Mount Pisano and the natural protected areas: an area to explore and live among the forests, caves, ancient rocks and traces of dinosaurs

Landscapes to be admired and ancient religious paths to follow

The territory of Vicopisano is part of the environmental-naturalistic context of great value of the Monte Pisano (also known in the plural form Monti Pisani), along with other 5 neighboring towns: San Giuliano Terme, Lucca, Capannori, Calci, Buti.

It is a mountain range that separates Pisa and Lucca, whose importance is its ancient geological history, and the diversified natural ecosystem and its privileged geographical position. The mountains are all less than 1000 mt high, and some are just normal hills: it is from the highest mountain, Mount Serra (917 m), and the other main summits (Mount Cascetto, the Spuntone Santallago, Mt. Faeta, the Verrucchino), you can admire, on clear days, views and beautiful landscapes: while to the north you can see the Garfagnana and the Val di Nievole, to the west near the coast between Viareggio and Livorno you can shift its gaze throughout the marine horizon and the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago; to the south you can see the Livorno Hills and the hills from Pisa to Volterra.

Its special design, for which it is virtually isolated and not connected to other hills, has always made it a unique area for flora and fauna, suitable for a total contact with nature, but also for the withdrawal and prayer here because with the spread of the Christian religion, the area was identified as an ideal place for churches, oratories, still visited during interesting walks that are organized by various associations and environmental guides to discover its secrets and its fascinating stories.

From the village of Vicopisano old paths lead through olive groves, pine forests, and chestnut to towords ancient religious buildings, archaeological sites and outposts, which you can discover and visit with expert local guides: Romitorio, church of San Michele alla Verruca, Castle Verruca.

Traces of fossils and dinosaurs: discover one of the oldest mountains of Italy.

Many historians and geologists believe that the group of the Monti Pisani is one of the oldest mountain formations in Italy: witness the fact that at the slopes of the mountains were found well-preserved tracks, and unique in the world for their color, fossil flora ( tree ferns, for example) belonging to the Paleozoic era and more precisely to the Carboniferous (from 340-290 million years ago). The extraordinary importance of this event is the fact that these outcrops are infrequent not only in Italy (they occur in a very limited extension in three or four regions) but also throughout the world. What makes the history of the Monti Pisani fascinating and mysterious, is also the exceptional discoveries that have been made in its rocks: the footprints of the ancestors of reptiles and amphibians that almost certainly lived in these areas and that, later on meaning in much more recent times, were the origin of the most famous and well-known dinosaurs.

For the geology, mineralogy and palaeontology passionates and scholars, Monte Pisano is undoubtedly the perfect holiday destination for hiking and themed tours on the traces of ancient rocks and primordial life forms.

Nature: an environment to explore including woods, spring sources, ancient rocks and caves.

In addition to the important historical and paleontological aspects, Mount Pisano is interesting to visit and learn for its fine natural values: the presence of a rich native flora and fauna, wild herbs and wild medicinal plants, and thus, a rich and still preserved ecological system, make this area a small green island to explore all year round, as well as a real reserve of oxygen.

Consisting of a territory mainly characterized on the lower part by terraced vineyards and olive groves – the oil is the product of excellence of the Monti Pisani and Vicopisano – and at higher altitudes, they are replaced by chestnut, oak, beech and extended pine forests, because of the presence of large natural richness (forests, waters, temperate climate), on the Monti Pisani humans (from the Ligurian, the Apuan and the Etruscans) have always found an ideal place to live here: that is also the reasone of old mills, crushers and charcoal presence , testimony of agriculture or wood links.

The mountains have been exploited since ancient times also for the extraction of stone: there is a rock called verrucana, which is most likely named after the Monte Verruca, and whose best-known varieties in shades greenish light gray, is clearly visible today observing the palaces and tower houses of the historical center of Vicopisano (but also Pisa) because it was massively used precisely in the era of the medieval building.

The beauty of the Monti Pisani is in fact also reflected in the limestone rocks and the presence of numerous cavities and caves of incomparable beauty, more or less extensive, also because they are surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation. Uliveto Terme and Caprona, characterized by its limestone rocks, with their abandoned quarries have stripped the heart of the mountain and offer every day a great show: just stopping to observe the going down of the sun during the hours of sunset to appreciate all the detailed shades of color.

La Buca delle Cave, located at the top of the limestone cave of Uliveto Terme, about 55 mt. deep and a development of 350 mt., is definitely one of the largest among the known caves of Monti Pisani. Discovered his entry in 1984 during an excursion, It had to wait for June 1991 to be explored and admired internally by “Speleo Club Talpe” of Pontedera. In addition to its development in the dimensional sense, it owes its importance to the geological caving aspect, and for the presence of a large colony of bats that have elected it their residence for the winter hibernation.

Because of their limestone structure, most of the mountains are covered of infiltration phenomenon and, consequently, natural springs and thermal waters, heated by geothermal effect. Among the many spring waters, mainly concentrated on the south-western slope in an area called the Valley of the sources for this reason, some still ensure flow worthy of use and known since ancient times, so much that in some cases it is shown on opposite sides of the two ancient aqueducts: the Medicean one that brings water from Asciano to Pisa and that of Maria Luisa (aqueduct Nottolini) that from San Quirico valley reaches Lucca.

So the water is an element of great importance since forever, of which Monte Pisano is rich not only in the ground. Actually there are many waterways that cross it  and that in a certain way delineate the perimeter, because once the rivers were the main transportation routes and were mostly passable with the so-called “small boats “. For those who want to retrace the ancient waterways of the area, you can then begin from the River Arno and the bridge of Vicopisano, not only because Vicopisano in the past was a strategic waterway node, but also because the bridge is within walking distance of two large hydraulic works : the Cask of Manetti and Cateratte Ximeniane, both in San Giovanni alla Vena. Continuing for about eight kilometers, from San Giovanni alla Vena and passing through Uliveto Terme up to Caprona, the Arno winding course delimits the whole southern side of the mountains, perhaps in its most characteristic feature, and thus comes to the confluence Zambra.

The protected areas of Vicopisano and Mount Pisano.

The variability of the landscape of the Monti Pisani and the presence of an extraordinary variety of plant species, the result of the combination of the long unfolding of natural events, and the centuries-old presence of man, are an asset of great value to be preserved and enhanced.

To this purpose, since 2005 the territory is subject to the safeguards activities of the Environmental Centre of Mount Pisano and the Natural Protected Areas of Local Interest (ANPIL), whose target is to increase the knowledge, protection and promotion of territorial resources, to enhance and improve the usability of protected areas and to encourage the occupation and thus ensure a “sustainable” human presence throughout the area.

These protected areas are territories that, for the presence of particular species of flora or fauna, or fragile ecosystems, are organized in a way to preserve the environment in its integrity. Their purpose is the task of protecting not only the natural aspect, but also the historical one, valuing the aqueducts that have collected and conveyed through the centuries the precious waters to Pisa, monasteries and places of retreat and prayer for hermits and monks, the caves inhabited by humans since prehistoric times, the sumptuous villas used by the bourgeoisie of Pisa for “the refreshment of the soul and body,” local products, first of all the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, still obtained by machining traditional.

In Vicopisano mountain territory is active the – A.N.P.I.L. – Col di Cincia-Val di Noce.

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