Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Peccioli


Farmland below Peccioli and the town's contemporary sign on the road leading to Peccioli


Not far from Pisa is a beautiful Tuscan gem of a town called Peccioli. I first visited Peccioli in 2007 when I did some translation work for the town and have been back several times since. Located mid-way between Pisa and San Gimignano, Peccioli is perched high on a hill overlooking the valley of the Era River. The town boasts a perfectly proportioned Pisa-style 12th-century church, medieval buildings, modern sculptures, restaurants, shops, a theater, summer concerts and four museums. 

Recently Peccioli announced that it is selling shares in 2,200 acres of its beautiful, rolling, dream-inducing Tuscan landscape. The land, once part of an immense farm owned by the Medici family of Florence, also contains 40 picturesque farmhouses that were home to the peasant families who took care of the land. Realizing the value of its pristine farmlands with their white roads and rustic farmhouses, a partnership was  formed with the company Belvedere, to preserve the land for the common good. Belvedere estimates the cost of the restoration of the farmhouses at 50 million euros. If local people invest a part of their savings in the project, say company officials, they will not only protect the area from real estate speculation, but will also give jobs to local workers. It's an ambitious project whose success depends on local investment. Peccioli, however, has a history of success.

First mentioned in written documents in 793 A.D., Peccioli was a vital piece on the Etruscan chessboard of northern Etruria as far back as the 5th century B.C. By the Middle Ages, however, the town had become just a lowly pawn in the seemingly never-ending battle for political dominance between Pisa and Florence, passing back and forth between the two super powers. Through it all, the Pecciolesi made the best of a bad situation and continued to make, as they do today, great wine, honey and olive oil.

The town's modern claim to fame has been its ability to "make gold from garbage." More than 25 years ago when Tuscany faced a serious sanitation crisis, enterprising Peccioli, unlike its neighboring towns, welcomed the establishment of a nearby landfill.  Located about five miles from the town center, it has become an international model of good sanitation practices and a source of economic prosperity for the town.

Building upon this newfound wealth, the town administration made infrastructure improvements, bolstered social services and improved schools. It also sponsored an archeological dig, and restored chapel frescos painted by Benozzo Gozzoli in the 15th century. Museums were opened, including an archeological museum of Etruscan art and a lithography museum with a superb collection of famous 20th-century Italian artists. 

Now, Peccioli hopes to attract more of the millions of people who visit Tuscany each year. According to their web site, about half of the 40 farmhouses, once restored, will be part of a tourist complex. The others will be sold on the international market to help finance the project. 

Owning a Tuscan farmhouse may not be in your future plans, but a visit to the town should be. Not so long ago, Peccioli earned the coveted Bandiera Arancione  from the Italian Touring Club, naming it one of the best small towns in Italy. So if you want to get there before the crowds, go soon. 

To see more photos of Peccioli and some of its 40 farmhouses, click here.








A presto,
Geraldine

4 comments:

  1. Geraldine:
    Love the photos of the farmhouses in Peccioli. Sounds like a wonderful place to visit.

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  2. Absolutely beautiful! Scott and I would love to live there a couple of months a year, maybe once Joey and Georgie go to college! Thanks for sharing...Stephanie

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  3. thank you, geraldine, for yet another beautiful spot. the history of humanity, an ongoing adventure. there is so much to see and enjoy on this crazy planet of ours... it is so nice of you to share your experiences and adventures.

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Thanks for your comments.