Archeology and Art
Etruscans and Romans
Maremma is above all the land of the Etruscans, a people of mysterious origin who lived in an area between Tuscany and Lazio from the ninth century BC and whose tradition is linked to the origins of Rome.
The main testimonials of this civilization are tied to the necropolis, actual cities of the dead: well worth a visit is the monumental tombs of Vetulonia (seventh century BC), the necropolis of Populonia (seventh-sixth century BC) and the graves dug in tufa in Sovana (third century BC).
The cities of Vetulonia and Populonia developed between ninth and sixth centuries BC, due to the mining of the nearby metalliferous hills, as is also demonstrated in the rich jewellery preserved in the museums in Maremma.
Roselle established itself however at a much later date, favoured by its geographical location. It was built close to a large salt lake, called Prile, which later became the plain we see today extending to the sea, and was an important trading port. It was later conquered by the Romans and this is the period of its monumental buildings, villas with mosaics, the amphitheater, the forum and the basilica adorned with statues kept in the museum of Grosseto.
Many then are the ruins of these ancient civilizations scattered throughout the countryside: the Etruscan tombs of Poggio Pelliccia, the remains of the sanctuary on the hill of Talamonaccio, which dominates Argentario and was decorated with an important pediment now held in Orbetello, the slave villa, Settefinestre, with its imposing turreted surrounding, the settlement of Ghiaccioforte or quarry routes of Sovana.
It is a fascinating journey through time and where history and nature come together in an extraordinary way!
In medieval times Maremma was full of castles, which were all built on the top of the hills for defence purposes but also to escape from the unhealthy air in the lowlands that was becoming a marsh. These settlements still characterize our territory today with towns perched on top of the hills often dominated by the ruins of a castle. The most famous being Montemassi, represented in the fresco painted by Simone Martini around 1330 in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena to celebrate the conquest of the castle by the Republic of Siena. Other castles had been abandoned: the ruins of Sassoforte still rise impressively as a witness to its lost greatness, while Rocca San Silvestro in Campiglia Marittima, thanks to a careful campaign of digs and studies, offers itineraries able to show the life of a village and the activities of its mines in medieval times.
Among the cities, Massa Marittima is the one that has best preserved its original aspect, with its magnificent cathedral that faces sideways onto the main square surrounded by public building, winding lanes, the high city walls and the Tower of the Candeliere (Candle Holder) that divides the old city from the newer one higher up.
There are also many abbeys that together with the castles governed the territory, like the Benedictine Abbey of St. Antimo, which in its form shows the influence of French architecture, or the Cistercian church of San Galgano, where the saint drove his sword into a stone giving up a life of war and wealth, and the less famous, numerous churches and chapels often hidden among the vegetation and accessible only along forgotten paths.
On the Uccellina Mountains there is the Abbey of San Rabano, which was a fortress in the fourteenth century and once belonged to the military order of the Jerusalemites; in Malavalle, near Castiglione, they are the remains of the hermitage of San Guglielmo, the legendary saint who, in the twelfth century withdrew to this inaccessible place to lead life as a hermit, gave life to the religious order of Guglielmites; at the foot of Roccastrada there is a crypt that is all that remains of the Benedictine monastery of Giugnano, mentioned in documents as early as the eleventh century. Next to a modern farmhouse stands a wood of holm oaks: walk through and climb down the ladder ... and behold, you have entered into the Middle Ages!
Art museums and Renaissance architecture
Contrary to what happened in the rest of Tuscany, the Renaissance was not a happy time for Maremma. Dominated by Siena from the end of the thirteenth century and Florence in the mid-sixteenth century, Maremma became a region only to be exploited, with the institution of Dogana dei Paschi (Pasture Customs) allowing shepherds to cross its length and breadth damaging the agriculture and an increasingly unhealthy climate.
This results in there being nothing of artistic interest of this period of any great value, and however all linked to production and the artists, who worked in Siena and Florence, showed no independent style.
In the churches and museums of the Maremma there are mainly works by Sienese artists: Duccio, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Sassetta, Sano di Pietro, Jacopo della Quercia, Rutilio Manetti, Francesco Vanni.
The extraordinary exception is the series of Della Robbia terracottas attributed to the Florentine Andrea della Robbia that decorate the church of Saints Flora and Lucilla in Santa Fiora taking the form of altarpieces, pulpits, tabernacles and baptismal fonts. There are also many fortresses and city walls, that bear witness to a period of conflict and war, like the hexagonal perimeter of the city walls of Grosseto, with its fortress, and the many forts and towers built along the coast. Particularly those in the beautiful area of Argentario, ceded from Florence to Spain which constituted the State of Garrisons.
Contemporary art and Gardens with sculptures
The land reclamation started by the Grand Duke Leopold at the end of the eighteenth century improved the living conditions in Maremma, and is essential for the development of agriculture in the nineteenth century. Follonica in the meantime became an important iron and steel centre, traces of which can be seen in the iron architecture of the church of San Leopoldo and objects found in the museum Magma.
The architecture then imitates the forms of the Middle Ages, as seen in the building of the Province of Grosseto by Lorenzo Porciatti or the Belagaio Castle near Torniella, to then adopt the floral decorations of Art Nouveau found in many buildings and houses in the City of Grosseto.
Finally at the end of the twentieth century Maremma experiences art of an international nature by way of the work of great foreigner artists, who, attracted by the beauty of its landscape, decide to live here and create great works that interact with nature.
First the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle who in 1980 created, near Capalbio immersed in the mediterranean bush, a strange and colourful city with fountains, courtyards, chapels and the same artist's house entirely covered with mirrors.
In the same year also the German Paul Fuchs decides to live in Maremma, creator of big iron sculptures that move and whistle in the wind producing sounds. The artist takes the visitor through fields and woods to find the various works, while he talks about them and moves them.
Near Seggiano lives Daniel Spoerri from Switzerland, creator of a large garden which contains, in addition to his works, those by other internationally renowned artists.
Yet again nature is the protagonist, and the position and shape of the sculptures is studied accordingly.