Pontedera, the home of the Vespa
Pontedera is one of the main towns in the province of Pisa. The city develops in a flat area, near the confluence of the river Era and the Arno, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. There are no certainties regarding the presence of Etruscans and Romans in Pontedera, while we know that in the eleventh century there was a bridge located at the mouth of the Era (the reason why the name is Pontedera, which means bridge over the Era) and that, in the mid-twelfth century, the village was one of the Pisan castles.
The hamlet acquired strategic importance since for several centuries it represented the only point where it was possible to cross the river and for this reason Pontedera was long disputed by Pisa and Florence. The clashes were numerous and the castle was destroyed and rebuilt many times; today, of this great fortress, the largest in the area according to the historian Scipione Ammirato, nothing remains since even the last remaining part of the walls was demolished in 1846.
The recent history of Pontedera is linked to that of one of the symbolic products of Made in Italy, the Vespa. In 1924 the engineer Piaggio moved part of his industries here after taking over the Costruzione Meccaniche Nazionali of Pontedera and, at the end of the World War II, the factory was converted to produce that scooter that has become a real cult object, a Italian product known all over the world.
Things to do in Pontedera
Today Pontedera is an important industrial and commercial center and, despite the devastations of the Second World War, it preserves a beautiful cultural heritage.
Duomo di Pontedera
The Propositura dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo (a.k.a. the Duomo) is a large neoclassical church built between 1842 and 1864 based on a design by Giuseppe Michelacci. Inside you can admire many valuable works of art such as the Annunciation by Jacopo Chimenti, the Madonna della Mercede by Francesco Curradi, some frescoes by Dilvo Lotti and a Deposition by an unknown author.
Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso
The Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso, also known as the “old church” (while the Duomo is called the “new church”), dates back to 1270 although over the centuries it has undergone several changes that have changed its appearance. The interior, very pleasant, has a nave with a series of side altars. Here some works are preserved including a wooden sculpture, Annunziata, from the workshop of Nino Pisano (XIV century) and the Madonna del Rosario between the saints Monica, Domenico and Agostino bishop by Cigoli (1595).
In recent years, Pontedera has opened up to contemporary art with the creation of new exhibition spaces both outdoors and indoors. They range from the large “Muro di Pontedera” by Enrico Baj in viale Risorgimento to the “Collection of author seats” in Piazza Garibaldi with works created by many Italian and foreign artists such as Giò Pomodoro and Yasuda Kan.
It is in this context of renewed artistic ferment that the PALP of Pontedera fits. Since 2016, the PALP has settled in the Palazzo Pretorio of Pontedera and since then has hosted exhibitions and events with the aim of spreading and promoting culture and art.
The PALP is located in Piazza Curtatone, for information on tickets and timetables I recommend you consult the official website.
The Piaggio Museum in Pontedera was inaugurated in 2000 inside the factory which saw the birth of the Vespa myth. Inside the museum more than 250 pieces are exhibited with a large collection of Vespa, pieces dating back to the railway and aeronautical production of the early twentieth century and many other vehicles including Api and motorcycles made by Italian historical brands such as Aprilia, Gilera and Moto Guzzi. The museum, which also houses temporary exhibitions, is today a real reference for fans and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
The museum is located in Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 7, for all information on timetables and tickets, I refer you to the official website.
Villa Crastan is a wonderful neo-Renaissance villa, designed in 1928, on behalf of Manlio Crastan, by the architect Arrighi. Seat of the former municipal library, the villa is characterized by numerous valuable elements such as the entrance through a loggia which can be accessed by a beautiful double ramp staircase. The villa also has a beautiful garden with a fountain, some statues and even a small cave.
What to see around Pontedera
A few kilometers from the center of Pontedera is the pretty village of Montecastello which stands in a pleasant hilly position. As the name implies, once upon a time there was a castle that was owned by the bishops of Lucca. Here, there are to see the Villa Torrigiani Malaspina and the Church of Santa Lucia virgin and martyr. Another small town in the area is Treggiaia, where you can visit the Church of Saints Bartolomeo and Lorenzo and the Oratory of the Madonna di Ripaia.
How to get to Pontedera
By train: Pontedera has a railway station which is located close to the historic center. From the station in a few minutes you can reach all the main points of interest in the city.
By car: to reach the city by car, the way to go is the Florence-Pisa-Livorno; Pontedera exit if you come from Florence, Ponsacco exit if you come from Pisa.