Itinerary: Fauglia – Crespina – Lorenzana – Orciano Pisano – Santa Luce – Lari – Casciana Terme
The Colline Pisane (Pisan Hills) represent the green heart of the Lands of Pisa: here art, history, and agriculture have coexisted in harmony for centuries, since the times of the Roman and the Etruscan civilizations. The deep rural roots and the colors of the countryside are evident when visiting towns and villages that are located on gentle hills and which in the past were the subject of many paintings by the Macchiaioli artists. Hills near art cities as well as near the sea, suitable for a stay that combines leisure with tranquility and relaxation.
The first stop is Fauglia, a small agricultural center which nevertheless boasts a Municipal Theater and a Museum dedicated to Giorgio Kienerk, multifaceted artist and Macchiaiolo painter, located in the old prisons. Great local cellars produce excellent wine but this is the place to find ialso quality extra virgin olive oil including the characteristic “Gremigno”, as well as cheese, especially the cured pecorino from the Caseificio Busti cheese factory, and several varieties of honey.
There are numerous nature trails for bike or MTB lovers, but also for hikers and horse riders, winding along the old unpaved roads which in some places have been replaced by municipal or provincial roads.
There are also many 18th-century farmhouse villas owned by wealthy families from Pisa or Livorno, testifying to an important past, Just like in nearby Crespina, where the villas located there represented a real status symbol of the time. Almost all of them are now privately owned and therefore not always open to visits, except that of the collector Carlo Pepi, who transformed it into a museum with over 20,000 works of contemporary art.
Lorenzana – Orciano Pisano
A detour takes you to Lorenzana and Orciano Pisano, two small villages surrounded by the wonderful view of the Colline Pisane. Here time seems to have stopped, and you can breathe in life flowing at a slower pace. Lorenzana has very evocative corners so it is worth taking a short walk through its narrow alleys to enjoy breathtaking views of the countryside.
These are ideal places for hiking and cycling enthusiasts thanks to the numerous paths that wind through the hills. Bet they are also perfect for food and wine enthusiasts, who can discover typical local products by visiting wineries, farms, and workshops producing delicacies and products of excellence such as the ancient Cereria Graziani which produces the candles for the Luminara di San Ranieri in Pisa or the Flora company, one of the leaders in Italy when it comes to aromatherapy.
Move on to Santa Luce, where you will feel as if you are in Provence. Here you can find fields of lavender in bloom grown to produce essential oils, which can be visited alone or with a guide. You also have the possibility of carrying out experiential workshops.
A land that is, in some ways, surprising. Indeed, no one would expect to find one of the most important European Buddhist institutes in the town of Pomaia, the Lama Tsong Khapa, visited by the Dalai Lama and frequented by international entertainment and sports VIPs. Or the Santa Luce Nature Reserve, a real oasis for birdwatchers and ideal for families with children thanks to a series of educational activities organized throughout the year. The agricultural vocation of the area, on the other hand, finds its showcase in the headquarters of the Agricultural Producers Pieve di Santa Luce: 100% organic food including flour, pasta, oil, jams, and quality wine, all local and sporting the “Terra di Luce” label.
Returning to Pisa you can stop in the last two stages of the itinerary. The first is the medieval village of Lari, dominated by the imposing bulk of the Castello dei Vicari, once a prison and place of torture and today a dynamic, interactive museum suitable for schools and families as well as a location for events and weddings. Below the castle, the village includes typical and long-standing artisan shops such as the Pastificio Martelli pasta factory, the Macelleria Ceccotti (butcher’s), and the Forno Bernardeschi bakery.
Lari is synonymous with cherry: around twenty varieties are produced here and one of the oldest festivals in Tuscany is held here every year at the end of May/beginning of June. If you are unable to come during that period, you can always buy a very special liqueur, produced by the Liquorificio Meini, a historic local factory.
While in Usigliano, do not forget to visit the small Museum of Agricultural Activities at the Vecchia Fattoria Castelli which, in addition to old wine barrels and large jars of oil, houses a curious permanent collection of Tuscan and international nativity scenes. And definitely make a stop in Casciana Alta where there is the Oratory of the Madonna della Cava, one of the few octagonal buildings in Italy, and a panoramic terrace with breathtaking views of the Colline Pisane and Valdera.
The last stop on the itinerary is Casciana Terme. It is no coincidence that we end here as you will surely be tired and want to relax by enjoying a spa treatment or a nice dip in the 36°C outdoor thermal pool. Indeed, Casciana boasts a tradition of wellness that dates back to the Middle Ages. Today it is both a wellness center (Terme di Casciana and Terme Villa Borri) and one of the most important rehab centers in Italy. Here too the surroundings offer many opportunities for walking or cycling thanks to a dense network of nature trails immersed in the green hills that cross small boroughs, all rich in history and traditions.
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THINGS TO KNOW:
The route starts from Pisa and winds along the Colline Pisane Wine Trail which covers a large part of the province: the rows of vines belong to the production area of Chianti Classico DOC and of the lesser known Bianco Pisano di San Torpè.