A journey traced by the civilization and tradition of ceramics that starts from one of the most historically and artistically important centers of the Pisa area, small landmarks of the production of this ancient and noble artistic craftsmanship, such as San Miniato, Montopoli, Calcinaia, all overlooking the Arno river, because water is the essential element for the processing of clay.
A journey that, continuing towards Pisa, will lead us to discover churches and parishes that preserve ceramic testimonies of great value and that will end at the splendid basilica of San Piero a Grado, embellished by majolica bowls that finish the decorations of the external body of this considerable Romanesque complex.
The starting point is the kiln of San Genesio, a center of ceramic production in the early Middle Ages that has come to light thanks to recent excavations. It is also worth visiting the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art where, in addition to some paintings of Florentine and Pisan masters of the 16th and 17th centuries, you can appreciate a valuable section of medieval majolica.
MONTOPOLI IN VAL D’ARNO
Proceeding along the course of the Arno, we get to Montopoli in Val D’Arno, once famous for the manufacture Dante Milani. Since the 1920s for about 50 years, vases and plates finely decorated, have reached every corner of Italy and crossed national borders. After the closure of the company, some ex-employees founded their own manufactures, to keep alive a workmanship of artistic imprint. Some of them are axposed in the Museo Civico Guicciardini
The next stop will be at the Coccapani Museum, which traces the history of one of the most important families linked to the production of pottery and crockery for daily use, then marketed by river. The Coccapani family arrived in Calcinaia in the 18th century, after having learned the art of manufacturing in the kiln owned by the Carthusian monks. In Calcinaia they continued their activity, installing a furnace that remained active until the early decades of the 20th century. In 2014, the restoration that has refurbished the building, turning it into a museum, was completed.
The suggestion is to stop and admire the ancient ceramic basins preserved in the Romanesque churches of Pisa . In particular, those of the facades of the Church of San Zeno decorated with faithful reproductions of ceramics of Islamic origin, dating back to the 11th-12th centuries. The originals are on display at the National Museum of San Matteo. Even the facades of ancient palaces and tower-houses of the 13th century, which make unique lungarni, retain evidence of terracotta partly covered by subsequent transformations.
The itinerary ends at the imposing Romanesque basilica of San Piero a Grado, embellished with elegant ceramic decorations dating back to the 10th century AD depicting boats or simple geometric patterns.
Total length: 60 km