Peccioli, Italy’s 2024 ‘Borgo dei Borghi,’ Now Top Tourist Attraction

The modern Palazzo Senza Tempo in the ancient town of Peccioli

Peccioli, located amongst rolling hills in the province of Pisa, is a small medieval town currently attracting a massive number of visitors after being named “Borgo dei Borghi 2024.” This new title means the village essentially won the Superbowl of medieval towns. The Rai Cultura program shows the hidden gems of Italy for the competition each year. Local residents create videos to showcase their village’s unique history and artistic heritage. Viewers then vote on their favorite place.  

 Tuscany is equipped with an army of sleepy towns frozen in time, surrounded by elite wineries and some of the best food in the world, and as one of the most famous countrysides, it beholds a certain image that caters to the millions of tourists that visit the region annually. From rolling green hills with villas and wineries and winding roads flanked by Mediterranean cypress trees, with a blue sky and an ethereal feel that emphasizes the simplicities of the good life. 

Peccioli is situated in heavy contrast with the ancient, static feel of its direct surroundings, yet exemplifies the intense variety of landscapes and cities that Tuscany offers, from skiing at Abetone to the beaches of Pietrasanta. The village, located on top of a hill, is built around a fortress from the Lombard era, which made up part of the Germanic community who ruled a kingdom in Italy from 568 to 774. The territory itself has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, but it is from the first millennium BC that its more defined physiognomy is recorded, with manifestations of the Etruscan population. During the medieval times, it also became the site of a castle.

 Peccioli has around 4,800 residents in total, with 739 people living in the historic center. When visiting this hidden treasure, the particular monuments and places to visit are the Pieve di San Verano and MACCA (Museo d’Arte Contemporanea a Cielo Aperto), or the open-air Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Peccioli has been brought to life by the recent construction of the ultra-modern Palazzo Senza Tempo (Timeless Palace) by architect Mario Cucinella. The building, which dates back to the 14th century and was renovated in 2019, has become somewhat of a cultural hub for the town with a variety of temporary and permanent exhibitions, a cafeteria, and is defined by a cantilevered, angular terrace that offers a spectacular panoramic view of the neighboring valley. 

 Its exhibitions and space refreshingly showcase Italy’s creative capabilities, providing a perfect example of the balance between past and present. The renovation seamlessly integrates itself into the previous mid-16th century palazzo owned by the Almeni, Salviati, and Dufour-Berte families throughout its history. The palazzo has previously hosted exhibitions such as “Dante and the Divine Comedy” in which students of the art academies of Carrara, Florence, and Ravenne were invited to reinterpret the songs of the Divine Comedy through the modern technique of “trash art”: the use of trash, such as plastic scraps, buttons, glass, and other recycled materials as mediums for art. 

Since 1991, Peccioli has been developing itself as a new capital of contemporary art in Italy, with works that strictly juxtapose the stale nature of the city’s ancient architecture. Endless Sunset (2020), an installation by Patrick Tuttofuoco located on an elevated walkway, enhances the circulatory connection between the historic center of the medieval village and the newer parts of the town.  The installation of four huge human sculptures by Naturaliter, titled Presences (2011), are located at the waste disposal plant and theater and symbolize the opportunity for rebirth. 

 The MACCA initiative values seeking out innovation and the imaginative potential of contemporary art. The idea of an art park was spearheaded by the municipal administration in order to create a cultural path centered on art in an impactful way.  This intervention has immersed public art projects into the landscape, town, and architecture, inviting artists to treat Peccioli both as a studio and as a gallery. The objective is simple: take to the streets, invade urban space, and use art to create destinations for occupants, raise questions, and characterize places and what it means to be a citizen. 

Another attraction that brings tourists to this town is the waste disposal and treatment plant. It is strategically important for the Tuscany region and has been fully integrated into MACCA. More recently, MACCA reopened its archaeological component and features new works of art by Vittorio Corsini, Marcella del Signore, Maria Perbellini, and Christian Pongratz. Now home to over 70 works of art, Peccioli’s MACCA is a mecca of large-scale art installations in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. (Molly Mulvihill & Sophia Koch)