The origins of Casciana Alta, a pretty hill village, date back to Etruscan times, but it was known in the Middle Ages for its mills fed by the waters of the Ecina river (some ruins survive). It is said that it was built on top of the old ‘Casciana’ and that under the present foundations there are still several layers of walls and cellars that, during the Second World War, constituted a refuge whose accesses were all walled up.

The village still preserves 18th- and 19th-century antiques palaces, including that of Eusebio Valli, the first scholar of the serotherapeutic cure for rabies who died of yellow fever in Cuba in 1816, where he had gone to study it.

The 19th-century church of San Niccolò is worth a visit, although it contains paintings by Florentine Renaissance and Baroque artists. Until recently, the parish church possessed a work of great importance, a 14th-century polyptych of the Virgin and Child between Saints and Prophets by the Sienese Lippo Memmi, brother-in-law of Simone Martini. Today it is in Pisa, in the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo. From the large square in front of the church, a beautiful panorama of the Pisan Hills and Valdera can be admired.

In Casciana Alta there is also the Oratory of the Madonna della Cava, built in the early 17th century in Baroque style and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Inside, the paintings on the walls with the image of the Madonna by Antonio Bamberini stand out. Of modest proportions, it has an original octagonal floor plan and is surrounded on six sides by a portico overlooked by three portals.

Just outside the village, there is the ruined oratory of San Nicola in Sessana, which was the main church of Casciana in the Middle Ages (mentioned in 1260), as well as the caves of San Frediano, unfortunately inaccessible today.


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