The Etruscan Coast of Tuscany

The Etruscan Coast of TuscanyThis month we will continue to speak about Tuscan seaside destinations, in the hope that the sea breeze will bring us a bit of relief. After having talked about the islands of the Tuscan Arcipelago last month, this newsletter will focus on the Etruscan Coast and the Cornia Valley.

Here awaits a land boasting kilometres of unspoilt beaches and with an abundance of archeological treasures, thermal spas, forests, historical villages and a mountainous landscape all just a few steps away from the sea, all you have to do is pack your bags and go!

The area consists of six neighbouring parks, thoroughout which traces of an animated history of the last 4000 years can clearly be seen. Within these parks there are many interesting walking routes and trails.

Firstly, there is an archeological route running between Baratti Park and Populonia, which is in fact the heart of the ancient Etruscan empire. Here there is the opportunity to explore what remains of the only Etruscan coastal city, including its many cemeteries and the industrial quarters where the manufacturing of iron coming from Elba Island use to take place. It was this activity which was responsible for leaving an enormous deposit of waste on the Gulf of Baratti, where Popolonia is located, most of which was reused during the first half of the 20th century. This explains why the sand on the shore has a black tinge to it and glistens with iron particles in the sun, which is, it has to be said, a truly unique effect.

Another major route within the parks follows Via dei Principi along eventually leading us to the superb San Cerbone burial ground, characterized by the great mounds of earth covering the many tombs of the graveyard. Most of the objects found in the tombs have been preserved in the Archeological Museum of Florence and the Gasparri Museum (Popolonia Castle), and among these there is a statue of Apollo that would be of interest to the Louvre Museum. Another alternative route of interest is Via del Ferro which instead takes us to the ruins of old buildings which were used for the manufaturing of metals. Finally, we have the most suggested route, which arrives in the woods and takes you to the graveyards of the caves.

One place within the region which is a definate must-see is the archeological-mining park of San Silvestro, situated north of Campiglia Marittima. It is an open-air museum which allows you to rediscover the mining industry throughout the Etruscan, Medieval and Renaissance eras.

Alternatively, for those who are lovers of nature rather than historic buildings, there are the Sterpaia and Rimigliano parks which boast a host of breathtaking scenery, a nature lover’s paradise where the sea and the woods meet. Also, there is the Costiero Park of Sterpaia where you can see a unique example of the primitive woods that are typical of the coastal areas of Maremma, with their wide variety of different types of oak trees. A major route which actually runs through all 6 parks finishes up in the hills, where you will find the nature park of Montioni and the woodland park of Poggio Neri. In the first of the parks, we can see the many traces left behind by farmers, hunters, tree-fellers and coal miners; it’s possible to venture further out into the forest and discover the remains of a mining village from the Napoleon era. In the Poggio Neri forest, just a few kilometres away from the old village of Sassetta you will find an unspoilt woodland full of chestnut trees, groves and oak trees, where there are designated hiking trails for walking, cycling and horse riding. There is also a trail which is easily accessible to the disabled.

As for villages to visit along the Etruscan Coast, there are plenty including: Rosignano Marittimo, Bibbona, Bolgheri, Castagneto Carducci, Sassetta, Suvereto, Campiglia Marittima, Populonia and Piombino, all of which have managed to preserve their heritage thanks to the abundance of magnificent Medieval architecture, churches and buildings which all remain intact. Finally, in addition to all of this, literature is also a very special feature of this region. In fact, the village of Bolgheri has become well-known thanks to the famous poet Giosuè Carducci who lived there for 10 years from 1838 to 1848, composing poems inspired by the beautiful landmarks and scenery of Maremma. Here it is now possible to visit the poet’s house and to see the Oratory of San Guido of 1703, located a short distance away from the centre of Bolgheri, right near the famous Viale dei Cipressi, famed for eternity by the long Ode by the poet.

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