Passeggiare nella storia di Vicopisano: itinerario Walking in medieval history: route between the walls, the tower houses and historic buildings
The visit to the old town of Vicopisano is a bit like a step back in time, in the true and authentic Middle Ages. You can venture inside the walls, palaces and towers of the village, discover the meaning of their names and their different functions, through their stories made also of wars and invasions.
We propose a route by foot in 15 stages: you can track it by yourself, but we recommend the accompaniment of a local guide to be able to better appreciate every detail and every secret of the monuments and the many points of interest of the route.
From the Church of Santa Maria, along the defensive walls: The Tower of the four doors and the Twin Towers
We start our journey from the Pieve di S. Maria (1), the main church in the country attested from the tenth century, located from its origins out of the castle: it is located in an area at the time called “Campo Santa Maria” where there were many assets owned by the Archbishopric of Pisa and where the market was held.
From here we continue to the lower part of the town, along the defensive walls and along the Rio Grande, which flows out of the northern part of the country, and where you can still see the remains of the fortification. The oldest section of the wall is built of stone, then raised and crenellated brick: visible and recognizable are the cylindrical towers (2), now private homes.
At the end of this stretch you can see the first of the many towers of the village: the Royal Tower or the Four Doors (3), built as the castle entrance for travelers from Lucca. Passing under the great arches of the tower and moving towards the town hall (4), you meet old houses in verrucana stone. At the end of the road you notice the massive structure of a stone tower, incorporated in the body of the Town Hall and, going around the building you will discover the two massive Twin Towers (5), built between the twelfth and fourteenth-century with stone and bricks: they formed, together with the first tower, the robust structure fortress of Vico of the fourteenth-century. At the Twin Towers they had two acces gates to the village.
From the town hall to the Palazzo Pretorio, through the Brunelleschi Rocca
From the town hall you can reach the old hill, meeting other important tower-houses, one of which called “de Serretti” (6). Going up, we begin to skirt the massive wall that delimits the area occupied in the Middle Ages by the Franciscan Convent, documented since 1279, and from the main watch and defense tower of the castle, the tower of Santa Maria, then transformed during the Renaissance, in the fortress of Brunelleschi (7).
At the end of the wall there is the complex of the Praetorian Palace (8), one of the most representative buildings of medieval civil construction in the Province of Pisa and which also includes vicarial Prisons (9). Today the halls of the Praetorian Palace are home to a permanent exhibition of the most important finds from the archaeological excavation of the St. Michael’s Monastery to the Verruca (reduction of the great ‘The Plough and the Calamus: Benedictines and Cistercians of Mount Pisano’‘) and the Historical Archive.
From up here, the highest part of the village, you may have an overview of Vicopisano and its surroundings, with the profile of the Monti Pisani on the right and the Monte Castellare with his church on top.
Particularly striking is the Brunelleschi’s Staircase (10) which from the square in front of the building goes down to the Torre del Soccorso offering a stunning rescue walkway split (11).
Via Lante: the Clock Tower and the Tower Malanima
From here you can go down to Via Lante: called in the Middle Ages Borgo Maggiore or Borgo Grande. Along the street there were placed important and luxurious residential tower-shaped buildings built in verrucano or in brick and often decorated on the lintels, on the stone shelves or in correspondence with the arcs of the portals with relief motifs.
Borgo Maggiore started from the Constantine Door, which was facing the current Piazza Cavalca, and following the base of the hill, went up to the area of Porta Arno, where the activities related to the river port had to be concentrated. Due to its intermediate position between the market area (which opened before the Constantine Porta) and the river port area, it was a leader of very early urban development, also facilitated from being on a flat area. The houses and buildings in the first phase had to be outside the city walls (attested by the name Borgo), then in an unspecified period but probably in the thirteenth century, also this area was included within the walls, coming to be part of the Vico castle. The midpoint of the street is represented by the Clock Tower (12) one of the oldest stone structures characterized by a narrow and small door entrance originally fitted with wooden galleries. A little farther from here you will also find Melanoma Tower (13), 16 meters high with verrucano masonry and brick, it takes its name from a family of Pisa who had possessions in Vicopisano. Much of the ancient tower houses were in the modern era merged and transformed into elegant buildings leaving visible the most significant parts of the original walls. Particularly interesting is the Street of the source, leading to an area occupied by a row house dating back to the twelfth century, built of mixed masonry brick and stone.
The walk in the Vicopisano medieval history is coming to an end going out of the walled village and taking Via Trombi (14): here it is also possible to find the remains of the church of San Leonardo (16), now converted into a home. We then come finally to Square Cavalca (17), the ancient market square, and today the center of the daily life of vicaresi.