Grosseto Tourist Information

Grosseto and the Tuscan Maremma

Grosseto lies on the Tuscan coast of the area known as the Maremma. Although the name Maremma is most commonly associated with the vast, formerly marshy, coastal area made fit for habitation only during the past couple of hundred years, the Maremma is in fact a large and diverse area covering parts of southwestern Tuscany and some of northern Latium. The Alta Maremma is the northern part, from Grosseto northwards to Cecina River just south of Livorno. The inland areas are high above the coastal plains and provide spectacular views from the hill top towns located there. The Alta Maremma is thickly wooded towards Siena (for example around Pari and Torniella) and somewhat rockier towards Roccatederighi where the steep descent to the coastal plains begins.

Hotels in der Maremma

Hotels in the Maremma

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Pari


Roccatederighi

Grosseto itself is a relatively recent  city that developed during the mediaeval period on a site where Etruscan boats used to pass through the marshes. It provided accommodation for the workers in the salt pans and developed slowly until eventually it was fortified by the Medici. It is the agricultural capital of the Maremma and is known for its sun-ripened tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, spinach, olives and wild boar.

Castiglione della Pescaia

The main attraction nearby is Castiglione della Pescaia, a very attractive town consisting of a fishing boat harbour dominated by a mediaeval castle.

Castiglione della Pescaia

More about Castiglione della Pescaia

Grosseto from the Etruscans to modern times

Grosseto was one of the principal Etruscan cities, situated at the mouth of the Ombrone river, in the once unhealthy Maremma country. It was first mentioned in 803 as a fief of the Counts Aldobrandeschi. It grew in importance over the years with the decline of the Etruscan cities of Rusellę and Vetulonia. The ruins of Rusellę are about five miles from Grosseto, with cyclopean walls four miles in circumference and sulphur baths that were restored in the 19 C for medicinal purposes. Rusellę also once had an amphitheatre and it was an episcopal See from the 5 C. St. Gregory the Great commended the inhabitants of Vetulonia to the spiritual care of Balbinus, Bishop of Rusellę. In 1137, Grosseto was besieged by Henry of Bavaria, envoy to Lothair III, and in 1138 Innocent II transferred the See to Grosseto, and Rolando, Bishop of Rusellę, became the Bishop of Grosseto. In 1224, the Siennese captured Grosseto and were legally invested with it by the imperial vicar and thus the fortunes of Grosseto parallelled those of Sienna. It became an important stronghold, and the fortress (rocca), the walls and bastions can still be seen. In 1266 and again in 1355, Grosseto attempted to liberate itself from Sienna but without success. Among the successors of Rolando were Fra Bartolommeo da Amelia (1278), employed by the popes on many legations, Angelo Pattaroli (1330), a famous Dominican, Cardinal Raffaele Petrucci (1497), a native of Sienna and Lord of that city, hated alike for his cupidity and his worldly lifestyle, Ferdinand Cardinal Ponzetti (1522), a learned man but fond of wealth and Marcantonio Campeggio (1528), who was distinguished at the Council of Trent.




Piazza Dante, Grosseto



Palazzo Provinciale, Grosseto

The building of a new line of walls by Francesco I de Medici in 1574, replacing those dating from the 12 -14 C, was part of his programme to make Grosseto a fortress protecting his southern border. The design was by Baldassarre Lanci and the construction was completed 19 years later, under Grand Duke Ferdinand I. Until 1757, the exterior part was surrounded by a moat with an earth rampart. There were two main gates: Porta Nuova, to the north, and Porta Reale (now Porta Vecchia), to the south. The walls are now used as public park and walk.

Medicean walls of Grosseto

 Medicean walls of Grosseto

Grosseto Cathedral

Construction of the cathedral, the work of Sozo Rustichini of Sienna, was begun at the end of the 13 C on the site of the Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta. It was completed in 1295 and restored in 1846. The faēade consists of alternate layers of white and black marble. The campanile dates from 1402 (restored in 1911) and the splendidly carved baptismal font from 1470-1474. The faēade appears to be Romanesque in style, but is almost entirely result of the 16 C and 1816-1855 restorations. Of the original structure, the cathedral retains decorative parts including the symbols of the Evangelists. The plan is a Latin cross, with transept and apse. The interior has a nave with two aisles, parted by cruciform pilasters. The main artworks are a Font and the Madonna delle Grazie by Matteo di Giovanni (1470).

More about the Cathedral of Grosseto

Roselle (Rusellę)

Roselle, now a dependency of Grosseto, was once the main city in the area. It was built by the Etruscans on a hill that offered protection and commanded all of the nearby valley. The extent of its dominion is not clear, but probably at its peak included the most of the  territory of Vetulonia. The city's independence ended forever in 294 BC, when, according to Livy, it was conquered by the Romans. After the end of the Roman Empire, in the 5 C, Roselle was still the most important centre of the area of what is now southern Tuscany. Its gradual abandonment began in 1138, when the diocese seat was moved to Grosseto.

The Maremma

Map of the Maremma

Click the small map above to view
the five main geomorphological areas of the Maremma.

Coastal Maremma - the former marshlands

Maremma amara - "bitter Maremma" - this is how a traditional Tuscan song describes the coastal area of the province of Grosseto that makes up the southernmost part of the Maremma. For centuries it was plagued by malaria and had a standard of living that was close to bare survival. In The Divine Comedy (Canto 13 of the Inferno), Dante wrote: "Non han si aspri sterpi né si folti quelle fiere selvagge che in odio hanno tra Cecina e Corneto i luoghi colti" (the wild beasts that find no home in the cultivated fields between Cecina and Corneto find refuge in the thick, harsh bush of the Maremma).

