Tuscany between Earth and Sea

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Welcome to Massa Marittima in Tuscany Welcome to Massa Marittima in Tuscany (Phil P.)

Heading from Bellagio on Lake Como, the four of us finally got  in Tuscany a few hours drive later with the plan to stay there a couple of days. Our new home for the holidays, Il Pian dei Mucini near the medieval town of Massa Marittima is very welcoming. The beautiful hilltop village holds its name from the nearby Maremma region and its proximity to the sea. We love the place so much that we visit the little town everyday to get at least a gellato, but it is also ideally located to discover the nearby countryside, small villages, Sienna as well as the tuscan coast.

Between festivals and traditions

The first fortnight of August is usually very busy in Italy, ending with Ferragosto on the 15th. Whatever the city or the place you visit there is always a lot of entertainment and animation. Massa Marittima does not escape the norm. By day, the small town is quite peaceful. We are far from the touristic towns and villages, which allows us to enjoy the place even more. In this sense, Massa Maritimma lives for and by its inhabitants. Evenings are crowded by locals that come together for some good moments. Besides, Massa Maritimma hosts a yearly lirical festival called "Lirica in Piazza". We got some tickets for L'Elisire d'Amore on Piazza Garibaldi, an opera by Gaetano Donizetti.  This was a pure great moment to live, though it was during an abnormally chilly evening.

Lirica in Piazza - Piazza Garibaldi, Massa Maritimma, Tuscany (Italy)Lirica in Piazza: L'Elisire d'Amore

Another night, the children were honored with many old traditional games they could play and have fun with. For the older ones, we had a good laugh while watching the giant soccer games. Unfortunately we missed the Balestro del Girifalco, a historical re-enactment of a crossbow tournament held on the evening of  August 14th, which must surely be worth a visit.

What do you need to see in Massa Marittima?

Stop first at the Piazza Garibaldi at the foot of the Duomo. You'll get immersed into another era. Take some time or get a refreshment in one of the cafe's under the arcades to enjoy the view and people, then visit the cathedral. There is on the same square also an archaeological museum holding a beautiful collection of Etruscan objects.

Piazza Garibaldi and the Duomo - Massa Maritiima, Tuscany, ItalyPiazza Garibaldi and the Duomo

Go up the old village taking Via Moncini to the fortress dei Senesi and climb up the tower dating from 1228 for beautiful views of the city and its surroundings. Further away, at the end of Corso Diaz you'll get into the new city. Take some time to visit the San Pietro all'Orto complex to learn more about the history of Massa Marittima. Unless you are staying there, you can visit most of Massa Marittima in a few hours and you will probably not regret having stopped here.

Elba Island in view

By clear weather you can clearly distinguish the island of Elba in the Tyrrhenian Sea from the heights of Massa Marittima. We did not go there but it may be a good idea for a daytrip. Ferries to Elba leave from Piombino.

Elba Island, Tuscany, ItalyMountain tops of Elba

On the sea side, the coast and the nearest beaches are not extraordinary and I suggest you avoid Follonica, a seaside resort with no visible charm. We preferred to visit the Etruscan tombs of Populonia and learn the history of the iron ore trade in Roman times which was formerly transported from Elba to the Italian coast and then transported to Greece and other Mediterranean countries. Go early in the day if you want to see all the sights and avoid the heat in the summer. We ended our visit by enjoying a swim in the Gulf of Baratti, a few walking steps from the large car park.

Etrsucan tomb and view on the gulf of Baratti, Tuscany, ItalyEtruscan tomb and view of the gulf of Baratti

Another beach that is worth a visit is Cala Violina, south of Follonica in the direction of Punta Ala. This beach of fine white sand apparently has the peculiarity of playing violin sounds when you walk on it. We did not notice anything special, probably because of the crowd. Acces to this beach is not easy. First count half an hour walk but more importantly make sure to arrive very early in summer time at the car park (in the fields, paying). We arrived at 08:30 and had one of the very last places to park, after queing for a very long time. 

Between Follonica and Punta Ala you'll find surely the most beautiful beach of Tuscany : la Cala ViolinaTurquoise waters at Cala Violina

A few kilometers further south stop by the small hilltop village of Castiglione della Pescaia. It deserves a short visit. Leave the shore road to get to the old village, walk through the old streets and enjoy beautiful views of the mediterranean and the islands of Elba and Giglio.

Castiglione della PescaiaPanorama of Castiglione della Pescaia 

The countryside nearby Massa Maritimma

There are so many places to visit in Tuscany that it is difficult to cover all the places. I will talk about Siena, San Gimignano and Volterra in other articles, but each of these destinations are easily reachable from Massa Marittima for a day trip. Closer, on the road that leads to Siena, we visited the ruins of the ancient Abbey of San Galgano and the chapel of Montesiepi.

Montesiepi Chapel, San Galgano, Tuscany, ItalyMontesiepi Chapel seen from San Galgano Abbey

We only saw a few Italian tourists in this place. The ruins of the ancient Abbey are impressive and still quite well preserved. The small chapel is a little further up the hill, about ten minutes' walk away. The vault of the rotunda reminds of the Etruscan tombs of Populonia. It also holds the sword of Saint Galgano that is buried in a rock similar to the legend of King Arthur. The local legend tells that "Galgano Guidotti was a knight, one day when he went to join his old fiancée at his mother's request, he fell from a horse, he had a vision of an archangel, the archangel Saint Michel, who told him The knight said that it would be as difficult for him to detach himself from material things as to separate a rock in two, and to prove it, the knight struck a rock with his sword, and instead of breaking, sank into the rock very easily, and Galgano became a Hermit from that moment and isolated himself until his death by his sword ... ". 

Welcome to Massa Marittima in Tuscany. This medieval town, not on all tourist maps, is a great place to visit and well located between the countryside and the coast to explore great parts of Tuscany. #tuscany #massamarittima #travelitaly #italy #follonica #populonia #etruscan #sangalgano #castiglionedellapescaiaIf you enjoyed reading this article, please feel free to pin it on Pinterest or share on social networks

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The English version of Vos Vacances ("Your Holidays") is live since October 2017 and is a small spin-off of the french version. Hope you like the site and feel free to leave a comment on any of the posts if you enjoyed reading them. 

Ξ Phil