Il palazzo comunale con una delle torri gemelleStanding between river Arno and Monte Pisano, 20 Km from Pisa, we meet Vicopisano, once a strengthened hamlet, whose name reminds us of its historical alliance with Pisa republic.
The hill where it rises was probably inhabited since Etruscan times, as we may infer from the many findings of V B.C. century's ceramics, while in Roman age it was farming land, as witnessed by some toponyms, as Bassiliano and Cesano.
From the first written evidences we know the place to have been a feud of Obertenghi marquess, who probably built there, in X century, the Castle of Auserissola, mentioned in records of 975, under whose defence the river trading by the Arno, then flowing in a loop close to the hill, developed and increased. It also fostered the developing of a hamlet -Vicus-, nearby St.Mary's Pieve, of which we get an inkling in a record of 934. When Obertenghi got rid of their Tuscany's properties the hamlet, already known as Vicus Auserissola, was taken up in Pisa's field of action, becoming a major defence of the maritime republic.
Owing to its key position between two rivers -Arno, linking Pisa to the sea, and Auser, connecting to Lucchesia, Vicopisano saw its trades increase, and the rising of several affluent merchant families - Moriconi, Morigotti, Da Vico - , which were to be eminent in Pisa's society. Thanks to their wealth, the place, built up in towers and houses, got to be a small town, and a main stronghold of Pisa Republic's, so that, in 1230, it was appointed as a seat of the Captainship, the military districts of the Shire.
XIII cent. saw the declining of Pisa, struggling at sea with Genoa, and with Florence and Lucca by land. In1330, to withstand the everlasting enemy assaults, Vicopisano was further strengthened, and a fortress was built, whose moats -fed by the two rivers- made the place quite easy to be held. However, the endless wars of the time put almost an end to the trading, impoverishing the once wealthy families, which resulted in a stoppage of the building trade. Actually most of towers and palaces of Vicopisano dates back to XII and XIII cent., while in XIV cent. we have just a few rebuilding and raising up works. However, the stronghold could still drive back the enemy, till in 1406 Vicopisano, and then Pisa, was for the first time caught by Florence.
Florence exploited to advantage the key location of the place. While others neighbouring fortresses were knocked down, the strengthening of Vicopisano was entrusted to Filippo Brunelleschi, who left forever his stamp on the defences, building in 1434 the Rocca Nuova.
Excepting a few years between 1494-1498 and 1502-1503, Vicopisano was held by Florence, and was appointed as seat of the wide Vicariate of Lower Valdarno, so keeping its leading role in local government.
As soon as the rebellious acts that had kept busy Florence Republic were over, Pisa was at full rights fitted into Medici's Tuscany. After a short-lived time of political upheaval, due to Carlo V invading Italy with his Lansquenets, in 1530 the Medici's dynasty rules in Florence, and, with Cosimo I, takes pains to restore Pisa and its country, ravaged by a century and half of wars. But, even as peace settled in, the thriving days of Vicopisano were over; in 1560, the course of Arno was diverted, thoroughly altering the landscape, and bringing about the decay of the ancient fortress to a farming settlement. The new regimen of waters, reclaiming the land, was carried out by channelling the overflow of Bientina's lake by the Sarezza Nuova, close to Vicopisano, into the Arno. The political steadiness fostered crafts, and the breeding of silkworms for Florence's manufactories. Waterside hamlets were busy at the river hauling of goods. S.Giovanni alla Vena took to the making of ceramics; at Uliveto they quarried limestone for mortar; at Buti olive-trees yielded oil. Vicopisano still held on as local government centre, being the appointed seat of the Vicar, of the Chancellor, of Court and jail.
The handing over of Dukedom to Lorena didn't upset the country, apart from the reorganisation of local administration and the levelling of largest landed estates.
From then since, Vicopisano follows in the events of lesser Tuscany towns, till the unification of Italy and nowadays. Luckily World War II spared the historical Vicopisano, whose towers, unlike others in the neighbourhood, was left standing by Germans in withdrawal, and by the bombings in summer '44.
So we can now, after more than a thousand years long history, make a tour in a place well endowed with towers and palaces, bearing witness of medieval architecture, with its Brunelleschi's Fortress, Praetorian Palace, Clock Tower, Four Gates Tower, Seretti's, Malanima's, Pietraia's and Twin Towers, with the Walls and the Holy Mary's Church, the only religious building still standing, of the many middle-age had built there.
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