Near Il Poggiarello some little medieval villages, castles in a defensive position, towers and places rich in history still keep their ancient atmosphere intact. The architecture of these places has typical medieval characteristics and dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries.
Montepescali deserves a visit: it stands on top of a hill covered with olive trees and it is known as “The balcony of Maremma” because of the wonderful view it offers.
The Castle of Montemassi is well-known because it is painted in the fresco by Simone Martini in the town hall of Siena. The village of Sticciano, on top of a hill, keeps the traces of its medieval origin untouched. Roccatederighi is a beautiful village: the houses seem to spring up directly from the rocks. All these villages deserve a visit.
MONTALCINO E MONTEPULCIANO
This route is under the banner of wine, the Brunello famous all over the world, and the Nobile of Montepulciano one of the oldest Italian red wines. But there are other reasons for a trip to these places: very good sheep’s milk cheese, a marvellous landscape, a number of small, pretty villages and a lively and creative artisanship.
Montalcino stands on a hill 567 metres high, covered with olive trees; it was inhabited by the Etruscans and later by the Romans. The town spreads around a medieval centre and it is surrounded by a Fortress, a powerful defensive structure built by Siena in 1361. In the maze of alleys among little cafés and shops of typical products (besides wine, honey and local biscuits called “the bones of the dead” are well known), the town hall, the Loggia and the Bishop’s palace deserve a visit. And then there are the churches: Sant’Agostino, Sant’Egidio and San Francesco.
Just outside the town there is the Abbey of Sant'Antimo, one of the most beautiful examples of Romanesque architecture, wrapped in an almost fairy atmosphere. According to the legend, the abbey was founded in 781 by Charles the Great in order to stop the epidemic that had affected many of his soldiers; coming back from Rome, the Emperor vowed to build a monastery.
Montepulciano (605 metres above sea level) is a town with a noble appearance. It is a remarkable art centre with Renaissance palaces and monuments, above all in Florentine style.
The town is surrounded by walls and fortresses; the town centre develops along the main street that goes up the hill and reaches the central square, called piazza Grande.
THE TUFA TOWNS
The area of tufa is the southern part of Maremma: the most surprising towns here are built on this friable rock.
Pitigliano is jutting out on a spur. When, after a hairpin curve ,the town appears, you feel a unique sensation. The houses look like towers, one close to another and they seem to melt with the tufa cliff. Everywhere there are traces of history: the Bronze Age with the bowls and vases found in the surroundings; the Etruscan period, the Roman period which has left traces in the name of the town (gens Petilia), the medieval period with the Aldobrandeschi family and the Renaissance with the Orsini family.
But above all in Pitigliano, the charm of the Jewish ghetto will impress you. In fact Pitigliano is called little Jerusalem: an important Jewish community lived here after taking refuge in this town escaping from the Papa State. Nowadays you can visit the Synagogue, a library with Jewish texts and the Jewish cemetery.
After saying good bye to Pitigliano and to its famous white wine, you can go towards Sorano. In Sorano too the first inhabitants were the Etruscans and it is built on tufa rock, too. Here all the characteristic of the rock such as caves and underground passages had been exploited and used ince ancient times: so the caves were the houses’ cellars. Sorano was one of the Aldobrandeschi’s feuds and later the Orsini’s. The town still maintains a medieval look, with its arches and towers. Around Sorano there are vineyards, olive-groves and corn fields.
Not far from Sorano, you find Sovana; it has a medieval look, too. You cannot miss a visit to the Etruscan tombs: there are about one hundred of them, almost fitted into the rock and wrapped in leafy branches.
When in Sovana, do not forget to visit the magnificent Duomo. It was built in the 12th and 14th centuries just outside the town. It stands alone on a plain, surrounded by olive trees. Through a portal decorated with very ancient fragments of sculptures, you will enter the Duomo to admire its solemn interior.
THE WINE ROUTE
The Monteregio wine of Massa Marittima is proposed in a really interesting and complete range; it is perfect to accompany all the specialities of Maremma cuisine: Rosso, Rosso Riserva, Novello, Rosato, Bianco, Vermentino, Vin Santo, Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice.
The Monteregio Rosso and the Rosso Riserva are produced by the Sangiovese vine, the absolute king of all the great Tuscan wines.
The route of the Monteregio wine offers three different itineraries that go from Colline Metallifere to Castiglione della Pescaia: one of these itineraries mainly interests the places around Il Poggiarello. In Roccastrada you will find the Museum of the vine and wine.
Downstrairs you can see farming machinery and fields’ life is represented. Upstairs an itinerary with photos and panels guides the visitor to the discovery of local gastronomic and wine traditions.
ON THE TRACKS OF THE ETRUSCANS
You can follow an interesting route on the traces of the Etruscans, the first “Italic” people who left precious evidences in this part of Tuscany.
Not far from Grosseto, on a hill, there is Roselle. The Etruscan built it in the 7th century B.C. and in a short time it became one of the most powerful towns in Etruria. Its inhabitants were farmers, shepherds but above all pottery craftsmen. Among other things, the imposing Walls of Roselle impress the visitor. They extend for about three kilometres and in some points they reach a height of five metres.
The disappeared lake Prile separated Roselle from its rival Vetulonia, an Etruscan town very powerful on land and sea. It worked and exported metals, supervised mines and manufactured bronze objects that its ships carried everywhere in the Mediterranean countries. Vetulonia reached the height of its splendour between the 7th and 6th centuries B.C.. The only remains of the Etruscan town are a few parts of the imposing walls, but the Etruscan atmosphere is present above all in the necropolis, which witnesses the power and richness of the town. Walking on a hill covered with olive trees you can see several types of tombs, among which the Pietrera tomb, the most important of ancient Etruria. A little museum houses a part of the objects found in the necropolis.
Going northwards, between Piombino and San Vincenzo, you find Populonia, the only Etruscan settlement by the sea. Populonia was the biggest Etruscan centre for the working of the iron coming from Elba mines. From this ancient town ships bound for every port in the Mediterranean sea carried the products of a flourishing handicraft, particularly weapons and crockery.
TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN
The children travelling with you will enjoy their holidays in Maremma and it will also be the occasion for cultural enrichment.
Carapax Tortoise Center
In Massa Marittima there is a centre for the safeguard of tortoises : it is the only one in Europe. Along a very beautiful route, in the greeenery, you can admire about 8,000 specimens of tortoises of different kind ; each one is living in its natural habitat.
Land tortoises, giant ones, red-leg tortoises: these are only some of the many kinds which you can find. There is even a nursery, where the new-born baby tortoises are attended and studied by the volunteers of the center.
The Mine Museum
Il Poggiarello is situated on the Colline Metallifere (Metal Hills), in the middle of a rich mining region, where, in the past, silver, copper and pyrite were mined. Today the mines have been abandoned, but the Mine Museum in Massa Marittima reproduces the environment.
The youngest visitors too can have an idea of a miner’s working day: walking along a 700 meter long tunnel you can see machinery, tools, equipment, besides samples of the minerals and rocks of the region.
This fantastic park is near Capalbio. It is the work by Niki de Saint Phalle, a French artist. Huge, coloured sculptures represent the 22 tarot cards. You can look at, touch and examine them: it is even possible to into some “cards” and nose about.
In Porto Santo Stefano you will find the Acquario Mediterraneo dell’Argentario. In twelve tanks that reproduce the sea environment there are sea plants and water creatures typical of this area. A tunnel simulates an immersion among sharks.