Maremma coast

Maremma coastline

Coastal Maremma is one of the least populated areas of Italy, with large stretches of land left undisturbed for the flora and fauna, which seem, even beyond its boundaries, to be a natural extension of the Parco dell'Uccellina, even though the area has undergone massive reclamation, transforming what was once putrid and unhealthy marshland into habitable terrain. Although the reclamation work was started by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany in the 18 C, continued by Mussolini who moved in settlers from the Veneto, and was only finally completed in the post-war period. The remaining marshes are now protected wetlands where numerous species of waterfowl breed.

It was not, however, just the climate and the environment that gave the area such a bad reputation. In a land where neither agriculture or any other form of development was possible for centuries, banditry was rife and the area was unsafe, with the result that it tended to be avoided. Away from all the main routes, it was effectively cut off from the rest of the region.

The towns on the coast at Cala Martina, Cala Violina, Punta Ala and above all at
Castiglione della Pescaia are now tourist resorts that benefit greatly from the beauty of the sea and the hills running down to the coast, as well as the unspoiled countryside which is a mix of Mediterranean scrub and pine woods. Wonderful walks are provided by the climb to Monte d'Alma or Poggio Ballone which provide protection for small villages and rugged castles.

Parco Naturale della Maremma

The most famous part of the Maremma is the Parco Naturale della Maremma, otherwise known as the Parco dell'Uccellina after the name of the hills that comprise a large part of the park area. The entrances to the park are at Talamone and Alberese. The park is not open every day and it there is a limit on the number of visitors allowed in each day. For this reason, in addition to the heat in summer, it's a good idea to arrive early.

Parco Naturale della Maremma

The park stretches inland from the banks of the mouth of the river Ombrone, where on rare occasions one might come across the traditional Maremman herdsmen called butteri, descendents of the settlers from the Veneto. Apart from long-horned cattle and horses, as you move inland you start to come across wild boar, roe deer, fallow deer, badgers and foxes, and it's also common to see ducks and coots, plus predators such as buzzards, kestrels and peregrines, or, during the night, tawny and barn owls. The area is a permanent habitat for some birds, but is also a stopping-off point for many birds on their long seasonal migrations. The park flora is also very interesting, with palmets, scrub plants that grow in sand, lentisk, and daphne, besides pines, which grow spontaneously but have also been transplanted there in order to protect the environment from land slippage or a tendency to become marshy.

Maremma steer

San Rabano

San Rabano

The Maremma is not lacking in interesting architecture which  can be seen at Fonteblanda, Talamone and Alberese, the high point of which is the beautiful abbey church of San Rabano, built by the Benedictines and subsequently taken over by the Cistercians.

Alta Maremma

Alta Maremma - Upper Maremma - does not allude to altitude, even though much of it is very high, but to the northerly location of this area. Villages such as Scarlino, Gavorrano, Ravi and Buriano look out over the coast of the Alta Maremma, which has been inhabited since the days of the Etruscans. The latter founded one of their most beautiful cities here, Vetulonia, which, together with Roselle, reveals some of the most visible traces of their presence in this region. In its time, Vetulonia was extremely prosperous because it was able to exploit the nearby mines at Massa Marittima, and it also had a thriving maritime trade.

During a trip through the Alta Maremma, a visit to the Rocca di Scarlino is recommended. This is the last outcrop of the Colline Metallifere, the metal-bearing hills, and the vegetation surrounding it is extremely beautiful, in particular the change from cork trees and Mediterranean scrub to the centuries-old chestnut trees of Tirli, which is an ideal spot for long walks and excursions.

Area del Tufo

Another part of the Alta Maremma is the inland area of characteristic tuffa rock, famous for its Etruscan past. The villages here are basically a series of open-air museums and seem to grow out of the rock. Manciano, Vulci, Sovana and Saturnia are all worth visiting. Among these villages clinging to spurs of tuffa, is Vitozza, with extraordinary caves hidden in the bush.

Saturnia is famous for the hot sulphurous waters of its thermal baths. The temperature is a constant 37 C, and the waters can also be enjoyed for free in nearby Gorello, where there's a beautiful steam and spray-filled basin.

On the way to
Monte Amiata is the town of Pitigliano, surrounded by vineyards and built on the edge of a cliff which gives it the appearance of a fortified town. It has extremely ancient origins and was ruled by many different powers until it finally became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1608.



Saturnia


Pitigliano

Metalliferous Hills (Colline Metallifere)

The centre of this area of the Alta Maremma is Massa Marittima.

Costa d'Argento and the Bassa ("lower" or southern) Maremma

A visit to Maremma should also include the Argentario, a kind of island clinging to the land, where the beauty of the promontory combines with that of the lagoon, making it one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in Tuscany and the Maremma.

Similarly, Orbetello lies at an attractive meeting of land and water. The lagoon is enclosed by two strips of land, and can best be appreciated by a trip to Punta Telegrafo, where you get an extensive view inland and on a clear day you can see Elba.


Orbetello

Near Orbetello, and very close to the boundary with Latium, is the small hill village of Capalbio, which, surrounded by arbutus bush, evokes the atmosphere of rich courts and a quiet life. In Roman times, the area was a favourite spot for emperors, who came to spend their summers here away from the heat of Rome.

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A bibliography of Grosseto

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