Grosseto is a beautiful city nearly on the edge of the Tuscan region. It is known as the political and cultural center of the Maremma – Tuscany’s wilder, coastal territory, often overlooked by tourists. It’s an ideal base for exploring the surrounding hilltops and sea sections, and has a family-friendly tranquility, as well as unexpected surprises. The historic center is dense, closed off by a beautifully preserved, circular medieval wall. Within it, there are plenty of treasures well worth visiting, including the striking piazza del Duomo, where the pink and marble facade of the Cathedral of Santo Stefano stands out, dating from the end of the 1200s.
As you explore Grosseto, stroll through a green-lined expanse of bastions that Francesco I restored back in 1574 and visit the beautiful Church of San Francesco. More adventurous types who want to enjoy the surrounding areas should make their way to the Maremma Natural Park and the Etruscan ruins of Roselle nearby.
Getting in touch with the secrets of this little-known yet historically rich city is easy at the Museo archeologico e d’arte della Maremma (the regional art and archaeology museum). Here, visitors can reconstruct the history that brought survivors from the Saracen devastation in the Etruscan Roselle area to what would later become Grosseto. The city as you see it today has only existed since the 20th century, thanks to malaria recovery efforts. In previous centuries, Grosseto was a Sienese dominion and was only handed over to the Medici in 1559 after the battle of Montalcino
The origins of Grosseto go back to the high Middle Ages; beginning in August 803, the church of San Giorgio and its artistic treasures were given “in emphyteusis”, from the Latin enfiteusi, to Ildebrando degli Aldobrandeschi, whose successors were Grossetan Maremma counts up until the end of the 12th century. This was how the Aldobrandeschi “dominion” began, and it was under their reign that the city reached its highest level of power. Under the Aldobrandeschi, Grosseto managed to avoid surrendering to the German troops in 1137, brought to besiege the area by Duke Arrigo of Bavaria. In 1138, the Roselle bishop’s office was transferred to Grosseto, and just a few years later the city came under Sienese rule. After much flip-flopping, Umberto and Aldobrandino Aldobrandeschi sought to regain the various areas lost to Siena, but in 1259, Siena’s armies forced Grosseto to surrender, nominating Siena officials to the “podestà”, or chief magistrate of the era. Freed once again after just a year, Grosseto fought alongside Florence in the battle of Monteaperti. Later, the city was once again occupied, devastated, and even excommunicated by Clement IV; then declared a republic with Maria Scozia Tolomei at its head; besieged by Ludovico Bavaro and by “antipope” Nicola V; and finally, in 1336, Grosseto underwent final submission to Siena.
Cover image credit: APT