THE TOWN OF MASSA MARITTIMA

The town of Massa Marittima lies on the Metalliferous Hills overlooking the below valley which slopes down to the sea, in the Maremma close to the city of Grosseto. The “old town” which nestles around the Cathedral has an intensely medieval atmosphere, and is of great artistic importance. The “new town” is an extension planned in 1228.

The city, which rises a few kilometers from the sea, was named after “Maritima Regio”, as the coastal was known from the IX C. onwards. Until the XIV C., silver and copper were mined; then economic decline set in, on account of malaria, which was only defeated after land reclamation. Paradoxically, this scourge helped to preserve the charming urban layout.

The monumental core of the “old town” is Piazza Garibaldi, enclosed by large flagstone steps leading up to the Cathedral of San Cerbone. To the left, the XIII C. Fonte dell’Abbondanza. Also facing the square are the Palazzo Pretorio and the Palazzo Comunale, a Romanesque Town Hall of the XIII-XIV C. The Cathedral, begun in XI C. and enlarged from 1287 to 1304, is a masterpiece of Pisan Romanesque-Gothic architecture. The bell tower was rebuilt around 1920 and the interiors contains, among other things, a baptismal font (1267), the Madonna delle Grazie attributed to Duccio di Buoninsegna and the sarcophagus of San Cerbone to whom the Cathedral is dedicated, a masterpiece of the Sienese artist Goro di Gregorio.

Underlying the “old town” is a labyrinth of tunnels, used as a refuge during Second World War and now housing the Mining Museum. Beyond the Silici Gate stretches the “new town” with the Candeliere Tower and Piazza Matteotti, lined with ancient houses and the curtains of the mighty Sienese Fortress. In the vicinity of the town lies the archaeological site of Lake of Accesa, and only 20 kilometers from there the Gulf of Follonica and its golden sandy beaches.

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