Calcinaia has had two names connected to the history of the productive activities that have been carried out here over the centuries: the present name derives from the presence of numerous lime (calce) kilns that since the 17th century have produced splendid ceramics. Vico Viltri, the town’s old name, instead derived from the vitrified tableware that was once crafted here.
The town was once ruled by the Upezzinghi family (their tower house is still standing in the main street), of the Ghibelline party and under the influence of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, at that time ruling the Republic of Pisa.
Like other towns in the Pisa hinterland, Calcinaia was also involved in the ruthless disputes between Pisa, Lucca and Florence, that in the 15th century took possession of the town. The most famous ceramic workers in Calcinaia were the Coccapani: the ceramics museum is in fact dedicated to Ludovico Coccapani, the artisan responsible for the spreading of the name “maioliche di Montecchio,” a refined production that was exported from Tuscany and made from a unique raw material, the terra di Montecchio clay.
If the thick woods around Calcinaia supplied the wood for the kilns, the Arno river was the landing point for the boats “called navicelli” which transported any kind of goods: food, wood, sand and bricks. This particular boat had a flat shape, it was small but able to carry up to 2,5 tons until the port of Leghorn.
In order to prevent the River Arno flooding, Calcinaia and its territory often underwent hydraulic works, starting from 1555 when Grand Duke Cosimo I ordered that the river be diverted. Under the House of Lorraine, thanks to the talent of Alessandro Manetti, Lake Bientina was drained and the “Botte” canal was constructed.
Calcinaia has always been an important junction for the merchant river traffic in this part of Tuscany. This relationship between the village and the river is celebrated every year in May or June with the traditional Regatta in honour of the patron saint Ubaldesca.
In addition, the bend of the river Arno in Calcinaia welcomes important competitions of sport fishing .