A journey among the most beautiful hamlets of Italy: Montescudaio
Montescudaio is a small town in the valley of the river Cecina in province of Pisa; properly considered one of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy, this is a real pearl of the tuscan countryside. This hamlet is located into a beautiful area where we can find low hills and plains, just a dozen kilometres from the seaside.
The first document about Montescudaio dates back to 1091 when was built a castle, property of the family Della Gherardesca, and a small village near a previous benedictine monastery. For many centuries the Della Gherardesca were the lords of this hamlet creating an autonomous branch of the family, the Counts of Montescudaio.
The end of the Della Gherardesca’s domination came when, after the conquer by Florence (15th century), the inhabitants were able to create a Municipality. This municipality lasted for two centuries, until the 1648, when this territories became part of the possessions of the marquesas Ridolfi from Florence who ruled for a century. During the 19th century two earthquakes, in1846 and in 1871, caused serious damage to the town and destroyed some of the oldest buildings.
Today Montescudaio is part of the Associazione Nazionale Città del Vino and is also Città del Pane and Città dell’Olio (associations about wine, bread and oil); This says a lot about the local culinary tradition, one more reason to visit this small town!
Things to do in Montescudaio: the guide
Montescudaio is a village which you can visit quite quickly, but preserves some interesting monuments, especially in the Castle area. The main things to visit in Montescudaio are:
- Oratorio della Santissima Annunziata
- Torre Civica
- Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta
- Torre della Guardiola
Strolling through the streets of the village you will encounter some buildings of great value as the Palazzo Surbone, the Villa Marchionneschi and, near the City Hall, the oratorio della Santissima Annunziata. Founded during the 15th century, this church was extensively remodeled in the years thirtyes of the 1900. Inside are preserved two terracotta statute representing the Annunziata (the Virgin Mary) and the Announcing Angel.
Leaving the chapel behind, after few steps a turn on the right leads us to the castle. Here we find the Torre Civica to show us that we are arriving in the Castle area. This tower, was built during the 12th century but the top was rebuilt around the middle of the nineteenth century.
Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta
Not far from the Torre Civica, we meet the chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta located in beautiful position in place of a previous church. In the beginning here was the Abbazia di Santa Maria Assunta then the Chiesa di Sant’Andrea that, in 1416, inherited the title of the previous Abbey becoming simultaneously Pieve di Sant’Andrea and Abbazia di Santa Maria Assunta; this situation lasted till the 1837. In 1846 the church was badly damaged by an earthquake, so around the 1850 was built a new church, the current one. Inside there is a painting of the Venetian school, “Annunciation“(17th century), and a statue representing “Saint Francis ofPaola” (18th century).
In front of the church there is a large terrace offering a great view to the West that reaches the sea. On a clear day you can see in the distance the islands of Gorgona and Capraia. In the northwest corner of this platform is another tower, called Torre della Guardiola, that was once used as a watch tower.
The museums of Montescudaio
In Montescudaio there are also two exhibition spaces dedicated to sacred art and to contemporary art. The first museum is located the rectory of the chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta where were set up three halls in which ecclesiastical vestments and other artifacts are preserved. The second museum , Spazio Minerva, is a gallery of contemporary art located in via della Madonna.
How to get to Montescudaio
By car: A12 highway till the exit Cecina Centro, then Strada Provinciale dei Tre Comuni in direction of Motescudaio
By train and bus: the closest train station is in Cecina; from there, you ave to take the bus number 110 by CTT nord.