The Upper Maremma: the inland hills of the Maremma
The area of Casina di Rosa
This area is generally ignored by guidebooks and portals because its most valuable resource is probably its naturalistic heritage. These hills, where Civitella Marittima and Casina di Rosa are located, have always been an area of transition, located on the obligatory route between Siena and the sea. Inhabited since the Etruscan era, the internal position of these hills has protected and preserved its original character of rural areas developed during the Middle Ages.
The inland hills of the Maremma extend over three “Comuni” (the territory of the local governments): Civitella Paganico, Campagnatico and Cinigiano. This area of the interior has become more and more popular among travellers during the past few years, especially because of its location at the crossroads with some of the most popular areas of Tuscany: Siena and Chianti, Val d’Orcia and Mount Amiata, the plains of the Maremma and the beach. It is the ideal base to explore Southern Tuscany without having to choose between the Siena area and the Maremma. Highway SS223 Siena – Grosseto, now called E78 Grosseto-Fano, runs through these hills. Its perfect location has influenced deeply the nature of this land. It can certainly be considered a real combination of “senesità“, traits which characterize the area and people of Siena, and “maremmanità“, traits which characterize the area and people of Grosseto and the Maremma.
The brochure created by the Maremma Tourist Information Office does a good job of summarizing the features which make the inland hills a unique place:
“This swathe of land between the wide Maremma plain and the slopes of Monte Amiata is striking in its diversity and the way the sunny plains, rolling hills and luxuriant forests interweave with each other. Unspoiled nature climbs to the hills in a display of Mother Nature’s generosity and man’s ability to preserve it. Historical landmarks are embraced by the ever varied colours of nature: the tender green of the vineyards, the intense green of the wild Mediterranean scrub, the silver of the olive trees and the gold of the sunflowers. In turn, nature’s heritage is embellished by the ancient villages, castles, fortresses and protective walls enclosing each tiny town and the colours and perfumes of the land join the history of this rural civilization in reciprocal balance and harmony. Cinigiano still maintains an old-fashioned, rural way of life and pace we think of with nostalgia. A lone sea of grass precedes Campagnatico, the ancient castle of the powerful Aldobrandeschi family, overlooking the wide river valleys of the Ombrone and the Bruna. Slender, crenellated towers, ruins and fortified constructions stand out against the festive Maremma landscape as far as the towns around Civitella Paganico, at the province’s border. Each centre in this part of the Maremma takes pride in its own legends and traditions and continues to celebrate them in a fairy tale atmosphere that has remained intact through the years.”
When to visit the area
There is no “best time” to visit this area of the Maremma: it is only a matter of personal taste. In spring, the fields are emerald green and covered by poppies and colourful flowers, the vineyards have not been tied yet, the olive trees are in bloom: this makes the countryside of the Upper Maremma simply spectacular. There is no other area where you can admire this combination of colours in such a wide expanse of unspoilt countryside.
In the summer the distinctive image of this area are the “rotoballe“, the typical bales of hay which appear in every golden field by mid July. And of course the fields of sunflowers which alternate with harvested fields and cypress lines edging rolling hills, and the ordered tied vines, and the ploughed olive groves! In the summer the countryside is more beautiful than in postcards!
Fall is a magic season, which brings back memories of bygone times with its pale colours, the morning mists, the smell of the woods and of its fruits, the mushrooms (porcini are delicious!) the chestnuts and the unmistakable sounds of the countryside in the distance.
And in winter, the smell of firewood burning in every house’s fireplace, the newly pressed olive oil, the new wine (vino novello), the light snowfalls and the white morning frost, the Christmas decorations, the lights and the rituals give the impression that time has stopped.
The villages of the inland hills
Campagnatico and Montorsaio are two extremely well preserved medieval villages. Montorsaio hosts a wonderful living crib-scene (presepe vivente) during the Christmas holidays each year. Campagnatico is mentioned in the 11th Canto of Dante’s Divine Comedy and it is very lively in the summer, especially during the village festival when a donkey race takes place. The village festival, or Sagra, takes place in the first half of September and is dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary. The village has several interesting medieval buildings, such as the Church of Santa Maria, the Castle and the Pieve (literally, the parish church).
Cinigiano is located in the heart of one of the most beautiful areas of the Maremma and of the entire Tuscany. The view from Cinigiano and the road which leads to the village, so incredibly spectacular, are its highlights. The Torre dell’Orologio, of medieval origin, and the remains of the old castle are also very interesting. The territory of Cinigiano, which stretches from the plains of the Maremma to the slopes of Mount Amiata, is very varied: the Mediterranean maquis alternates to olive groves and vineyards, fruit trees to green hills and chestnut trees.
