In the Pisan hills, the pleasant hamlet of Guardistallo unfolds along a low ridge, with pretty pastel-painted buildings and piazzas, not far from the sea. With a handful of restaurants, coffee bars, and shops for daily needs, it is a really pleasant place for a home base while exploring the great sights of Tuscany. Within reach are Pisa, Lucca, Volterra, as well as Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, and Massa Marittima. But don't overlook the small towns right around Guardistallo, because they're just as alluring and interesting for that slice of Tuscan life and ambiance.
The history here goes back to the Etruscans, then the Lombards took over. The town was developed around a castle when it was part of the Republic of Pisa, under the control of the della Gherardesca family. It was sacked a time or two and fell under the Republic of Firenze. It was destroyed in an earthquake in 1846, and while the castle couldn't be salvaged, the recontruction did give the town a small but lovely theater, the Teatro Marchionneschi, a jewelry-box that is still in use today. The monastery Nostra Signora di Valserena still houses an order of Cistercian nuns with a modern structure. They create cosmetics, creams and perfumes from the olive oil they produce and plants and flower essences.
Guardistallo puts on a display at the holidays that shows off 1,000nativity sets in every medium and material, in every corner, on windowsills and balconies, and in alcoves. In October, don't miss the Polenta festival, a delicious feast. Around the area are vineyards, so try some of the local wines.
In just 10 minutes, the Etruscan Coast can be reached, where soft sandy beaches stretch out along the Mediterranean Sea, interspersed with coves and reefs. The closest are at Castiglioncello and Marina di Bibbona.
There are many wonderful places in easy reach, like Pisa, Suvereto, Volterra, San Gimignano, and more.
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Explore nearby towns
With several millennia of history, and a location between hills and the sea, Bibbona is a charming place with genuine hospitality in reach of many interesting Tuscan towns.
Riparbella is a small town near Pisa that reaches along the ridge instead of encircling the hill.
The stone village of Monteverdi Marittimo is a lovely hill town in the province of Pisa.