How to reach
The fortress of the Verruca rises in the municipality of Calci, province of Pisa, on the top of the Mount Verruca. It can be reached following the Motorway Florence-Pisa-Leghorn (FI-PI-LI), exit toward Cascina, continuing until Vicopisano. Here, just beside the cemetery, starts the country road 'Strada della Verruca' that leads nearby the bottom of the rocky spur where the fortress stands, leave the car at the ruins of the 'Monastery of S.Michele' and continue by foot on the path in the wood.
The Fortress, or Rocca, della Verruca crowns a rocky spurs at the summit of the homonym mount at a quote of 540 meters. Its origin and history are strictly connected to those of the town of Calci, that rises at the center of the underlying valley. Calci has always been deeply connected to the neighbor and powerful city of Pisa and to all the wars that interested it during the centuries.
The documented history of the settlements of this area starts from the year 780. The territory was defended since that time by a fortress situated in the place of the Rocca, ideal position to control the river Arno and its lowland up to the sea. For this reason the fortress of the Verruca was always an impregnable stronghold for all the armies and the political powers interested to control this lands. Many famous and bloody battles were fought in the 'calcesano' (the name of this territory): in 1288 between Pisane Guelphs and the Lucchese army, in the 1328 there was the German invasion of Ludovico of Bavaria, in the 1363 the Florentine invasion, in the 1369 invasion of the troops of Charles IV of Bohemia and in the 1375 of those of the English commander John Hawkwood (Giovanni Acuto). In the 1402 Pisa was conquered by the Florentines and the Verruca, last rampart of resistance, was conquered and destroyed to avoid that it will return to be a menace. In the 1503 Pisa rose up and the war interested again the Fortress. The Florentine troops were forced to regain the Verruca, heart of the resistance. The fortress surrendered, after a long and bloody siege, the 18th June of the same year, and it was the end for all the hopes of independence of Pisa that capitulated definitely in Florentine hands six years later.
Nowadays the form of the fortress is the result of the works of strengthening performed after this war. The Verruca is a non homogeneous construction because of the different phases and the different architects that took care of it. The first thing that can be noticed is that its walls are one of the few examples of bastions erected with melted stone instead of the characteristic bricks used at the time for these kind of works. The cut stones are used only for the angles and in reduced quantity. The construction was mainly performed carelessly and without the usual respect of the proportions, with an excessive hurry caused by the necessity of the Florentine to make defensible this strategical site to subjugate definitively Pisa.
The main front has cylindrical shaped towers at the two extremities, attributed at the architect Luca del Caprina, of the school of the master mason Francione. The main and only gate is opened at the extreme left of this front. The bastion of northwest, the worse performed, is instead attributed at Antonio da Sangallo. The most anomalous part is the west angle: it has a polygonal extremity with a scarped wall on the northern side only. In the inner ward come out a crag of stone and a quadrangular shaped palace in state of advanced degrade. It was the ancient core of the fortification and was probably destined in part as chapel. All along the walled circuit are still visible many gun and loop holes.
The low quality of the construction and the centuries of abandonment are the cause of the disastrous condition in which the fortress stands today, invaded by the vegetation and at risk of ulterior structural collapse, but the lovely view on the whole Arno river valley that is possible to have from this height is really unique!
More info & notes
Rocca della Verruca from the drone: