The area surrounding the city of Pisa is rich of small towns, charter houses, and thermal baths. Leading Pisa, one follows The State Rd., #67 in the direction of Empoli and Florence. At Navacchio one turns left crossing the Arno river before one reaches Caprona, and ancient village of stone quarriers. Continuing along the same road one reaches the foot of Monte Pisano, a group of hills that separates the Pisan from the Lucca territories. Valgraziosa, one of the many valleys of the Monte Pisano area, contains a little village, renowned since the earliest times for the production of lime which is extracted from the numerous limestone quarries in the area. The product has given the little town its name of Calci, as lime in Italian is “calce”, which gained notoriety by dispatching its lime down they Arno to the sea, from where it reached any port on the Mediterranean. The beautiful 11th-century Pisan church in the center of the village possesses an elegant façade. Not far from the village one comes to the charter house.
The complex was founded in 1366 by Pietro Mirante della Vergina and construction work continued on it for about 400 years, producing the magnificent results that have survived to these day. The building of enormous proportions, belong nowadays to the state. It is surrounded by vegetable gardens and olive groves, which used to belong to the Abbey.
The single nave church is divided into a monk section toward the altar and a section for the lay congregation near the doorway, separated by a wooden screen. The wooden choir stalls are 15th century, whereas the frescoes and decorative elements where added in the 17th century. Next to the church, one encounters a series of small chapels, which where used by individual rich monks with their servants.
The cloisters are extremely elegant and very evocative. One of the enclosures contains a small patch of ground which was used as the burial place of the monks. As the cemetery was never widened, it was dug deeper and deeper into the ground, one body being buried on top of the other. Other places of great interest include the Refectory, the cells, each one possessing its own garden, the Chapter Room and the Grand Ducal Room in the visitors wing, which had been set aside for the specific use of the Lords of Tuscany who visited the place frequently.
From Calci a charming road climbs up the Monte Pisano up until one reaches Buti, from where one proceeds downwards to Vicopisano. The village is situated at the top of the hill in a particularly picturesque position. The many rulers who occupied this territories have all left their mark over the centuries specially as regards the successive fortifications that have been built around the town. Brunelleschi’s Tower is the most important among the many defensive structures. See also the Tower of the 4 Gates. The Center of the town is Piazza Fra’Domenico Cavalca dedicated to a 13th century monk who compiled a history of the lives of the Saints.
The parish church is a Pisan Romanesque building, while the praetorian palace was built in the 14th and 15th centuries and is as usual covered all over with crests and armorial bearings. On the other side of Monte Pisano is San Giuliano.
Pisa, an important port from Roman times, ranked as one of the great Mediterranean Sea republics throughout the Middle Ages. In the 11th century it…