Massa Marittima is a hidden Tuscan jewel perched on a panoramic hill north of Grosseto, in Southern Tuscany. The historical town centre has Etruscan origins and many signs of the past are still recognizable in the perfectly preserved city walls, in the narrow streets and in important urban and architectural complexes. During the 13th century, when all the surrounding towns went under the rule of Pisa, Siena or Florence, Massa Marittima maintained its independence and the town experienced a golden age. The most beautuful buildings in town all date back to this period. Furthermore, the history of this place is strictly linked to mining, as there are mineral ore deposits as well as iron, mercury, lignite and copper mines.
Discover below what you shouldn't miss when you're wandering around town.
This superb 13th century cathedral is in Romanesque Pisan style in the lower part, while the large arch is a later Sienese addition. It follows the Latin cross plan and is located in the main Piazza Garibaldi, the heart of the medieval town. The beautiful marble facade was built over the centuries from about 1225; the tower next to the church was rebuilt in the 1900s.
The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Cerbonius and the central portal features lion sculptures and five panels with stories of the saint. There are precious pieces of art inside: from the Romanesque font to the rose window, from a Gothic reliquary to a beautiful and famous painting, The Madonna and Child, attributed to Duccio di Buoninsegna.
Hosted within the premises of the Palazzo del Podestà, the archaeological museum of Massa Marittima showcases exhibits found in the Accesa Etruscan territory (6th century) and included the excavation of houses and tombs.
It is housed in the middle of the galleries carved around 700 m deep into the travertine on the hill above the historical centre of the town. These tunnels were used during the Second World War as a refuge, but they have actually existed since the Middle Ages and the stone was used for building work.
Former miners set up the museum to recreate their working environment and to display the working methods.
The Torre del Candeliere (Chandelier Tower) was built in 1228 and it is also called the clock tower, while the Cassero Senese (Sienese Fortress) was built in the 13th and 14th centuries. Both are a sign of the Sienese expansion of the city’s borders beyond the medieval fort built by the Pisans.
Today, both the tower and the fortress are open to visitors and boast a splendid panoramic view over the city.
Last but not least, you simply must see this sight in Massa Marittima located to the left of the Cathedral. The building, which is the original site of the city’s water supply built in 1265, is famous for its fresco of a painted tree with male genitals in the place of leaves.
The fresco is called the Albero della Fecondità (or Tree of fertility) and you can easily understand why! There is also a group of women who are apparently collecting the falling genitals!
You might want to know that you can buy a cumulative ticket that costs 15 € and allows admission to all the museums in Massa Marittima.
The original version of this article was written by Serena Puosi.