The Park of the Valdera region consists of six municipalities: Capannoli, Chianni, Lajatico, Peccioli, Palaia, and Terriciola.
The Park of the Valdera region consists of six municipalities: Capannoli,
Chianni, Lajatico, Peccioli, Palaia, and Terriciola. These six towns have
joined together to work towards a common goal, each retaining its own
identity but working together as a homogenously united team. The region does not present to the visitor the traditional image of a natural protected area.
It is not, that is, a "nature sanctuary", but it is exactly for this reason that it represents a more advanced idea of what a park should be. That which inspired its creators, in fact, is a simple idea-that the ultimate goal of the creation of parks is to create a model of satisfactory cohabitation between Man and Nature.
The creation of "sanctuaries", in this sense, represents a transitory phase, an emergency intervention in order to save something that is about to disappear.
If we consider a park to be a complex and balanced system between Mans and Nature, most of Tuscany could be considered a park, and rightly so.
However, here, in Valdera, there is something more.
Park is located 25 km from Pisa,
30 km from the pisan seashore, 60
The bell-towers of Valdera
When you arrive, wherever you look you will be greeted by a striking bell tower and a surprising wealth of churches erected over a period of 10
centuries. Each one represents a specific story unto itself, a piece of earth rich with ancient traditions. The calendar of religious festivities is full of celebrations which are open to the public, and includes several that are very suggestive.
Good food good wine.
The "Strada del Vino" (Wine Road) of the Pisan hills, along which there are wine-cellars where you can taste and buy excellent bottles of wine, runs through the Park. Restaurants have an important place here and usually offer a cuisine based on local, organic products. One of the distinctive characteristics of this region is the great number of "aziende agrituristiche", small farms in the countryside that offer lodging and sometimes meals to travelers.
Coming from the highway Firenze-Empoli-Pisa, get off at the exit for Ponsacco-Capannoli.
When you arrive at Capannoli, follow the signs for Palaia. To get to Palaia, it is best to use the street that passes by the abandoned village of Villa Saletta.
The village is a classic example of what has been happening in this part of Tuscany for a few years now.
Many of these ancient villages, praiseworthy for their architecture and located harmoniously in the countryside, had been abandoned in favour of the new, comfortable and wealthy industrial centers in the plains. In recent times, however, the nascent interest in the environment and the push towards return to the countryside, supported by the research that has accumulated over the years, have created a rediscovery of the quality of life that is possible here, as well as a market for ranovations. It is easy to imagine how this abandoned village will look in ten years.
Palaia is inside the confines of the Park. It offers many possibilities to enjoy the gentle Tuscan landscape.
Finally, we schuold not neglect to mention that Palaia´s location makes for an ideal stopover.
It is easy to get there, following the street that leads to the striking, isolated, yet clearly visible Pieve di San Martino (a few hundred meters from the town): halfway down the street, in fact, there is a large, easy accessible parking lot where you can leave your car and enjoy a magnificent day in the fresh air.
We mentioned at the beginning of this brochure that one of the dominant themes of a stay in the Alta Valdera is to fully enjoy the gentle beauty of this hillside environment, the first opportunity for which is offered here. In order to start with the simplest things, you should begin your visit with the village.
As you pass the historic center of the village, you will find signs that lead to a truly striking panoramic view of the town, the hills, and the Pieve di San Martino.
The Pieve, or little church, is usually closes (it opens only for the most important religious holidays), but all you have to do is ask and you will find a way to get in. If you don´t find a better way, simply knock on the door of the house across from the church the people who live there have the keys and are prepared for anything. It is worth persevering, because the little church is really quite an illustrious monument, noteworthy for its pure and harmonious form.
Now you can get on your bicycle. In the parking lot, you will find a map with all of the possible itineraries. You should follow number 4, which, passing by the little church and the hamlet of Colleoli, leads to Forcoli. This is a small, asphalt-covered Street which has very little traffic and offers magnificent views of the hills. In addition, this excursion has a specific destination. Infect, when you are almost to Fercoli, you can take the detour for San Gervasio. Here, you will find the first of the two country museums, the Museum of Rural Work and Civilization of this region, which is located in a beautiful, 181h-centuryT-uscan farmhouse.
