Massa Marittima and the Metalliferous Hills
The North of the Maremma
The Colline Metallifere (literally, the metalliferous hills or the hills which produce metals) have always been the industrious heart of the Maremma and some places still point to times when the life on these hills was much harder. As their name says, the soil of these hills, which spread from the border with the Province of Siena to the Gulf of Follonica, are rich in minerals and mines have been excavated for centuries in search of iron, copper, lead, zinc, pyrites and silver.
A very impressive natural phenomenon connected to the geological richness of the soil of this area is the presence of “soffioni“, borax fumaroles near Monterotondo Marittimo and Travale. Vapour rises high through the tree-branches of the “macchia mediterranea“, the maquis.
The Towns of the Colline Metallifere
The heart and capital of the Metalliferous Hills is Massa Marittima, a real architectonic jewel of the Middle Ages. However, many villages and castles in the area are of great historical and artistic interest. Scarlino, for instance, is a very interesting village, with its fortress looming over the village and with its views across stretches of coastline of extreme beauty from Cala Violina and Cala Martina, all the way to Punt’Ala.
Gavorrano is another neat village with a very old story: it was mentioned in Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” for being the setting of Pia dei Tolomei’s sad story. The story says that she was killed by her husband in the Castello di Pietra, whose ruins are still visible. The tragic story of the noble woman from Siena is re-enacted every year – usually on the first Sunday of August – in the festival called “Il Salto della Contessa“, the “Countess’ Leap”. The re-enactment is presented in medieval costume, with parades, flag throwers, a horse race and a theatrical representation of the Countess’ murder at the hand of her husband, Nello dei Pannocchieschi.
The Mining Naturalistic Park in Gavorrano provides an excellent “cross-section” of the miners’ society and of the life in mines and mining-towns thanks to the mine of Ravi-Marchi, the Museum of Minerals, and the Rocks Park with its “Teatro delle Rocce” (literally, the “theatre of rocks”), used for cultural events.
Near Gavorrano, Caldana, Ravi and Giuncarico are worth a stop and, if you enjoy golf, you can dedicate a morning to this beautiful golf course in the heart of Tuscany.
Roccastrada and its surroundings
Roccastrada, Sassofortino, Roccatederighi, and last but not least Montemassi, also represented in the frescoes by Simone Martini preserved in the Palazzo Comunale of Siena, are also very beautiful villages. Roccastrada, which happens to be the next village down the road from Civitella, only 15km away from Casina di Rosa, was founded in the 14th century and still preserves the typical structure of a medieval hamlet. From the top of the hill where it is located one can enjoy spectacular views of the plains of the Maremma, to the sea. The surroundings of Roccastrada are a real paradise for those who love hiking. The countryside is full of marked trails and itineraries and maps can be found here: Hiking near Roccastrada.
These trails, perfect for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, lead through unspoilt woods which conceal the ruins of old villages, now abandoned, and remains of castles and fortresses. The ruins of the Castle of Sassoforte is one of the most interested sites for those who love medieval history and it is reachable from the village of Sassofortino, another hilltop hamlet with incredible views over the countryside of the Maremma. Roccatederighi and Montemassi are probably the most beautiful and best preserved medieval villages in the area and visitors should be sure not to miss them. A good time to be in the area is for the Medieval festival of Roccatederighi (“Medioevo nel Borgo” – 1st week-end of August) and for the Palio dei Ciuchi (a donkey race) in Roccastrada on the second Sunday of September.
Other interesting villages in the area are Monterotondo Marittimo, completely immersed in the woods. Near the village, the medieval Sanctuary of Frassine is one of the few churches in the Maremma dedicated to the Holy Virgin and it can be reached with a beautiful walk in the woods where you are likely to meet pilgrims. Montieri was already known to the Etruscans and the Romans for its many copper mines. A curiosity: one of the first documents in vulgar Latin was written in this area, the Charta of Travale, a little village which makes for a nice stop if you are exploring the area. The same can be said of another medieval village, Gerfalco.
Massa Marittima stands out for the beauty of the historical centre and for the many monuments of great value, such as the Torre del Candeliere (literally, the tower of the chandelier), the Fortezza dei Senesi (literally, the Fortress of the Sienese), the Palazzo dell’Abbondanza (the Palace of Abundance) and Fonti dell’Abbondanza (the Fountain of Abundance) and of course the beautiful Cathedral and the Episcopate, and Palazzo del Podestà and the Comune in the main square. The Cathedral of Saint Cerbone contains valuable works of art such as the polychromous wooden Crucifix by Giovanni Pisano and another masterpiece: the painting on wood of the Madonna delle Grazie attributed to Duccio di Buoninsegna.
Nearby Massa Marittima, we recommend a stop in the medieval villages of Prata and Tatti and in the mining villages of Valpiana, Niccioleta and Fenice Capanne. A good occasion to visit Massa Marittima is either on the first Sunday after May 20 or on the second Sunday of August. On these dates the city celebrates its old tradition and the skills of its citizens in archery and crossbow, in a festival called Balestro del Grifalco. Before the contest, the centre is animated by a magnificent parade in historical costumes with a procession of the representatives of the three “terzieri” or city quarters and by the show of skilful local flag-flyers.
We remind visitors to this area that Massa Marittima is the heart of the production of the excellent D.O.C. wine Monteregio.
For more information
To learn more about itineraries, museums and traditions on the Metalliferous Hills, you can download the brochure created by the Maremma Tourism Information Office or visit the following sites:
- Alta Maremma Toscana.
Click on the following link to see the Google Map of the Maremma!
And now, go back to the introduction to the Maremma or keep on reading about our recommended itineraries in the Tuscan Maremma:
- The Heart of the Maremma: Grosseto and the Tyrrhenian Coast
- The Coast, the Beaches and the Sea of the Tuscan Maremma
- The Hills of the Upper Maremma: Pitigliano & co.
- The Interior: The area of Civitella Marittima and Casina di Rosa