Palaia is one of the most historically rich places in all the Valdera and its origins date back to the 4th century BC, as the Etruscan relics found in this area suggest.
The Castle, on the other hand – refered to as Mons Magnifridum and mentioned as early as 986 - dates back to the early Middle Ages. The fortification, given its strategic position, was repeatedly a source of contention between Pisa, Florence and Lucca.
Palaia’s golden age ran through the 13th and 14th centuries, when the Parish Church of San Martino, a unique and vast building located just outside the village walls, was built in 1279; the Church of Sant’Andrea, a Romanesque church which is home to precious works such as the wooden Crucifix credited to Andrea Pisano and the Madonna and Child by Francesco di Valdambrino.
The Watchtower is also well worth visiting, being located right in the middle of the village. It was once a civic door, called the Arco del Podestà with Ghibelline battlements, and became the Civic Hours Tower in 1655.
Palaia’s Municipal Palace is one of the most historic buildings in the entire village. With its three floors and huge front exterior full of classical details, it holds a dominating position over the entire Republic.
The town of Palaia is a historic rural centre in the Pisa Area, where memories of traditions have stayed alive, reverberating in the surroundings such is in the villages of Montefoscoli and San Gervasio. Here you can visit two museums dedicated to Pisan farming life and civilisation. Inside are tools and utensils from the period on display, and old workplaces such as the cup workshop, the oil mill, the cellars and all rooms dedicated to historic crafts are all open to visit.
Villa Saleta also surrounds you with an air of times past, being a rare example of a hamlet-farm built between the 16th and 18th centuries. The villa has grown in fame because films such a La Notte di San Lorenzo, Good Morning Babilonia, Fiorile by the Taviani brothers, and Io e Napoleone by Paolo Virzì have been shot inside here.
The small, uninhabited village of Toiano is also worth a visit, nestled between rolling hills and rough, sandy ravines.
Palaia is, moreover, an ideal base for incredibly beautiful natural excursions. There are many trails in the area, some even ring-shaped; the most famous is the Great Nature Trail, which you can follow on horseback, by foot or by bike.
A few kilometres from Palaia is the village of San Miniato, passed by the Via Francigena and perched on a hill overlooking the entire valley.
The wider area of Palaia offers many opportunities for those looking to come at the perfect time.
First of all is the summer theatrical and musical reviews, such as the Mauro Monni Popular Theatre Review and the Opera under the stars; then there’s the classic wine and food events and village festivals, such as the Festival of Peasant Civility in Montefoscoli and the Summer Nights review. The Truffle and Porcini Mushroom Exhibition in Forcoli is particularly memorable, which has been celebrating the precious tuber and all the area’s typical products every October for over 30 years.
The climate, soil and vegetation all mean that in this part of Tuscany one of the most precious, mysterious products - served in the best restaurants and adored by admirers from all over the world - is sourced: the renowned truffle. The Precious White Truffle is a particular highlight, reaching its ripening period from September to December, and is a source of pride and prestige for the area.