This museum, like the church, is not usually open, but they will open it on request on Saturdays and Sundays if you call 0587A-183360. A little bit further down the Street, you will find a noble castle, which today has been renovated and turned into a refined country hotel, noteworthy both for its architecture and for the panoramic view that it offers of the valley below. The trip there and back consists of an easy 30 kilometers. If you like, you can keep ´Join"; once you have returned to Palaia, proceed towards Toiano (itinerary 3 and 6), along a Street that is similar to the previous one and leads to Toiano, another abandoned village, which offers a striking panoramic view of the badlands. The asphalt Street ends here, but if you look clown, you can admire the gentle valley which offers, as we will see, a magnificent place for a
Once you have returned to Palaia, you Celii gel back in the camper and descend mio the valley, passing Montefoscoli, Ihis little village is worth seeing, boll" tor its beautiful little church and, above all, for its permanent exhibit on country civilization, which is striking not only because of its content, but also for its position in the courtyard and in the underground rooms of a very ancient building, a space which used to connect the building to the castle located in the upper region of the town. This show, as well, can be seen upon request, by calling 0587/657014. We should mention that all of these praiseworthy initiatives are affected by economics conditions, which have not yet reached a level which would enable them to remain open continuously. However, this does not mean that it is difficult to visit these sites. On the contrary the addresses and telephone numbers given here will put the tourist in touch with people who are not only truly willing to help,
but also enthusiastic about the promotion of tourism in their towns. The tourist, then, should make an effort to overcome the normal desire to visit only those sites which do not require a little advance planning.
This is what alternative tourism is all about, after all! Traveling from Montefoscoli towards Peccoili, you will descend into the valley the could be seen from the heights of Toiano, created by the stream called Carfalo, a tributary of the river Era.
When you arrive here, instead of going toward Piccioli, you should go towards Castelfalfi. After a while, when you are Beneath Troiano, you will find the "agriturismo" La Cerbana, a farm that offers lodging and meals to tourist and is associated whit a hunting etate and a huge farm that breeds wild boars, pheasants, and barnyard animals. It is an ideal place for a stopover.
There is not a specific parking lot for campers (and therefore they cannot ask you to pay for parking), but there is a spacious parking lot that is freely accessible, and, above all, a restaurant which serves meat from animals raised on the farm.
The cuisine is typical Tuscan, the location is peaceful, and the environment is exactly what one wants when one thinks of this type of establishments.
After a stay at La Cerbana, it is a good idea to take the detour towards the tiny, picturesque village of Libbiano before going to Peccioli. In fact, the Astronomic Observatory of Galileo Galilei, which is open to the public upon request, is located here.
Take a look and if it is a nice evening, and the idea apples to you, you can make arrangements to visit the Observatory and look at the starts
(contact the municipalty of Peccioli at 0587/672603, or go directly to the town council, which is located temporarily near the hotel Portavaldera, in a separated building with a large parking lot that is located on the main street to the south of Peccioli).
Peccioli is a lively little town where a stopover should be considered almost obligatory.
The parking lot of the Prehistoric Park (go up towards the town, staying to the left side, and when you are almost at the top of the hill, follow the signs) as a sing which invites even campers to stay for the night, in a location which is truly splendid in every way. The first thing you should do, therefore, is to visit the Park, which is one-half play and one-half cultural. The numerous and incredibly accurate models (18 life-size dinosaurs and a few recreations of pre-historic environments), accompanied by explanations, make this Park worthy to international fame in its sector. All of this is located just a few minutes from the town, and as we will see, at the beginning of another splendid ride through the hills.
In Peccioli, you should visit, above all, the beautiful Little church dedicated to Saint Verano, which boasts panoramic views and is easily visible even from below.
Also, the Museum of Russian Icons which contains, besides the 60 icons of the permanent collection, the F. Bigozzi collection.
But above all, has we have said, in Peccioli it is possible to fully take in the atmosphere of these hills. Here, as well, with a specific destinations: the hidden but very panoramic church of Madonna delle Serre and also at mountain bike trail, well-loved by the locals. From the parking lot of the Prehistoric Park, you should go through the town until you reach a parking lot on the other side. Here, take the dirt road, following the directions for itinerary number 1.
The dirt road descends in to a valley and then ascends rather brusquely (but only briefly, and you can easily walk it), offering very beautiful views of the town. It then proceeds with gentle ups and downs until it reaches a little hill where, hidden in the greenery on the right, you will find the little church.
The panorama is wide and very gentle, and not far from the church, there is a pleasant Picnic area in the woods. It is an ideal place to conclude your splendid moming of fresh air whit a brown-bag lunch.
You could continue the itinerary and descend until you reach the river era, then follow a pretty dirt path that returns to the town, but this second part of the itinerary is a bit difficult.
