Palaia: a top place for green or food & wine tourism in the Valdera area. Its countryside with many farmhouses and rural buildings, is dotted with vineyards producing quality wines and olive trees giving delicate extravirgin olive oil. A safe and perfect destination for tasting the true Tuscany as expression of healthy and genuine traditions.
The medieval Palaia includes the former fortress, from which you enjoy a breathtaking 360° outlook, and the village with Ghibelline walls and the two churches of Santa Maria and Sant’Andrea in Romanesque style. The latter was built on a Roman temple devoted to the god Saturn. Outside the walls, the imposing Romanesque parish church of San Martino, with facade in stone and the rest entirely in bricks. Today it is weddings location and choral concerts venue.
In Summer, every Tuesday morning, the Tourist Information Office arranges a free guided walking tour (also in English) at the discovery of the main attractions.
Palaia is crossed not only by the Wine Route of the Pisan Hills but it is an important white truffle area, celebrated every year in October with a market fair taking place in the cozy village of Forcoli, once a medieval castle dominating the Valdera.
The hilly surroundings are safe ideal setting for trekking, biking or horseride itineraries and experiences, thanks to a marked net of ring pathways crossing little unknown hamlets of ancient origin, among which Alica, San Gervasio, Colleoli and others to be mentioned later.
The area presents surprising unexpected places, rich of mistery as well.
We start from Montefoscoli, boasting a Museum of Rural Culture rebuilding the farmer world in its undergrounds and hosting the House Museum “Vaccà Berlinghieri”, whose name means perhaps nothing
but Andrea Vaccà was a famous surgeon at the University of Pisa and also Paolina Bonaparte’s personal doctor. His name was often linked to intriguing stories of masonry and esotericism, to visits with important figures such as Mary Shelley (writer of the novel “Frankenstein”), Lord Byron and the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi. Stories intervowen in the nearby misterious Temple of Minerva Medica, built in Neoclassic style (1823) in a thick wood far from prying eyes.
A mistery to be continued in the two ghost villages of Villa Saletta and Toiano.
The former has the structure of an old castle with a row of abandoned buildings facing on a single street. A clock tower with the coats of arms of the noble owners gives on the large courtyard which in Summer becomes the stage of an important popular theatre festival. Villa saletta has been chosen as film setting by the Taviani Brothers and Paolo Virzì.
The latter, very characteristic, lies on a rock spur surrounded by rugged gullies reminding the “balze di Volterra”. Toiano was known for the murder of the “beautiful Elvira” (Elvira Orlandini) who in 1947 at the age of 22 was presumably killed by her fiancé Ugo Ancillotti, later judged not guilty for lack of evidence. The episode still represents a “cold case” not yet solved.
Do you know the expression “ Peggio Palaia“ (Worse Palaia) ?
The expression, once famous throughout Tuscany, means “worse than ever”. Its origin is uncertain but it seems to date back to the year 1435 when the castle of Palaia, then under Florence, was sieged by the soldier of fortune Niccolò Piccinino, in the pay of the Duke of Milan. He had easily taken castles around, but here he found unexpected hard defence. He conquered Palaia from Hunger and fatigue, plundering it and leaving few people alive. So, “Worse Palaia” because the village and the population suffred more than the others.
Well, after so many years it it time to revaluate and redeem the place with a well wishing “Meglio Palaia” (Better Palaia), as an invitation to a visit, a break or a stay in one of the many accommodation facilities ready to welcome you in total safety and tranquillity.