Le Colline Metallifere viste da Bibbona
Metalliferous Hills map

Metalliferous Hills

Famed for its geothermal energy and geysers

The Metallifere hills are the largest range in the Tuscan Appennines, located in the western portion of Tuscany.
 
The range runs through four provinces: the southeast part of Livorno, the southern part of Pisa, the southwestern part of Siena and the northwestern part of Grosseto. Excluding the Poggio di Montieri and Cornate di Gerfalco peaks (both over 1,000 m), the majority of the range is hilly and rich in various local minerals.
 
The area between Pisa and Grosseto is noted for its geothermal energy which manifests in sulfur geysers.

LOCATION
The area includes various cities and towns: Sassetta, Campiglia Marittima and Suvereto in the Livorno province, Monteverdi Marittimo, Pomarance and Castelnuovo di Val di Cecina in the Pisa province, Radicondoli and Chiusdino in the Siena province, Monterotondo Marittimo, Montieri, Roccastrada, Massa Marittima, Gavorrano, Scarlino and the northern part of Castiglione della Pescaia in the Grosseto province.
 
HISTORY
The early Middle Ages
For many centuries during the Middle Ages, this area became less and less populated by man. The forests spread and became denser and the marshy land grew till it stretched as far from the sea as the Val di Cornia.

The late Middle Ages
The city of Pisa began to take on a more important role around the year 1000, spreading its political and cultural influence along the Tirrenian coast and throughout the hilly inland areas. New towns were born, such as Massa Marittima which became the residence of many important figures of the day. Many castles, which until then had simply been the hub of the territory’s feudal system became the centre of new towns, like Montieri, Monterotondo and Roccastrada. Very slowly, farm workers and artisans changed their ways of working as suburbs sprung up around castle walls. In Montieri, in what almost constituted a break from feudal powers, a new statute was created that allowed individual business people with common interests to form ‘associations’ and work together. This was quite revolutionary at the time, not least because the statute was recorded in the common vernacular. One such association was set up to manage underground mineral deposits, specifically concerning silver-based minerals. The Codice Minerario (the ‘Mineral Code’) was established in the second half of the thirteenth century in order to regulate mineral extraction and the relationships between the various mineral companies.

Crisis: the expansion of Siena’s power
At a certain point Siena came to dominate the whole region and even the town of Massa Marittima was defeated and forced to bow to Sienese authority. Massa slowly fell into decline as its aristocratic families moved to Siena, tempted by offers of Sienese citizenship and life in the ‘big city’. Mineral extraction was no longer managed by local companies but by the Sienese authorities.

The Medici and Lorena era
After the fall of the Sienese republic in 1555, this area was again largely abandoned and little happened to improve the territory’s prospects. It was the Grand Duke Leopoldo di Lorena (1765-1790) who attempted to halt this decline. He tried a land reclamation programme to recover some of the swampy marsh land in the territory and built new churches and farms in the hope that villages would spring up around them. Unfortunately, for all his efforts he wasn’t particularly successful. It wasn’t till the middle of the nineteenth century that things really started to change. It was also then that people became interested in the area’s mineral resources again and this helped kick start the Industrial Revolution in the surrounding territory.

After Italian Unification
Despite the lack of national backing, more and more privately funded mining was carried out in the area. The highest level of employment in the mineral extraction companies was recorded in the period immediately after the war. In 1950 around 8000 people worked in the mines. Since then the numbers have slowly decreased as the mines have shut. The last one to close was Campiamo in 1994.

(Comunità Montana Colline Metallifere)

Cover image credit: Photo Graphic Studio