The village of Pescia, the heart of the green and secluded Svizzera Pesciatina (Swiss Pesciatina) in the Tuscan Valdinievole, is a place where you can clearly see the evolutionary path in its urban features.
Founded as a powerful castle, Pescia quickly had to deal with Florence which took control of the town in 1339, snatching it from the hands of Lucca. From that moment the village has followed the fate of Florence, becoming part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
The city’s economy has always been Florentine, thanks to the river that also became a power motive. At first numerous silk factories were built, adding paper mills and then tanneries. Pescia is now known for its Florentine nursery activity.
The city of Pescia holds deep medieval roots and is split into two urban sectors by the river: that of the Cathedral and that of the Town Hall, or the religious half and the civil half. Its medieval history is reflected in the eastern part of the Pescia del Duomo stream, an ancient parish church from the Lucca bishopric, and from that western part of the secular municipal establishments.
The first place you should visit is definitely The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the Duomo di Pescia that, according to some sources, dates back to the 5th-6th century. Among the most important works is a valuable 17th century painting, the Nativity of the Virgin by Giuseppe Bottani, kept in the Forti chapel, whilst on the alter of the Most Holy Sacrament the Madonna of the Baldacchino by Pier Dandini is kept.
Following the Via della Cattedrale, you’ll find yourself at the Church of Santa Chiara and the convent of the Poor Clare nuns with its beautiful cloister which was restaured in 1582. Despite its eighteenth-century façade, the Church of Santa Chiara still holds the roof’s wooden trusses, typical of Franciscan architecture.
In the city centre is the Church and convent of San Francesco, inside of which is a fascinating 13th century altarpiece by Bonaventura Berlinghieri. While walking through the centre you’ll come across the church of Santi Stefano and Nicolao dating back to the year 1000, the Oratory of the Madonna di Piè 'di Piazza, as well as the Giovanni Pacini Municipal Theater and the Cardini and Cecchi palaces.
Pescia also pays homage to the best Italian sculpturer of the early 20th century with its Libero Andreotti Gipsoteca which is home to a collection of works by the artist who was born in the city.
Pescia is an ideal destination for flower lovers, being one of the most important Italian centres for floriculture. In Castellare di Pescia you’ll find the Citrus Garden, a botanical garden that is home to more than 200 varieties of citrus fruits coming from all over the world.
In the centre’s immediate vicinity is the hamlet of Collodi, a small medieval village which became famous thanks to the tale of Pinocchio; a visit to the Villa Garzoni and its garden is also unmissable.
The 10 "castella” of Svizzera Pesciatina are also unmissable, and consist of Vellano, Sorana, Medicina, Fibbialla, Aramo, Castelvecchio, San Quirico, Stiappa, Pontito and Pietrabuona. In the latter you can also visit the Pescia Paper Museum, where you’ll discover how paper is made from a pile of rags. The communities found in this area have a history dating back a thousand years, making them rich in culture and tradition.
One of the town’s tradition festivals is the Palio degli Arcieri, celebrated in honor of the patron saint of the city Santa Dorotea on the first of September ever year. The festival consists of an archery challenge between the four districts of the town, Ferraia, S. Maria, S. Michele and S. Francesco, who compete to win the Palio, which is usually a hand-painted cloth. This event is greatly anticipated throughout the year, and during the week preceding the event, Pescia’s streets are filled with street artists performing and playing live music. It’s been taking place for over forty years with the aim of celebrating the city’s historical importance, and has now achieved international fame.
You absolutely must try Valdinievole’s excellent quality typical products such as Tuscan IGP olive oil, fine red and white wines, vinsanto, and the delicately flavoured Sorana bean. The neccio di Pescia, a sort of Tuscan crêpe with chestnut mixture and ricotta filling, is also a must-try.