Calci and its splendid Certosa
Calci is a sparse municipality in the Province of Pisa, which is just 10 kilometers away from the city of the leaning tower, and is also quite close to Lucca, which is about 18 kilometers away.
As we said, Calci is a sparse municipality which means that its territory is a collection of small villages that in some cases retain interesting traces of their medieval past. The main center is La Pieve which was formed around the beautiful pieve dei Santi Giovanni ed Ermolao, all around you can appreciate a territory rich in hills cultivated with olive trees and woods such as those that cover Monte Serra which, with its 917 meters, it is the highest peak in the entire province of Pisa.
The villages that make up the municipality of Calci developed during the Middle Ages along the course of the torrents of the area. These waterways were used to feed numerous mills and factories used in the so-called “white art” which, together with the “art of wool” and olive growing, formed the heart of the productive activities of this area. A separate discussion must be made about the wood obtained from the woods of the nearby mountains; this in fact was protected by very strict laws and was used almost exclusively in the shipyards of the Republic of Pisa.
Originally the life in Calci revolved around the chiesa di Santa Maria a Willarada (which no longer exists today) and the one at Sant’Andrea a Lama while the parish church of Santi Giovanni e Ermolao was built at the time of the Bishop Dalberto between the end of the XI and early XII century.
Often involved in the wars between Florence and Pisa, Calci remained faithful to the Republic of Pisa until the conquest by Florence. After the conquest, the Florentines reorganized the Pisan territory and Calci was first aggregated to Vicopisano and then to Pisa; only starting from 1867 the calcesans obtained a new administrative autonomy and the constitution of the municipality.
Part of the original villages have now disappeared while others have continued to develop along the streams creating an enviable union between man and nature and give life to what is today called the “Valle Graziosa” (Pretty Valley).
Things to do in Calci
Pieve dei Santi Giovanni ed Ermolao
The pieve dei Santi Giovanni ed Ermolao in Calci is a real jewel. Built in Romanesque forms between 1080 and 1111, the church has a peculiar asymmetry due to an extension aimed at incorporating the chapel that housed the baptismal font. The facade has a beautiful decoration with geometric elements and two series of blind arches.
The interior, extensively remodeled in Baroque style, has three naves and preserves some noteworthy works including two paintings by Aurelio Lomi, a panel with the Madonna and Child by Jacopo di Michele called Gera, the remains of a painted cross from the twelfth century and above all the baptismal font (XII century) which is considered an important example of how sculpture in the Pisan-Lucca area had assumed some neo-ancient characters.
Certosa di Calci
The Certosa di Calci, also often called the Certosa di Pisa, is an extraordinary religious complex founded in 1366 by decision of the archbishop of Pisa. Although the foundation of the complex dates back to the fourteenth century, the Charterhouse shows clear baroque forms due to the numerous renovations carried out between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is precisely in this period that the Certosa di Calci acquired the current forms and was enriched with numerous works of art.
Former Carthusian monastery, the Certosa is composed of various buildings that gather around a central cloister and a large courtyard that served as a meeting point between the monks and those who came from the outside world. Among the various environments we find the library, the historical archive, the chapels, the pharmacy and the monks’ cells, but the two most interesting structures are the Foresteria Granducale, built to house the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, and the church, real heart of the Charterhouse.
Preceded by an elegant double flight of steps, the church of the Certosa di Calci has a majestic façade, embellished by some statues such as that of the Virgin in glory on the top. The interior, with a single hall, has a very rich decoration made of frescoes and polychrome marbles that accompany us up to the majestic high altar that was built according to the project of Giovan Francesco Bergamini.
Museo di storia naturale dell’Università di Pisa
To complete the visit to the Certosa di Calci, I suggest you take a tour in the Museo di storia naturale dell’Università di Pisa which is located right here. This museum is composed of a series of collections of natural finds of great scientific interest. In particular the museum has a gallery dedicated to cetaceans, with complete whale skeletons, which is among the largest in Europe.
October – May:
From Monday to Saturday: 9.00 am – 7.00 pm
Sunday: 9.00 – 20.00
June – September:
Every day: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Tickets: full price: 8 euros, reduced 4 euros
For more information on the museum, tickets and temporary exhibitions, I refer you to the official website.
Things to do near Calci
Calci is located in the heart of the Val Graziosa at the foot of the Pisan Mountains where you can take various trekking routes to discover various historical places. There are the remains of some abandoned villages, places of worship such as the eremo di Costa d’Acqua (with the church dedicated to the Saints Jacopo and Verano) or the Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie in Tre Colli and the remarkable Rocca della Verruca which once was essential for the defense of the Republic of Pisa.
How to get to Calci
By bus: from Pisa you can reach Calci in about 30 minutes using the lines of the CPT company (120 and 160).
By car: from Pisa it takes 20 minutes by car on the SP2. If you come from the A12 motorway, you should take the Pisa Centro exit; those coming from the FI-PI-LI, can exit at Navacchio and continue on SP24.