• Total length (km): 60

An itinerary to discover ceramic tradition starting from one of the most historically and artistically important centres of the Pisa area, the town of San Miniato, reaching small towns that have been and still are key centres in the production of this noble time-honoured artistic handicraft: Montopoli, Calcinaia and Fornacette – all overlooking the course of the Arno, since water is the essential element for working clay.
An itinerary that, heading towards Pisa, will lead to the discovery of churches and parishes preserving fine ceramics artifacts, ending at the splendid Basilica of San Piero a Grado, a notable Romanesque complex embellished with majolica bowls decorating its exterior.



Sights

San Miniato
The starting point is the kiln of San Genesio, an Early Middle Ages centre of ceramic production that was discovered during a recent archaeological excavation. Also worth a visit is the Diocesan Museum of Religious Art in San Miniato displaying important paintings by Florentine and Pisan masters from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and a precious selection of medieval majolica.

Montopoli in Val d’Arno
From San Miniato, continuing along the course of the Arno, we reach Montopoli in Val D’Arno, home to the historic Dante Milani factory. From the 1920s, for about fifty years, the finely decorated vases and dishes produced here were shipped all over Italy and abroad, spreading the name of this small town and its ceramic manufactories. After the closure of the Milani company, a number of former employees started their own businesses, keeping this purely artistic tradition alive.

Calcinaia
The next stop is the Coccapani Museum of Calcinaia, tracing the history of one of the most important families related to the production of daily use pottery and tableware. The Coccapani family came to Calcinaia from the nearby town of Montecchio in the mid-eighteenth century, after having learned the art of pottery making in the kiln owned by the Carthusian friars. In Calcinaia the familiy developed their own business, installing a kiln that remained active until the early decades of the twentieth century. The building underwent a restoration that ended in 2014 trasforming the structure into a museum.

Pisa
After visiting the manufactories of San Giovanni Alla Vena, a hamlet of Vicopisano, we suggest a stop at the old ceramic basins preserved in the Pisan churches. In particular, those of the façades of San Zeno and Sant’Andrea Forisportam, decorated with lozenges and oculi – faithful reproductions of eleventh and twelfth century Islamic ceramics. The originals are on display at the Museo di San Matteo. Even the façades of old palaces and thirteenth-century houses-towers, which make the lungarni unique, show traces of terracotta sections that were partly covered by later transformations. Continuing along the course of the river, our itinerary ends, after more than 50km, in San Piero a Grado, a Romanesque basilica embellished with elegant tenth century ceramic decorations representing boats or simple geometric patterns.