Our Romanesque itinerary and, if we wish, even romantic, starts just outside Pisa, from the majestic Basilica of San Piero a Grado, the most ancient testimony of the Christian age, built near a landing of the Roman era, where, according to tradition, San Pietro would have landed in 44 A.D during the trip to Rome. The structure, built in the 11th century on the remains of a previous early Christian basilica; the walls of the central nave preserve beautiful frescoes by the painter Deodato Orlandi with stories of Saints Peter and Paul. The basilica is now a wedding venue.
The itinerary continues in the Arno plain, between Pisa and Pontedera (city of the Vespa and headquaters of the Piaggio Museum).
First stop Cascina, in the Middle Ages theater of a decisive battle in the war between Pisa and Florence (the commemoration in early July). In the historic center of the town (once famous for the manufacture of furniture) is the Pieve di S. Maria Assunta, with its façade with different arches and the interior with a basilical plan and a Romanesque layout.
Returning to Pisa, in the village of San Casciano, do not miss the small jewel of the Parish Church of SS Cassiano and Giovanni, mentioned since 970. In the twelfth century Biduino took care of the renovation works, one of the greatest representatives of the artistic culture of the time, author of the lintel of the central portal depicting scenes from the Gospel.
Crossing the bridge over the Arno, take the direction of Vicopisano, a walled village of medieval origin famous for its tower houses and above all for the Rocca del Brunelleschi. Here is the Pieve di Santa Maria (12th century), which preserves the original wooden sculpture of the “Deposition of the Cross”. Nearby, the Parish Church of San Jacopo in Lupeta, dating back to the Longobard period, as reported in the inscription on the portal, with a limestone façade “verrucana”, extracted from the nearby Monte della Verruca, with the remains of the homonymous Fortress.
The itinerary runs parallel to the Oil Road del Monte Pisano, so don’t miss a stop at an oil mill, in a farmhouse or in a shop, to buy or taste the extra-virgin olive oil, of limited production and for this very renowned.
On the road to Calci is the Pieve di Santa Giulia (11th century), which looks down from the Torre di Caprona, mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy. The current building, result of multiple construction phases, has a simple facade with animal and plant motifs.
In Calci, not far from the Monumental Charterhouse and the Natural History Museum, pass by the Pieve dei SS Giovanni and Ermolao, completed by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany. It presents the façade divided by two orders of blind arches and geometric patterns, typical of the Pisan architecture, and the unfinished bell tower.
Leaving Calci, take the road to San Giuliano Terme and continue along the Lungomonte road which, before the opening of the Foro, was the only one to connect Pisa with Lucca.
Among the villas and historical residences of the Tuscan nobility of the eighteenth century (some of them can be visited), first you’ll encounter the Parish Church of San Marco in Rigoli, with three naves and a Lombard school baptismal font. The church is now also a wedding venue. And then the Pieve di Santa Maria, probably of Lombard origin, with the imposing bell tower, rebuilt after the destruction of the Nazis during the war.
You can continue to Lucca or, if you are tired, return to San Giuliano Terme for a dip in the thermal pool or a treatment at the Bagni di Pisa, the Grand Dukes of Tuscany Spa