THE MONASTERY OF SAN MICHELE ALLA VERRUCA
 
Who is familiar with the area called “Verruca” knows them very well; even the most absent-minded will certainly have cast a glance at them, during their walks in that part of Monte Pisano: we are talking about the ruins of the Monastery of “San Michele”, called “alla Verruca”, due to its proximity to the homonymous fortress. Till a few years ago, of the entire complex only the apse was still visible, together with some remains of walls that revealed the T-shaped plan of the church. In 1996, an excavation campaign was started that has slowly led to the disclosure of the most concealed aspects of this important and fascinating monastery.

 

The presence of such an important complex in an area currently far from any urban settlement can be explained by the fact that, when the monastery was constructed in the 11th century, that area was used as a passage through the mountains from Pisa plain to the other side of the Monte Pisano (that belonged to Lucca). Although far from Pisa, it couldn’t be considered at that time a peripheral area as it is nowadays. It has to be added that, since the centuries immediately following the diffusion of the Christian faith, Monte Pisano had been elected as a special place by the hermits who were seeking for solitude, in contempt towards the corrupt customs of that time. Very often the chapels erected in devotion to a certain hermit (that had lived in holiness) became later on the seat of more important settlements. The presence on the Monte Pisano of a monastery is a certain testimony of a vitality in that area that began to lose its importance only after the 15th century.

 

 
THE ARCAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS
The archaeological excavations, directed by Professor Sauro Gelichi of “Ca’ Foscari” University in Venice, in cooperation with the “Archaeoclub” of Pisa and with the Municipalities of Vicopisano and Calci have so far succeeded in explaining the principal phases of the existence of this site: it was first a Benedictine monastery known since the 10th century; it started its decline in the 15th century, as a consequence to the wars between Pisa and Florence.
They have found out that the monastery was erected in an area where there was already a private chapel in the 9th century, according to some documents.. The excavations have until now allowed to identify the area were the monastery rose, and to bring to light the remains of the abbey church, of the cloister and adjacent premises (capitular hall, kitchens, refectory, facilities and warehouses).
 

The archaeological project provides for the identification and comprehension of the settling sequence in the long run (from Middle Ages to Modern Age), the analysis of the building techniques and the handiworks, the study of the human osteological remains and the analysis of the wall structures.
 
To reach the excavation site and the Verruca fortress, take from Piazza Cavalca in Vicopisano the road that passes in front of the Church of Santa Maria and go through the bridge on Rio Grande: after about a hundred meters, turn on the left into Via della Verruca. To reach the monastery, you will have to cover about 5-6 Km (half of which not asphalt-sheeted); once you get to the site, however, the beauty of the landscape and the magnificent view will repay you for the little comfort of the trip.