The hamlet of Peccioli in the province of Pisa
Located on a hill overlooking the Valdera, the small town of Peccioli is one of the most interesting centers to visit in the whole province of Pisa.
The beauty of the place, the strong tourist vocation, the virtuous management of the environment and the territory and its remarkable capacity for innovation have guaranteed Peccioli a place among the Bandiere Arancioni of the Italian Touring Club.
In fact, the municipality of Peccioli stood out for how it was able to transform a problem into an opportunity. In fact, in the municipal area of Peccioli there is a large landfill for waste disposal which, however, was managed with a foresight and vision that are very rare in Italy. The landfill has in fact become an incredible development opportunity for the area and even a tourist attraction, as well as the location for various types of events.
It is no coincidence that today Peccioli is considered in Europe a real model of innovation in the field of environmental sustainability.
The territory of Peccioli has been inhabited for millennia, since the Neolithic, however the first to leave a well-defined mark were the Etruscans during the first millennium BC. Numerous necropolises and the settlement of Ortaglia where the remains of a sanctuary were found date back to that period.
The remains of the Roman era are less, however the discovery of a cistern in the excavation of Colle Mustarola near Ghizzano documents the presence of a stable settlement even during the domination of Rome.
With a leap of a few centuries, we reach the full Middle Ages when Peccioli was the site of a castle owned by the Obertenghis. Documented since the 11th century, during the 12th century this castle passed first to the bishop of Volterra and then to the city of Pisa. Once under Pisan domination, Peccioli became Podesteria of the Maritime Republic, extending its jurisdiction over Carpugnano, Gello, the Abbey of Carigi and Montecchio.
In 1322 the Pisans had part of the castle walls restored, probably by Castruccio Castracani, who a few years later, in 1328, was appointed lord of Pisa.
After a first short-lived conquest in 1362, the castle passed under the control of Florence in 1406. At that time the war between Florence and Pisa was almost over, and in fact a few months later, the city of the Leaning Tower was forced to waving the white flag.
Starting from the lordship of Lorenzo the Magnificent and then continuing throughout the grand ducal period, Peccioli experienced substantial political stability and long periods of peace.
In 1860, the referendum for annexation to the Kingdom of Savoy led to a new order for the public sector. Since the unification of Italy, Peccioli has been a municipality that includes Fabbrica, Ghizzano, Legoli, Montecchio, Montelopio, Libbiano and Cedri.
What to see in Peccioli
Peccioli and its territory are a continuous surprise. Here there are many things to see with a truly unexpected variety. We begin with the historic Pieve di San Verano, the bell tower, the museum of sacred art and the inevitable Palazzo Pretorio. The building hides the first surprise: a museum with a section dedicated to Russian icons (in Peccioli there is also the International School and Laboratory of Icons). During your stay in the village you can also visit the church of the Madonna del Carmine and the archaeological museum. Immediately outside the village we find the Prehistoric Park of Peccioli and the landfill with its open-air theaters and the famous Giants.
Pieve di San Verano
The Pieve di San Verano probably dates back to the 12th century. In the same period it is mentioned in various documents, including two bulls of Pope Alexander III where it is referred to as “Plebem de Peccioli“. This parish church is an excellent example of Pisan Romanesque architecture and is certainly one of the most beautiful and important churches in the whole area.
Over the centuries, the church has undergone some important restoration works, especially after the damage reported following a fire in 1688. If the facade still retains its Romanesque forms, the interior appears much more remodeled.
Several interesting works of art from the Pisan school are kept here. Among these we find a Madonna with child and two angels created by Enrico di Tedice, the Saint Nicholas and stories of his life attributed to Michele di Baldovino, and a Madonna with child and Saints Verano, Giacomo Maggiore, Monica and Caterina by Neri di Bicci.
Museum of Sacred Art
Along the north side of the church are two chapels added in 1580: the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the Chapel of the Assumption. In 2009 the Chapel of the Assumption became the seat of the Museum of Sacred Art of Peccioli. Various works from the parish church, the Compagnia della Santissima Assunta and the Church of the Madonna del Carmine are exhibited here.