In the surroundings of Cinigiano we recommend a visit to the village of Monticello Amiata, to the amazing Castle of Porrona, a perfectly preserved hamlet on the top of a hill with a fantastic view, Sasso d’Ombrone and to the Castle of Colle Massari, home to the local DOC Wine Montecucco. The fortress of Castiglioncello Bandini and the Castle of Vicarello are also worth a visit.
Thanks to the success of the red DOC wine Montecucco, Cinigiano has become a very lively village. We especially recommend “Calici sotto le Stelle”, literally “wine glasses under the stars”, on August 10, the night of Saint Lorenzo and of shooting stars, when cellars are opened to the public and the good wine flows! Don’t forget to make a wish every time you see a shooting star!!! The Festa dell’Uva, the village grape festival is celebrated on the first week-end of October.
Monticello dedicates the second Sunday of October to the chestnut harvest and the last Sunday of November to the new olive oil: do not miss the Festa della Castagna and the Festa dell’Olio.
Return to Civitella Marittima
And we have come back to the starting point of this journey through the Maremma hills and plains, coast and islands, mines and parks, castles and churches. Back to Civitella Paganico, the area in which Civitella Marittima is located. Civitella is of Etruscan origins, but it developed to its present nature around the 11th century when it became a castle of the Aldobrandeschi family. From Civitella travellers can enjoy amazing views over the Maremma and Mount Amiata, to the Val d’Orcia and Montalcino and the Banfi Castle, well visible on the top of a hill.
Parts of the original village walls are preserved, and so are one of the gates, Porta Piccina (the small gate) and a very old stone stairs, known as Scale Sante (the holy stairs). The name derives from a legend: during a terrible plague, some people from the village, (the locals are called Civitellini) saw the patron Saints Saint Fabiano and Sebastiano come down these stairs to free the village from the disease and that was the end of the plague.
Civitella has always been famous for its excellent olive oil and nowadays it is also part of the region of the DOC wine Montecucco. The village festival, the Sagra dell’Alta Maremma, the festival of Upper Maremma, is always held on the last week-end of August, but once every 10 years the village celebrates its “Confraternita di Misericordia”, literally the charity brotherhood, a local association which helps ill and disadvantaged people with a week-long festival rich in events, music and good food and wine. Not to be missed is also the “Festa del Buco Unto“, the festival dedicated to olive oil which takes place every year in November.
Just outside the village, the old Strada del Sale (the salt road) can still be used. This road was used in the Middle Ages by the people of Siena who travelled to the coast to get their supply of salt, a very precious mineral essential for the preservation of food. Along this beautiful road, full of old walls and fantastic views over the valley of the river Ombrone there are several places where travellers should stop. First of all, the village founts, where the women used to go to do their laundry. There is still a source of fresh water coming out of the fountains. Not much farther away, the Abbadia Ardenghesca is one of the most historically valuable buildings of the Upper Maremma. Only the little church (of the year 1000) of the Abbey, which was extremely powerful in the Middle Ages when it controlled the traffic between Siena and the sea, remains to evidence the splendour and power of this monastic complex.
All the villages of the surroundings of Civitella Marittima can be reached through this ancient road, which makes for a very beautiful alternative to the faster Siena-Grosseto highway. Paganico has perfectly preserved city walls in the Sienese style, a rare example shared only with the village of Monteriggioni. The village centre preserves the Roman shape of the Castrum and the church has some valuable frescoes by Biagio di Goro Ghezzi. Monte Antico and Casenovole are two wonderful castles on the border with the crete, Montalcino and separated from the territory of Siena only by the river Ombrone. Monte Antico boasts one of the best pizzerias in the whole Maremma, La Taverna di Campagna, where you can also enjoy the king of local cuisine: wild boar, hunted from November through January. Be careful in the woods in Fall and Winter!
The villages of Casal di Pari and Dogana are really nice, but the real highlight of the area is the perfectly preserved stone hilltop village of Pari, only two kilometres from the natural hot springs of Petriolo. The thermal baths in Petriolo were known during the Roman era and the remains of Roman baths and medieval walls are still visible a along the river Farma, which flows by the hot springs. It is a very nice setting where it is possible to choose between the free thermal pools and the cold water of the river immersed in the quiet of the woods of the nature park of the Basso Merse (lower river Merse valley). Soon a large spa beauty centre has been recently opened near the village of Pari.
The surroundings of Civitella are ideal for those who wish to go hiking, biking, horseback riding and of course sightseeing. Not only in the Maremma but also in Siena and the Val d’Orcia, all exactly equidistant from the village.
It is possible to download a brochure about the inland hills of the Maremma from the APT website.
On the official website of the Comune, you can find more photos of the area of Civitella Paganico.
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 Colline Metallifere: the North of the Maremma