From 3000 years in the heart of Tuscany
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Saline di Volterra
The centre of the village houses the complex of the salt ponds belonging to a Government Monopoly.
Of great importance is the production of alum, sulphur and vitriol linked to the presence of the famous lagoni.