The Maremma isn’t all beautiful countryside and amazing landscapes. This corner of Southern Tuscany has a rich history and heritage that is very different from what you might find in Florence, Siena or even Pisa.
Over the centuries, it has been ruled, often tumultuously, by feudal families, invading neighbours, the Medici and even, in some parts, the Spanish! And while these rulers weren’t always welcome in the Maremma, they did leave behind an incredible patrimony of art and architecture. Here is your guide to the Maremma’s best art towns.
The Maremma’s beloved capital is your first stop for art history. This city has suffered throughout the centuries, first at the hands of malaria and the brigands and then WWII, and yet it has managed to hold onto many of its architectural treasures. The highlight is undeniably the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo in the main square. Built at the end of the 13th century, it’s a picture perfect example of changing tastes. The two-toned Red Caldana marble and white is classic Romanesque, but the statues of the four evangelists and rose window are beautifully Gothic. The cathedral is a bookend to what is a striking piazza. Here you’ll find the seat of the provincial council in the very imposing and almost castle like Palazzo Aldobrandeschi, while at the piazza’s centre is a statue of Grand Duke Leopold II di Lorena, nicknamed by locals il Canapone for his red hair. This particular grand duke was much loved in the capital because he was responsible for ridding the area of malaria for good. Grosseto is 20 minutes from the resort.
It doesn’t get much better than this. Located just over 30 minutes by car from the resort, Massa Marittima was once known as the ‘Little Sister of Pisa and Siena’ – an affectionate name given to the city both for its proximity to these bright lights of Renaissance art and also an acknowledgment of its heritage. Massa Marittima was once its own sovereign and has always welcomed the region’s artists, poets and dreamers. Start your tour in Piazza Garibaldi and gaze upwards to gawk at the incredible 11th century Duomo di San Cerbone. Dedicated to the city’s patron saint, this cathedral is one of Tuscany’s best examples of Romanesque architecture. It’s a feast of ferocious figures, beautiful floral and fauna motifs and huge cavernous spaces that feel, frankly, pagan. Continue your immersive experience in Massa Marittima’s art history by making a beeline for the sacred and contemporary art museum, where you’ll find the famous and simply exquisite panels of the saints in gray alabaster. Historians aren’t 100 per cent sure on the artist, era or subjects, but they all agree they are unique.
Castel del Piano
You don’t usually expect a mountain town to be an art city, but Castel del Piano is actually the Maremma’s best representation of one. It’s an hour from the resort through beautiful countryside and up Monte Amiata, the mountain that is responsible for all the Maremma’s hot springs. Castel del Piano is home to the Nasini, a family of 17th century artists whose works adorn almost every church in the Maremma and northern Tuscany. They lend their name to Castel del Piano’s main strip, which hosts many beautiful Romantic palazzos. Head straight for Palazzo Nerucci to see the town’s civic museum, which features a small, but stunning collection of religious and secular art. The highlight? One of the four self-portraits painted by Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera. It’s of autumn and is from the 18th century.
There is nothing like Pitigliano. Built in the Middle Ages, it was carved from the roots of its tufa cliff so flawlessly that you don’t know where the manmade ends and nature begins. In centuries past, these houses sat on top of labyrinths of cellars and hidden rooms. Just off Via Zuccarelli you can explore this underground world as part of the Jewish ghetto museum. Until as recently as the last century, Pitigliano had a vibrant Jewish community. So vibrant, in fact, that they were nicknamed Piccola Gerusalemme (Little Jerusalem). Today the ghetto has been transformed into a fascinating peek into their lives and their culture. For more traditional art, head to the Museo di Palazzo Orsini, where you can see the best of the Maremma’s religious art preserved in a gorgeous 12th century fortress. Pitigliano is an hour and a half’s drive from the resort, but worth the trip.