Maremma: Massa Marittima

This is an excerpt from the book “Florence and Tuscany

Massa Marittima – Photo © pietroizzo
Massa Marittima – Photo © pietroizzo

Massa Marittima stands on top of a hill overlooking the Gulf of Follonica. It is called the “Gem of the Middle Ages” for the beauty of its Romanesque and Gothic buildings and “Massa Metallorum” for the importance of its mines.

It is a monumental town where everything has maintained the harmonious proportions of an antique citta’ d’arte.

The economic livelihood of the town has always come from the mining, agriculture and crafts. Only in recent years has tourism come to play an important role.

Its historical monuments have now been recognized for their value as a major resourse and Massa Marittima has become one of the most appreciated towns in the Maremma.

Religious and municipal architecture come together without rivalry in the Piazza del Duomo.

Massa Marittima - Photo Mirco Sem
Massa Marittima – Photo Mirco Sem

The Duomo and the Episcopate stand on one side of the square with the Palaces of the Podesta’ and the Town Hall obliquely opposite. They seem to be avoiding direct confrontation by not facing one another head on as is usually the case in other Medieval squares.

There are additional splendors surrounding them: the fountains, the loggie and the Bandini and Biseni palaces.

Strolling through the narrow Medieval streets and the historical center it is still possible to find shops carrying locally produced handcrafts.

The numerous small restaurants and wine shops offer the visitor genuine local cooking and wines.

The origins of the town are uncertain, but we know it acquired importance when the bishop’s seat was transferred from Populonia. It thrived thanks to the copper and silver mines and in 1225 became “Libero Comune”, released from its ties as the bishop’s vassal.

Massa Marittima Fortress Photo © kosare
Massa Marittima Fortress Photo © kosare

In 1335 Siena incorporated it and constructed a formidable fortress there. After passing under Medici dominion, it flourished once again in the 19th century under Leopold II because of the revival of mining.

During the summer season, excellent opera productions are staged in the piazza del Duomo, as well as the centuries old program “Balestro del Girifalco”.

In addition, the now famous “Toscano fotofestival” (Tuscan Festival of Photography) is held every year between July and August. This exhibition presents work by the top photographers, meetings and discussions on themes connected to photography, screenings and numerous workshops.

The town’s many museums are open year round to about 60,000 visitors a year.

End of the excerpt from the book “Florence and Tuscany“. Get the entire content of the book free from advertising.

Where to stay in Massa Marittima

There are numerous high quality hotels, villas, apartments and agriturismi (Farm stays) available, check them out and make a reservation here.