The bell tower of the Pieve di San Verano was built between 1885 and 1898 by raising the ancient Romanesque bell tower. Designed by the architect Luigi Bellincioni, this bell tower has a “Moorish” taste. In the highest part there is an octagonal terrace from which you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view.
Palazzo Pretorio museum
The Palazzo Pretorio is another symbol of medieval Peccioli. On its facade there are 19 coats of arms testifying which families exercised power in the city.
Here is located the Palazzo Pretorio Museum of the same name, which is made up of the “F. Bigazzi” Museum of Russian icons, the Belvedere Icon Collection, the “Giuseppe and Paola Berger” Collection and the Engravings and Lithographs Collection.
In 2000 the first Museum of Russian Icons was opened thanks to the donation of 60 Russian icons dating back to between the 19th and 20th centuries, by the journalist Francesco Bigazzi, who for many years worked in the countries of the former Soviet Union first as a researcher and then as newspaper correspondent.
Inaugurated in 2004 with the aim of conserving and exhibiting the finds from the archaeological site of Ortaglia, the Archaeological Museum of Peccioli is the right place to learn something about the ancient history of this city and the surrounding area. The finds from Ortaglia are also joined by the finds from the Etruscan tomb of Legoli and those from the site of Santa Mustiola in Ghizzano. It is an interesting collection of Etruscan finds and classical art that has its spearhead in an Attic kylix with red figures, attributed to the Greek painter Makron.
Prehistoric Park of Peccioli
Inaugurated in 1977, the Prehistoric Park of Peccioli is a must if you visit the city with your children. Here are 22 dinosaur reconstructions including a T-Rex and a Brachiosaurus, as well as other prehistoric creatures such as the Cave Bear and the Woolly Mammoth, as well as the Neanderthal Man.
It is a bit strange to find yourself talking about a landfill and in fact Peccioli is not a landfill like any other. Here a truly innovative project has been created which has brought Peccioli many advantages. To begin with, the landfill allows you to recycle waste and generate energy. In addition to this it generates very important revenues for the municipality and finally it has become a place of contemporary art and a location for concerts and events.
Among the works of art in the landfill are the Giants created by the Naturaliter group, the fresco by Sergio Staino which depicts the inhabitants of the surrounding hills in a fairy-tale way (snails, frogs, grasshoppers, lizards, dragonflies, beetles…) and the decorations made on the containment barriers of the Waste Disposal Plant by David Tremlett.
A landfill can become an open-air museum of contemporary art, who would have ever imagined that?
What to see around Peccioli
There are several places to visit also around Peccioli. Its municipal territory is characterized by green hills covered with vineyards and olive groves where there are several very pretty and interesting small villages. The first is called Fabbrica, a village whose castle has been documented since 1284; here is to visit the beautiful church of Santa Maria Assunta which dates back to the Middle Ages. In Legoli, on the other hand, we find a tabernacle designed by Benozzo Gozzoli which is located inside the chapel of Santa Caterina. If you are passionate about contemporary art, you must visit Ghizzano: here you can admire the works of Alicja Kwade, Patrick Tuttofuoco and David Tremlett. Finally, Libbiano can be an interesting destination for astronomy and science enthusiasts in general because here there is an astronomical observatory and an educational centre.
Widening the horizon on the Terre di Pisa, I suggest you read the guides on Lajatico and its Theater of Silence, Lari with its Castello dei Vicari, Pontedera the city of Vespa, Palaia, Montecatini Val di Cecina and of course the extraordinary Volterra.
How to get to Peccioli
Peccioli is easy to reach by car from all the main cities of Tuscany, while it is decidedly less convenient to reach by public transport. The nearest railway station is Pontedera which is regularly served by regional trains. From Pontedera you can get to Peccioli using a suburban bus line.
By car you can reach Peccioli using the Firenze-Pisa-Livorno up to the Pontedera exit and then continue on the SP11 up to your destination.