If the weather is good, you can, instead, go down to the river from Peccioli, and, after having passed an unpleasant cave, venture along the banks of the river, enjoying an environment that is still untainted and a river with clean water.
Before leaving Peccioli, it is whorth your while to make a stop at the establishment Agripeccioli (just before arriving in town, very close to the multilevel parking garage) and refurbish your supply of excellent wines (see the separate description). To conclude, you can take a brief and pleasant mountain bike excursion.
Go to the sparsely-populated zone which is located near the hamlets of Cedri and Ghizzano. From Ghizzano, you can take a lovely, panoramic dirt path whit a slight grade that goes towards Castelfalfi.
At a certain point, you will see on the right an attractive, and in some ways, familiar, dairy farm. This is because this area, chose deliberately for its evocative atmosphere, is where scenes from Roberto Benigni´s movie, Pinocchio, Were filmed.
The little farm house, is the house of Lucignolo-it is fake, built of plastic and fibreglass.
Another occasion to playfully enjoy this distinctive region.
Discover Valdera Villas
Villa Medici Corsini - Spedaletto -Lajatico
The villa-farm is one of the largest agricultural complexes in the area.
The old complex of Spedaletto stands on the top of rolling hills between the Ragone and Era rivers. Built by the Hospitaller Friars of Altopascio, around the year 1000 it was used as a hospital for pilgrims and wayfarers. In the latter half of the 15th century, when the hegemony of the Medici extended to the Volterra area, Spedaletto became one of the hunting residences of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who tried to make his country dwelling worthy of his court by having it decorated by famous artists such as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino and Lippi. The artists frescoed the large entrance hall that leads into the courtyard. Regrettably their work was lost in the fire that broke out in the 17th century. Lorenzo gave the complex and the surrounding estate to his daughter Maddalena, the wife of Francesco Cybo Malaspina. In 1607 Alberigo Malaspina sold the whole property to the noble Corsini family of Florence, who still owns it.
Villa La Torre - Capannoli
The villa is privately owned.
Built in 16th-century style, the villa is located in the village of Capannoli, in the Alta Valdera Park. Erected by the Upezzinghi family of Pisa, the villa passed to the Lanfreducci in 1748, after the death of Jacopo Upezzinghi, the last member of the noble family. The central part of the villa, decorated with frescoes by Domenico Tempesti ad Ranieri Gabrielli depicting ''The Judgment of Paris'' and ''Diana with Actaeon'', is the result of multiple changes made to an old military building. Major work was carried out when ownership of the villa changed, following the marriage of Luisa Lanfreducci with Angiolo Del Rosso Tanucci. The side wings were added, the lemon-house and the vat store were rearranged with the construction of a large terrace and the cellar; lastly, at the will of the pious Luisa, the oratory was converted into the present chapel dedicated to St. Anthony. In addition to defining the space of the park by means of a wall built alongside the Via Volterrana, the architect Luigi Bellincioni constructed the ''Tempietto'', a curious building in the shape of a small castle that was used as a tea room.
Villa Gotti Lega - Lajatico
The residential palace of the counts Gotti Lega overlooks the central square of the village. The only visible side of the old palace has a wall that is characterized by a central tower embellished with a coat of arms and a window overlooking the courtyard. At the sides of the tower are two emblems representing a ship and the symbol of the noble family.
Palazzo Pretorio - Lajatico
The palace is privately owned and closed to visitors.
The palace, located near the Town Hall, has retained the old prison, which is still visible. Later on it was converted into a convent and is now used as a dwelling house.
Villa Gherardi Del Testa - Terricciola
The villa is occupied by the family of Counts Cempini.
At the entrance to the village of Terricciola is the Villa Gherardi Del Testa, the country residence of the noble Pisan family. The structure of the building has been altered several times over the centuries. In particular, in the latter half of the 18th century, a large depressed vault was constructed which connected the space in front of the chapel with the rear court that looks onto the woods. The last substantial round of works dates from 1883, when a new wing was added to the left side of the villa. Each part has an organic structure in itself and in relation to the landscape, with a terraced garden on the eastern side and a 19th-century garden on the western side. Concerning the interior, the reception room is richly decorated with stuccoes, frescoes and trompe-l''oeil architectures. Above the doors are oval paintings with rural scenes and, at the sides, scroll ornaments and putti. The wooden structures and the ceiling are decorated with imaginary townscapes. In the 19th-century section of the villa rooms are distempered with period motifs.