In the north of the province of Pisa, only 16 km (nearly 10 mi) from the Leaning Tower, lies the town of Vicopisano. It spreads between the banks of the river Arno and Mount Pisano and is mostly hilly, though reaching 530 metres with Mount Verruca.
Despite its small size (26.9 km2 – 10.4 sq mi), Vicopisano has a remarkable wealth of medieval monuments. Amongst these there are twelve towers dating from the 11th to the 15th century, two 12th-century palaces, a medieval fortress designed by Brunelleschi and 12th-century Romanesque churches, just to name two out of the fifteen on the territory.
The presence of this medieval heritage has brought the town since 1996 to celebrate a re-enactment known as the Festa Medievale on every first weekend of September. In these years the festival has grown in importance, thanks above all to the happy marriage between the beautiful old town centre of Vicopisano and the efficiency of the organizers and participants in recreating the medieval milieu.
Along the town streets and in the nooks leading to the peak of the hill on which Vicopisano stands dominated by the Brunelleschi Fortress, visitors will discover various inns where to try the typical frugal meals of the period together with ‘rubro’ (red) wine as well as artisans with their stalls.
On the square before the 14th-century Palazzo Pretorio, instead, the town holds a medieval dinner. Here it is possible to try dishes cooked according to the recipes of the time and eaten following their etiquette, namely without forks and in a sequence totally different from today’s. A lot of historical research has gone into faithfully representing these recipes popular in Italy during the Middle Ages.
But beyond all this, what really strikes those visiting this Medieval Festival are the magical atmosphere and the sensation of being suspended between two worlds, present and past. A feeling the inhabitants of Vicopisano happily share with their guests. So if you’re travelling in the area of Pisa the first weekend of September don’t forget to pop over to Vicopisano and participate in its Festa Medievale.