What is the Pisan Romanesque ? It is the architectural style that developed at the time of the rich and powerful Maritime Republic of Pisa in the construction sites of Piazza del Duomo with the construction of the Cathedral and the Baptistery. From there it spread throughout Tuscany to Sardinia and Corsica.
The religious buildings around Pisa, especially along Monte Pisano, are characterized by pievi and churches in Pisan Romanesque style built between the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
PISA, SAN PIERO A GRADO
The itinerary starts just outside Pisa, from the majestic Basilica of San Piero a Grado. It rises near a Roman landing place where, according to tradition, St. Peter landed in 44 A.D. on the way to Rome. The structure, built in the 11th century on the ruins of an early Christian basilica, preserves on the walls of the nave splendid frescoes by the painter Deodato Orlandi with stories of Saints Peter and Paul and the first Popes.
CASCINA and SAN CASCIANO
We continue in the plain of the Arno, between Pisa and Pontedera (city of the Vespa and home of the Piaggio Museum). In Cascina, the scene of a battle in the endless wars between Pisa and Florence and once famous for the manufacture of furniture, there is the Pieve di S. Maria Assunta, with a façade in Pisan Romanesque style, several arches and the interior of a basilica plan.
In the nearby San Casciano, the small jewel of the Pieve dei SS Cassiano e Giovanni, mentioned since the year 970. In the renovation works of the 12th century even Biduino, one of the greatest representatives of the time (he worked on the monuments in Pisa), and author of the architrave of the central portal depicting scenes from the Gospel, took part in the works.
Crossing the bridge over the Arno river, you take the direction of Vicopisano, a medieval walled village with 13 tower houses and the Rocca del Brunelleschi. Here is the Pieve di Santa Maria (XII century), on the square where in the Middle Ages there was the market, which preserves part of a cycle of frescoes of the 13th century and the wooden sculpture of the “Deposition of the Cross”. Nearby is the parish church of San Jacopo in Lupeta, dating back to the Longobard period as reported by the inscription on the portal, with a façade made of “verrucana” limestone, that is extracted from the nearby Monte della Verruca where there are the remains of the fortress of the same name.
On the road to Calci is the Pieve di Santa Giulia (XI century) that looks down on the Tower of Caprona, mentioned in the Divine Comedy, whose siege participated Dante himself. The present building, the result of multiple construction phases, has a simple facade with animal and plant motifs.
The itinerary runs parallel to the Olive Oil Route of Monte Pisano, with farmhouses or a oil mills to buy or taste the extra virgin olive oil. In Calci, not far from the Monumental Charterhouse and the Museum of Natural History, you find the Parish Church of SS Giovanni and Ermolao, whose construction was completed by the Countess Matilde of Tuscany. It presents the facade divided by two orders of blind arcades and geometric motifs typical of Pisan architecture, and the bell tower unfinished but that was the function of military tower of sighting.
SAN GIULIANO TERME
We continue towards San Giuliano Terme along the road that, before the opening of the Forum, was the only one connecting Pisa with Lucca. Among the villas and historical residences of the 18th century Tuscan nobility are the Pieve di San Marco a Rigoli, with three naves and a baptismal font of the Lombard school, now also a wedding venue, and the Pieve di Santa Maria a Pugnano, probably of Lombard origin, with its imposing bell tower rebuilt after its destruction by the Nazis during the war. The parish church is near Villa Roncioni which houses the Cerratelli Foundation‘s collection of over 30,000 theatrical costumes.
If you are tired of churches, we suggest a dip in the thermal pool or a treatment at Bagni di Pisa, former residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany.