From 3000 years in the heart of Tuscany

Volterra

From the 9th to the 7th century BC Volterra had been an important centre of the Villanovian civilization. A powerful Etruscan lucumonia (city state), called Velathri, that reached its highest political, economic and cultural development in the period from the 4th to the 1st century BC.
It was the last city state to be overcome by the Romans when, after having sided with Gaius Marius, in the war against Sulla, the city was forced to surrender in 81-80 BC.
In the Roman period, Volterra was an important municipium. It was the birthplace of the second Christian Pope, San Lino, and of the poet Persio Flacco.
In the 5th century, Volterra became the seat of the bishopric.

During the Lombard invasion it became a gastald, or a territorial ward ruled by the crown. Later in the 10th century it faced one of the most difficult periods in its history due to the serious damage to the town and its inhabitants by the Hungarian troops that the very same Tuscan ruler, Arrigo, called in to help in the war against Berengar I of Italy.
Then for a long-lasting period of more than three centuries the power of the bishops grew. A series of privileges given to them by the imperial power made the bishops of Volterra the rulers of the town.
Henry VI in 1186 gave Bishop Ildebrando Pannocchieschi, the title of Palatine Count in Tuscany and Prince of the Holy Roman Empire with the right of electing his own councils and minting coins.
The absolute power of Ildebrando, who was bishop up until 1211, represented a very serious check on the development of the Commune, an institution that in other Tuscan areas was the expression of much more freedom and independence for the population.

Thus the Commune of Volterra found itself in a period of conflict with the bishops, but in 1239, with the death of Pagano Pannocchieschi, the Commune was able to reinforce its power even though initially in contention with the imperial authority of Frederick II.
When he died, the Commune gained more independence. At the time, the medieval perimeter wall (thinner than the Etruscan one) was built and Palazzo dei Priori was completed.

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The Commune, that had been involved in wars against nearby towns like San Gimignano and Colle Val d’Elsa, around about the middle of the 13th century found itself caught up in the internal conflict between the Allegretti family, Ghibellines, and the Belforti family, Guelphs. These latter won in the end, but their victory soon led to new hostility inside the very same Belforti family.
The Florentines tried to take advantage of these conflicts.
When in 1361 the inhabitants of Volterra rebelled against the Belforti, Florence was ready to intervene and occupy Volterra. From then on the relationship between Volterra and Florence has always been hostile. In 1426 the first rebellion against the Florentine land register took place and was headed by Giusto Landini. Once the Florentine garrison had been cast out from the town, the very same local aristocracy killed Giusto Landini and brought Volterra again under Florentine rule.

In 1472 though, the rebellion against the Florentines was more clear cut, because economic reasons severed the relationship between the two towns. Florence had decided to give the administration of several alum quarries in Castelnuovo Valdicecina and owned by the Commune of Volterra to two citizens of Volterra and three Florentine citizens. The population realized that they had been economically damaged and they killed Paolo Inghirami, one of the two beneficiaries from Volterra of the grant.

The reaction of Florence was ferocious, and the population of Volterra had to withdraw inside the town where they were besieged by Montefeltro who with his mercenary troops sacked Volterra.

At night, several inhabitants of Volterra opened the town gates and let the troops sack the town.
ater, in 1530, the town became involved in the war between Charles V and the Florentine Republic. Volterra, siding with the Medici, was besieged by Francesco Ferruci, sent by the Florentine Republic to free the Republican prisoners held in Volterra.
This battle was won by the Republicans, the town was the stage of a ferocious struggle that saw on the one side the Florentine Republic and on the other the Imperial troops of Charles V, who were defeated.
Soon after, the Medici regained power in Florence and Volterra was definitively included in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

The Alta Val di Cecina Area

In the Val di Cecina, the hills are scattered with medieval villages, military strongholds, parish churches, abbeys and other settlements born to exploit the underground resources that resulted in the reconciliation of the inhabitants with nature.
Our territory has never been easy to tame, the safe and suitable places to settle were but few in the past.
The urban centres are on elevated positions, hilltops or rock spurs.

This choice would seem to tie in well with the culture of a historical period, the Middle Ages, when urban settlements were built on top of hills and overlooking the valleys. In actual fact even the Etruscans and the Romans, noblemen, middle-classes and peasants made the same choice.

Towns built on top of a hill are the norm and characteristic of the Val di Cecina. The settlements were built on lower hills while the most important urban settlements were established on strategic sites.

Montecatini Val di Cecina (416 m) (416m a.s.l.) is dominated by the Poggio La Croce, the Belforti Tower indicates the highest point of the original zone of foundation. The built-up area grew around it.
The castle of Querceto is built on a rock spur.

Pomarance (370m a.s.l.) developed on the high ground overlooking the Valley of the Cecina river, the eastern part of the settlement is in the shape of a stronghold, still visible are parts of the walls and a tower and it is clearly of medieval origin.

In a commanding position are the small villages of Libbiano and Micciano, they face each other on the top of steep slopes controlling a harsh landscape and an unending series of hills. As do Serrazzano and Lustignano.

Castelnuovo Val di Cecina (576 m a.s.l.) is on a rock that overlooks the valleys of the Possera and Pavone streams. It cloaks, in the shape of a pine cone, the ancient stronghold (rocca) with narrow alleyways and is surrounded by higher hills (Aia dei Diavoli 875 m a.s.l.)
Also Sasso Pisano was built around a castle on a rock spur.

The History of the Villages and Hamlets of the Val di Cecina

Castelnuovo Val di Cecina

In the 9th-8th and 7th century BC, this area was inhabited by people from the Villanovian civilization, and already in the 7th century BC there could well have been important Etruscan settlements like Velathri (Volterra), linked to the exploitation of the quarries and the forging of metals. Until the 3rd century BC, it was a flourishing area but it was overcome by Rome after the battle on the Cecina river (298 BC) and supplied Scipio the African resin and tar for ships. It sided with Gaius Marius against Sulla and at the demise of the Roman Empire there were ferocious battles between the Goths and the Byzantines (535-553AD). In the first centuries of the 1000s it was controlled by the Lombards, until they were overthrown by the Commune of Volterra in 1210. In the same century, Castelnuovo, grew rapidly and become one of the most important urban settlements in the Volterra area (contado) and in consequence one of the most heavily taxed. It was a territorial dispute between Volterra and Florence due to its alum and sulphur mines and when in 1429 the war between Florence and Volterra broke out, Castelnuovo sided with the Florentines.
In 1447, as other Communes in the Volterra area, it was invaded by Alfonso of Aragon and when he withdrew it was occupied by the Senese Petrucci who were ousted by Volterra with the help of the Florentines. Volterra was interested in the alum, for which a certain Paolo Inghirami gained the right of exploitation, (together with sulphur and vitriolic) in 1470. Thanks to these natural resources, Castelnuovo gained special privileges such as the election of its own Podestà. These special privileges were confirmed by Alessandro de’ Medici (1533). In 1639, Castelnuovo became a feudal property of the Grand Duchy ruled by Ferdinand II and was given to Luca degli Albizi and his heirs as a marquisate. This feudal property was abolished at the end of 1700 by Francis II Duke of Lorraine.

Libbiano

Up until the 12th century, the castle was property of the abbey of Monteverdi. In 1208 the monks renounced their right to the castle in favour of the Commune of Volterra, to whom in 1273 the inhabitants made an act of allegiance.

Lustignano

The Lombardi clan, ruler of Castelnuovo had feudal rights over Lustignano, as is recorded in 1246. In 1252, Lustignano came under the jurisdiction of Volterra and from then on it partook in its vicissitudes.

Micciano

On the border of the forest of Monterufoli, sitting on a gabbro spur it has always been a perfect observation point.
The castle was donated to the Abbey of Monteverdi by Arrigo I in 1014, but confirmed by Pope Alexander III only a century later. Later it was passed to the Bishop of Volterra (1186) and then to the Commune of Volterra (1203).

Montecatini Val di Cecina

The first reference to Montecatini comes from the 11th century when it is recorded that Bishop Pietro of Volterra authorized the church of San Giusto and San Clemente to collect taxes in Montecatini.
It was part of the contado of Volterra, as is recorded in 1225 when the Bishop of Volterra agreed to give half of the amount of some taxes from the contado to the Commune of Volterra.
A further reference comes from the middle of the 14th century, when Montacatini was the property of the Belforti family, who had already siezed Volterra.
In 1361, after an insurrection against the Belforti family by the population of Volterra, Florence came to help Volterra and give them Montecatini, which partook in Volterra’s vicissitudes up until 1472, when Volterra was included in the Florentine Republic.

Montecastelli

From 1184 it was the property of the Pannocchieschi family, bishops of Volterra, and had been a territorial dispute between them and the Commune of Volterra (13th century). In the middle of the 13th century began the acquisition of the Castle by the Commune of Volterra, and in 1319 the inhabitants of Montecastelli became subject to Volterra.

Monteverdi Marittimo

The plain of the Cornia river which the Municipality of Monteverdi overlooks what was a Roman province, Iulia Ossequiosa. Near to the urban area, a number of remains have been found bearing witness to roads and buildings of the Ancient Roman period. As to the villages of Canneto and Monteverdi, worthy of mention is the Benedictine monastery of San Pietro in Palazzolo, founded by Walfred, a Lombard nobleman. It is probable that he had been the forefather of the della Gherardesca family.
The first known settlement dates to 754 in the Badiavecchia area, just outside today’s village. Still visible are the walls, the tombs of some monks and a long corridor, coins and friezes are of Lombard origin. This monastery withstood the continuous invasions for 3 hundred years, up until it was transferred in 1100 on top of a hill visible from the village of Monteverdi Marittimo.

Pomarance

The Pomarance area had been inhabited from Prehistory, in particular from the Neolithic period when, besides stone, bronze began to be forged.
In the neigbourhood of Pomarance, a number of tombs from the third millennium BC have been discovered, inside which bronze objects were found.
The area was also inhabited in the Etruscan period, as archaeological finds confirm. A funerary stele from the 4th century BC and a tomb, found under the church of San Giovanni Battista in Pomarance. Unfortunately the tomb had already been sacked.
The first records date back to the 10th century when the Castle of Pomarance, already Ripomarance, was offered by Otto I to Engheramo Inghirami as a gift. After 1000, and for three centuries, Pomarance had been in a territorial dispute between the Commune and the Bishops of Volterra. Later the Castle was overcome by the Commune of Volterra, fact that the inhabitants of Pomarance did not accept so much so that in 1247 the main local opponents were beheaded by Battista Arnolfi, Podestà of Volterra.
In the 15th century, Pomarance saw two invasions: the first in 1431 by the Lombard troops headed by Niccolò Piccinino, the second by the troops headed by Alfonso of Aragon in 1447. Involved in the war between Florence and Volterra in 1472, Pomarance partook in the vicissitudes of the Commune up until when they became part of the Medici State.

Querceto

Built on a spur of rock, the castle was property of Inghiramo a nobleman of Querceto, as specified in the records of the 12th century. In 1224 it was ruled by the Bishops of Volterra and afterwards in 1252 the local inhabitants made an oath of allegiance to the Commune of Volterra.

Saline di Volterra

Known as Moje, the village has ancient origins. The springs of acqua salsa (a mixture of mud, salty water and gases) were already exploited in the Etruscan and Roman period. There is mention in a record of the 11th century in a document of Emperor Arrigo, written near Pisa in 1015.
The centre of the village houses the complex of the salt ponds belonging to a Government Monopoly.

Sasso Pisano

Inhabited and visited from Etruscan and Roman times, as the Etruscan Thermal complex in Bagnone bears witness. Ruled by the Lombards who considered Saxo an important fortified outpost suitable for defense of the area. Entailed in the vicissitudes of Castelnuovo, it was overcome by the Bishops of Volterra, and as Castelnuovo it had been long part of a dispute between the Bishops and the Commune of Volterra and in 1329 the inhabitants of the Castle of Saxo swore obedience to the Podesta of Volterra.
Of great importance is the production of alum, sulphur and vitriol linked to the presence of the famous lagoni.

Serrazzano

The first record dates to 1102 when the castle was ruled by the Lombards, records from 1274 mention the establishment of a village. Later the castle was acknowledged as feudal property of the bishop of Volterra Ildebrando Pannocchieschi, by Arrigo VI.

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