San Miniato and its territory
Since the early Middle Ages San Miniato's hillside divides the Arno River Valley, dense with towns and settlements, and the uncontaminated panorama of its vast rural hinterland. The "hills of San Miniato" connect the Florentine area of Montespertoli and San Casciano, the Valdelsa of San Gimignano and the inland Pisan countryside to the Etruscan town of Volterra. On a clear day (and with plenty of luch!) you can see the profile of Volterra from Colle della Rocca (Castle Hill).
The first reports about the territory of San Miniato dates back to the year 938 (conserved by the Archiepiscopal Archives in Lucca): it is an act of enfeoffment that assigned the city and thirty nearby localities to a lord. A Papal Bill dtaed 1195 showed how the territory was already occupied over fifty churches with their rural communities. Is not a surpirse that still today San Miniato countryside has numerous small villages, villas, parishes and castles.
Some of these: in the direction of the Valle dell'Egola (Egola River Valley), a tributary of the Arno river going southwest. Coming down the hill and going through the village of La Serra, a steep unpaved road in the midst of a forest reaches the Castle of Montebicchieri, one of the bastions for the defence of the old commune. An ancient abandoned rural settlement amid large oak trees today surrounds the castle.
Heading in the direction of Palaia, some small town are Bucciano, going up the hill and proceeding towards the Chiecina river valley, and the ancient Pieve di Barbinaia. Mentioned in documents dating back to the year 868, its ruins later became part of an old farmhouse now in rubble.
Along the Egola river, other ancient villages had been erected such as Balconevisi, dominated by the Villa Strozzi. From this very old settlement (the name is probably Longobard: the Valle di Cunighiso) several very interesting itineraries can be followed, some of which lead to underground tombs from the Neolithic Age. At the Pieve di San Giovanni di Corazzano (Parish Church of St. John) there are rests of a national monument and classic example of rural Romanesque architecture. It dates back to the 12th century and with its distinct red terracotta colour, combines in its marble facade Roman ruins from the Classical Age taken from the pre-existing colony, the ancient Roman settlement of Quaratiana. The hills surrounding these sites are worked by farmhouses that used to grow tobacco, some of those are still working.