“The singular event of the construction of the temple to Minerva Medica that even today, nearly 200 years since its bulding, is a solitary lever and impressive shadow in an oak forest... continues to intrigue and stimulate the imagination the most imaginative..."
Those who expect of Tuscany only rows of cypress trees and medieval villages will be surprised to discover a place full of mystery that we approach, with these words, along a dirt path to the top of a small hill and in front of a neoclassical temple. The eight columns, the triangular pediment and the vast semi-circle at the back give us the impression of a Pantheon in the forest. As we approach we find, among the frankly unusual decorative details, owls, jellyfish and olive branches - all allusions to the Goddess and all doubt vanished in front of the epigraph. But who erected a Temple to Minerva Medica at the beginning of the 19th century among the thickets of Palaia?
Requested by Andrea Vacca Berlinghieri, in honour of his father Francesco, a philosopher and Jacobin surgeon, the temple has stood since 1822. Both doctors, the two Vaccà, raised the prestige of the University of Pisa by laying the foundations of modern medicine there, but the monument was not a simple memorial ... it appears to be one of the first Masonic temples built in Italy and from the outset, drew romantic poets (Freemasonry arrived in Tuscany direct from England) and was a busy meeting place for poets like Lord Byron and Mary and Percy Shelley to meet under the shade of the oaks. Experts of esotericism and friends of Andrea (wrongly) think that the most famous of Gothic novels - the mythical Frankenstein - was inspired by the figure of the Pisan physician. But poets were not the only ones to meet in the halls of the Temple. In a few short years, it would become one of the places that vibrated with the thrill of the Risorgimento and its rooms would house the "rebels" intent on designing a unified Italy.
Once you exit the temple, you’ll find yourself immersed in an environment just waiting to be explored, more than 65 kilometres of paths and nature trails perfect for walking and horse riding. Watch as the full beauty of the Palaia territory unfolds, made up of ancient churches, Renaissance villas, Etruscan and Roman ruins, chapels, monasteries, 18th-century residences, museums dedicated to rural life and picturesque villages where life runs along rhythms elsewhere lost.