A Monastery & a Wilderness near Pisa

Thirteen kilometers (8 miles) east of Pisa outside the village of Calci lies the largest and most interesting Carthusian monastery (or Charterhouse) in Italy, the Certosa di Calci (tel. 050-938-430). It was founded in 1366, but most of its current facade dates from the 18th and 19th centuries. You can see this huge complex of baroque frescoed chapels and cloisters during a fascinating 1-hour guided tour leading you through chapels, the main church, and a monk's "cell." The University of Pisa also keeps a Natural History Museum in one wing (tel. 050-221-2970; www.msn.unipi.it), with a large taxonomy collection and a tropical aquarium. The Certosa is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30am to 6:30pm, and Sunday from 8:30am to 12:30pm year-round. Tours cost 4€. The natural history museum is open daily 9am to 5pm (Sun 10am-7pm, but closes 2pm Mon-Fri Oct-Feb), and admission is an additional 8€ for adults, 4€ for children 6-18 and seniors 65 and over. The best way to get to the Certosa is by taking CPT bus no. 120 to Montemagno, which lets you off at the gates, rather than the one to Calci.

Just west of Pisa begins the Parco Naturale Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli (tel. 050-530-101; www.parcosanrossore.org). Once the summer estate of Italy's president, it is now a publicly owned park. It forms part of one of Tuscany's most precious protected wildlife areas, a coastal zone of dense pines with populations of wild deer, boar, and aquatic birds surrounding beaches and boggy wetlands. To properly explore the park's wildlife and birdwatching trails, pre-book a guided tour on foot, bike, or horseback. These depart from the visitor center in Cascine Vecchie. Guided bike tours lasting 2.5 hours cost 15€, 12€ for children 12 and under. Horseback rides are also available, call tel. 050-530-101 to book (tel. 338-366-2431 for horse-riding). There are also around 10km (6 miles) of free flat cycling and walking trails, but access to Gombo beach (where drowned Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's body washed up in 1822) is only possible on a guided visit. The park is open (and offers bike rental) on weekends and national holidays all year.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.