Camellias in the Cloister at Calci

Calci lies at the foot of Mount Pisano, facing the plain of Pisa and the sea, enclosed by two valleys like a horseshoe, which form a natural amphitheatre called Valle Graziosa, the Pretty Valley. Since the Middle Ages the rivers of the two valleys, known as the Zambre, were conveyed into a masonry canal which enabled the development of mills driven by water wheel. The wool trade followed shortly after, together with olive growing and the picking of myrtle berries, which once retted are used to tan hides.

During the Middle Ages Calci followed the fortunes of the Republic of Pisa, to whom it supplied timber for building boats. In addition to the many churches and monasteries in Calci, there were also castles and towers which made the town a strategic area for the Republic. Nevertheless, it fell, together with Pisa, under the dominion of Florence in 1406. When the Republic of Florence ended in 1530, Calci and the State of Pisa were absorbed together with Florence, in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Only in 1867 did Calci become an independent commune, and by that time it had 104 mills and 34 oil mills. Unfortunately during the two World Wars there was an economic crisis and many mills were converted into residential houses. However, the leather production went on together with olive growing, tourism, woodwork and even glasswork with achievements such as the Inverted Pyramid in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall, the rotating glass cupola of the world clock in Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, and the glass bridge that connects the Aquarium of Genova to the Large Blue Ship, the exhibition space famous for its Mediterranean cliffs, coral reefs and the reconstruction of the Madagascar rainforest.

The landscape around Calci is beautiful, embellished by the ancient churches and monasteries of which this territory is rich. Its main attraction is the magnificent Calci Charterhouse, la Certosa di Calci, which houses a natural history museum of the University of Pisa, yet nearby, in the tiny hamlet of Nicosia, lies hidden the Church of St. Augustine. Both the convent and church were built between 1258 and 1264 on initiative of Ugo da Fagiano,  bishop of Nicosia in Cyprus, for the Augustinians. Except for the church and the bell tower, which are used by the parish of Calci, the convent is unfortunately in a state of complete abandonment.

However, in the cloister of the Convent of Nicosia there are citrus trees and two secular camellias, one with pink flowers and the other with white. The camellia has always been a symbol of beauty, with a taste for the exotic, as well as a fundamental element of many beautiful parks. The convent’s cloister, usually closed to the public, is opening its gates from the 31st March to the 1st April so as to let everyone admire the magical spring magnificence of these camellias. The event, at its sixth edition, is known as Le Camelie nel Chiostro, the Camellias in the Cloister. There will also be various installations on the theme of “Testimonies and Memories of Life in Nicosia”, which will show how the convent was once lived, the daily life of the friars, religious rites and festivities, war stories, as well as games for children, folk music, a photo contest, observation of the sky, workshops for both adults and children, a visit of Nicosia and its surroundings and a snack of bruschettas. How to unite the sacred and the profane.

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