan olive oil” and of the “Olive Trees of the Pisano Mountain Road”. On the farmyard of the mill you can find the “Bottega del Monte” which welcomes with ease and friendliness all those who visit, by offering them the opportunity to taste and buy typical products of this area directly.
THE MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL OF VICOPISANO The first edition of the Medieval Festival of Vicopisano dates back to 1996 and in recent years the festival has grown in importance, especially thanks to the special atmosphere which is recreated in the historical center of Vicopisano, looking like a real Medieval village. The square of the Praetorian Palace is the ideal setting for the famous medieval dinner, during which dishes are cooked according to medieval criteria and recipes. The meal is eaten following the "etiquette" of the period, i.e. without using forks and following a different order between the different courses than nowadays. But above all, what is really striking about this Medieval Festival is its magic and the strong feeling of being constantly suspended between the present and the past, a feeling that the inhabitants of Vicopisano want to share with all of their guests.
WALKING FESTIVAL The Walking Festival is held every year in Vicopisano in March. It is an event for all the walkers, a meeting place for the storytelling of people and places, and a celebration for all those who travel with their heart first and then with their legs. There are longer walks and leisurely strolls, wildlife watching and observations of the sky, seminars and conferences, shows and music, readings and movie screenings, environmental guides and activities for children. For those who want to associate alternative activities with the walks, there are free walking paths in the surrounding area, excursions between trees and shrubs, night walks and visits to the towers and tower houses.