A journey among the most beautiful hamlets of Italy: Montescudaio
Montescudaio is a small town in the Val di Cecina in the province of Pisa; rightly included among the most beautiful villages in Italy, the town is a real pearl of the Tuscan countryside. The village is located in a truly beautiful area, where low hills and plains alternate, about a dozen kilometers from the sea.
The name Montescudaio derives from the Latin “Mons scutorum” which means “Mount of Shields”, a clear signal of what was the military and strategic importance of this fortified village.
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 typical example of a Tuscan village: it is located in the hills and has a substantial historical and artistic heritage, excellent local cuisine and is perfect for a relaxing trip out of town. The historic center is also perfect for a half-day visit. The most interesting things are mainly found in the castle area. In particular, the main points of interest to see in Montescudaio are:
- Oratorio della Santissima Annunziata
- Torre Civica
- Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta
- Torre della Guardiola
Oratorio della Santissima Annunziata
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).
Torre della Guardiola
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.
Museums of Montescudaio
In Montescudaio there are also two exhibition spaces dedicated to art, but I don’t know if they are always open: the first is a museum of sacred art and the second of contemporary art. The museum of sacred art is located in the rectory of the church of Santa Maria Assunta where three rooms have been set up, in which sacred furnishings and other ecclesiastical artifacts are preserved. The second museum, the Spazio Minerva, is a contemporary art gallery located in via della Madonna.
Wine is the main product of Montescudaio and has enjoyed the DOC controlled designation of origin since 1977. Montescudaio wine is produced throughout the Val di Cecina and can be both red and white. The red of Montescudaio has a Sangiovese base while the white of Trebbiano Toscano. Every year this excellent product is celebrated with the Sagra del Vino which takes place in October. This is certainly the best opportunity to taste the Montescudaio DOC and all the other wines that are produced in the area.
What to do and what to see around Montescudaio
Those who decide to spend their holidays in Montescudaio can take advantage of the natural beauty of the area, the proximity to the sea and the presence of some pretty villages that are nearby.
Among the activities to be carried out outdoors there are excursions to be made following the trekking routes, which are generally passable both on foot and by bike. One of the itineraries is the one along the Via dei Pellegrini which leads to the Antica Badia and the natural oasis of Scornabecchi.
Sea near Montescudaio
It takes just a few minutes by car to reach the sea which is only 13 kilometers away. The nearest seaside resort is Cecina, or rather Marina di Cecina. We are on the Etruscan Coast, the beaches are sandy and the sea is clean as certified by the Blue Flag. Lovers of surfing and sailing sports can find the right conditions to practice their favorite sports. There are also stretches of beach that also accept dogs.
Other hamlets to visit around
The villages closest to Montescudaio that I recommend you visit are Guardistallo and Casale Marittimo. Both are located in a beautiful hilly area a short distance from the sea and are perfect to be included in an itinerary that also includes Montescudaio.
How to get to Montescudaio
Montescudaio is located about 70 kilometers from Pisa and 60 kilometers from Livorno. The city does not have its own railway station and therefore it is much easier to reach it by car.
By car: A12 motorway to the Cecina Centro exit, then Strada Provinciale dei Tre Comuni in the direction of Montescudaio.
By train and bus: the nearest railway station is Cecina; from there you can reach Montescudaio by taking a bus (CTT Nord Livorno bus).