A journey through land and sea, nature and cities, rich in art and history, to discover Etruscan heritage, its unique necropolis on the shore and old city centres, beyond Pisa and Livorno, there are several old medieval villages on the hills near the sea. Is is an itinerary based on authenticity, for food and wines as well, a great variety of traditional recipes and prestigious wines of Etruscan origins, characterize this area. This territory offers beautiful beaches and entertainment events in every moment of the year.
Pisa, art and science
A fundamental stop on the European Grand Tour, proven by the noble buildings facing the river Arno, Pisa really is a casket full of treasures. Its invaluable jewel is Piazza del Duomo, also known as Piazza dei Miracoli (The Square of Miracles) is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Tuscany. With the candour of their white marble, here are the Duomo, the Leaning Tower, the Baptistery, and the Camposanto (Cemetery), which offer visitors an extraordinary view, unique in its genre: the architectonical perfection of the Romanic style of Pisa, mixed with classical, early Christian, Lombard and Oriental elements.
Thanks to its strategic position and its several rivers, Pisa was, in Medieval times, an excellent example of cultural, artistic and merchandise integration on the Mediterranean sea: the ruins of Porto Fluviale on the river Auser, now Serchio, 200 metres away from the Piazza, and the ancient ships, (guided tours available on reservation), are the remaining evidence of those times.
The seat of one of the most ancient Universities of Europe and a Higher Education School, i.e. Sant’Anna and the Napoleonica Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa is deeply connected to the figure of Galileo Galilei, who found here fertile ground for his studies, and where he developed his scientific theories which became the basis of modern science, leaving wonderful evidence of his studies.
Livorno, open city
Commissioned by the Medici family, the city was born in 1606, and became one of the central harbours of the Mediterranean sea, a financial centre animated by people from all over the world, as well as a shelter for victims of political, religious and racial persecutions. Indissolubly tied to the sea, Livorno is a city with a cosmopolitan soul, designed, built and projected towards the sea.
The famous Old Fortress, a XVth century defence structure, is the symbol of this city, which gives to visitors the chance of a fascinating journey through the centuries along the Medici canals through the area of the old city, among old buildings and monuments. Departing from the old Fortress of the XVI century, one finds the mercantile folkloristic Quarter of Venic, characterized by the typical cellars opening onto the ditches, and the district of San Marco-Pontino, and then to Piazza della Repubblica and the different Armenian, Greek, and Christian Catholic churches.
Etruscan wines from the south and inland of Livorno
Heading south from Livorno, the Strade del Vino e dell'Olio Costa degli Etruschi lead to the discoveries of interesting medieval small towns, like Montescudaio, famous for its wine Montescudaio DOC; then Bibbona, up on the hills with its Terratico di Bibbona DOC; Bolgheri, where the famous avenue of cypresses leads to the land of prestigious wines and the house of the SuperTuscans. In the nearby Rocca di San Silvestro, the stratification of the mineral industry may be seen, in function since Ancient to Medieval times, and illustrated in the Mineral Local Park.
Following the suggestive road from Castagneto Carducci heading inland, the ancient medieval town of Suvereto is found, another important territory for its wine, and the production of Val di Cornia Rosso DOC and DOCG, and Suvereto DOC and DOCG. History, traditions and modernity meet in the Auteur Cellars, that give the chance to taste prestigious wines and visit the most important wine estates, (with advanced booking). These wines were already on the Etruscan tables during banquets: most of the evidence of this, along with Oriental archaeological finds are safeguarded in the Museo di Cecina.
Baratti’s Gulf and its Archeological Evidence
Going back to the shore, near the Golfo di Baratti, there is the Parco Archeologico di Baratti e Populonia: the acropolis, the temples and the small town itself, the harbour and the industry there keep Populonia’s history constantly alive. It was a unique Etruscan centre – its ancient name, Fufluna recalling the Etruscan God of Wine – built next to the sea, with the aim of commerce for its iron and steel industry, copper, bronze and, from the Vth century onwards, of iron, which went from Isola d’Elba to Baratti’s harbour and workshops.
The Hot springs of Venturina, already well known by Etruscans and Romans as “Aquae Populoniae” (The Waters of Populonia), allow a relaxing break thanks to the Crater Source, from which the water flows out at 45°C all year round. Here excursions are available on foot, on mountain bike, or by horse, and activities such as bird-watching, sailing, sub, surf, wind-surf, canoe, and adventure playgrounds can be enjoyed.
Land and sea in local cuisine
In the Etruscan sea, fish like tuna and bonito were found. In fact, the typical dish of Baratti is the “tonno briao – drunk tuna”, cooked in red wine, evidence of which is a tunny-fishing net that was installed and remained active from 1800 to 1940.
Fish and meat dishes cohabit quite happily over here, from the famous Cacciucco to wild boar dishes. As often happens, in Etruscan dishes ingredients from land and sea are mixed: cuttlefish and chard, baccalà or stoccafisso with onion, tomato and potatoes, Livornian mullet with couscous and pappa al pomodoro, black rice with cuttlefish ink, soups, San Vincenzo’s famous pelamyd, which fishermen used to boil in water and vinegar, with carrots, celery, and aromatic herbs before cleaning it and marinating it.
Venison is also very much used, ravioli with hare sauce, birds with olives, grilled or stewed kebabs, wild boar sausage and cold cuts, truffles, stewed roebuck with olives or wild-boar in dolce forte (sweet sauce).
Elba and the other pearls of the Tuscan Archipelago
The Tuscan Archipelago is a mythical destination: according to legend, the seven beautiful islands were born from the gems of Venus' wondrous necklace, which broke one day and fell into the Tyrrhenian Sea as she was crossing from Corsica to Tuscany.
Elba, Giglio, Capraia, Giannutri, Montecristo, Gorgona and Pianosa: an extraordinary mosaic of extremely diverse natural and geological landscapes, which have been part of a National Park since 1996.
After Sicily and Sardinia, Elba is the largest Italian island, and boasts a variety of scenery: a ragged coastline interspersed with beaches and tourist resorts, a seabed abounding in natural marvels, trekking routes taking in typical Mediterranean vegetation, ancient castles and fortresses.
An important destination throughout history, the island has iron deposits that attracted both Greeks and Etruscans; and a traditional wine and food culture with an exceptional agriculture giving natural products such as olive oil, wine and honey.
This was the land of exile for the great Napoleon after his defeat at Leipzig, and many reminders of the emperor's stay on the island remain today, such as the Villa dei Mulini and the summer residence in San Martino.