3000 years of history in the heart of Tuscany
The Villages, the Nature Reserves and Geothermal Energy
Our villages, on top of the hills of the Alta Val di Cecina and Val d’Era, in an area rich in history, art, archaeology and nature, are so unique even in Tuscany that they have inspired writers, poets and painters such as Rosa, Stendhal, Lawrence, Dennis, Corot, D’Annunzio and Cassola.
Beside the millennial testimony to the Etruscan and Roman civilization, the Medieval and Renaissance world, scattered over the area and in Volterra, town of art and cultural centre of the entire valley, there is the Val di Cecina that is rich in various landscapes, from the Metalliferous Hills to the woodlands such as the Nature Reserve of BerignoneThe Berignone Nature Reserve covers more the 2000 hectares in the municipalities of Pomarance and Volterra and includes a vast area bordering on the Cecina river, the streams Sellate and Fosci and the Tatti mediterranean bush vegetation. A few chilometres from the Etruscan town of Volterra, the reserve includes the various ecosystems typical of the Val di Cecina area, forests and the river ecosystems, from the mediterranean bush to the traditional agricultural eco-systems.
The Tatti Mediterranean bush, property of the Municipality of Volterra, is next to the Reserve and creates with it a unique woodland area managed by the Comunità Montana.
, the Nature Reserve of Monterufoli-CaselliAt the centre of the Metalliferous Hills, the Monterufoli-Caselli Nature Reserve covers around about 4828 hectares, within the municipalities of Pomarance, Monteverdi Marittimo and Montecatini Val di Cecina. Founded in 1997, the area is today the largest Nature Reserve in Tuscany. Mediterranean forest and evergreen bushes, from which emerge green rocks, are characteristic of the Reserve. An area with a remarkable biodiversity that from the basin of the Trossa stream, goes to the lumpy hills of Poggio Gabbra and Corno al Bufalo, before reaching the Sterza Stream and the secluded hills of Caselli, on the border of the Province of Livorno. An area to be visited for its natural environment, for the colours of its landscape and for the many testimonies to a centuries-old human presence. and the Montenero Nature ReserveThe Reserve covers the northern slopes of Monte Nero (508 mt) covered by evergreen woodlands of holm oaks and conifers. It is characterized by the emergence of holophytic rock, the crystal clear waters of the Strolla stream with its spectacular gorges.
A little mosaic of differing natural environments surrounded by history and architecture, where it is easy to watch the flight of many birds of prey that nest in the reserve., from typical Mediterranean vegetation to the Volterra hills with gorges, valleys and rounded hilltops.
preserves important traces of its past such as the Porta Orciolina and the Porta of Casale, part of the walls from the 1300s, the church of San Giovanni with paintings of Roncalli, Cercignani and Ademollo, and several Palazzi (Pretorio, Pucci, Bicocchi, Bardini and De Larderel). MontecastelliOriginally an important castle on the hill overlooking the valley of the Pavone stream. The centre of the village still preserves its medieval layout, both in the perimeter wall, with an imposing tower, and in the concentric urban structure. The castle was founded in the 13th century by the Bishop of Volterra together with the Pannocchieschi Counts, transferring there inhabitants from other castles in the neighbouring area that had been abandoned or destroyed. has developed around an imposing square-based tower from the Middle Ages and the Romanesque church of San Filippo and San Giacomo (13th century) – with three aisles and pilasters with decorated capitals. In the vicinity of the cemetery, is the Buca delle Fate (Etruscan Tomb)Etruscan hypogeum of the 6th century inside which there are several rooms still with the benches where the funerary urns were laid. It is near Montecastelli, along the road leading to Castelnuovo from Montecastelli. In the Middle Ages the Etruscan tombs were opened and easily accessible, however their origin was unknown to the people of the time. Ignorant of the origins of these “holes” they gave them an otherworldly origin and they named them with names like Buca delle Fate (literally: Fairie's Hole).; etruscan hypogeum of the 6th century.
In S. DalmazioThe village was originally built near the convent of San Dalmazio. Of the medieval urban structure there still remains evidence of ancient buildings. The settlement was known to exist already in the 10th century, while the convent is only recorded in the 13th century. Of the convent there remains only the church there are interesting remains of medieval walls with two gates enclosing the settlement, circular in shape, and the Romanesque church that houses the terracotta tabernacle from Luca della Robbia’s workshop. Nearby the imposing Rocca SillanaIt is one of the most important strongholds of the area, recorded from the 9th century. Over time, it underwent numerous transformations, the last, and most imposing restoration work took place in the 15th century, with the creation of an important wall in brick, today restored. Outside the walls there are the ruins of a hamlet and a further perimeter wall. Around the central tower, from the 11th century and the oldest building amongst those still visible, an initial perimeter wall developed, that can be seen under the more recent built in brick. Next to this tower a stone palazzo was built, later on surrounded by other buildings. At the foot of the palazzo there are the ruins of a cistern, that would have supplied the entire castle, being accessible also from the outside. Around the Rocca a large settlement developed, made up of houses and a small church. This hamlet was surrounded by a perimeter wall of which parts are still visible. Noteworthy are the gates giving access to the hamlet, still discretely preserved..
Also MontecerboliBuilt on a spur of rock that overlooks an area rich in geothermal phenomena. The first record of the castle comes from 1000, today most of the walls and one of the gateways are still visible. is circular in shape with an ancient castle surrounded by a medieval hamlet.
Sasso PisanoThe first record of this castle comes from 1058. It had been property of the Bishops of Volterra for a long period of time, up until the inhabitants made an oath of allegiance to the Commune of Volterra in 1204. The ruins of the stronghold are on top of the hill, towards the eastern border of the urban settlement. Still today parts of the medieval walls surrounding the stronghold, are visible. In the modern part of the village the church designed by architect Giovanni Michelucci is worthy of mention. has developed around a more ancient nucleus, the castle, that is in the highest part of the village.
SerrazzanoRecorded from the 10th century, on the borders of the Cecina and Cornia valleys, it was small in size, certainly bigger today, and traces of the medieval settlement are few, but the church of San Donato is worthy of mention., particularly interesting from a town planning point of view, has preserved from the medieval period two gates from the old town walls and traces of the stepped foundations of the town walls, as well as the church of S. Donato with its gothic vaults and the delightful romanesque church of S. Antonio.
A square-shape tower and the church of San Martino characterize the village of La SassaAge-old castle on top of a spur of rock overlooking the Sterza valley. The first mention in records is from 1008 and its territory had been in a long running dispute between the dioceses of Massa Marittima and the Abbey of Monteverdi. At the beginning of the 1200 it was passed to the Commune of Volterra. There remains a tower, part of the ancient fortified tower, and a church dedicated to San Martino, that was restored after the earthquake in 1846.. QuercetoThe castle of Querceto is recorded from the 11th century as part of the dioceses of Massa Marittima, which later gave it to the abbey of Monteverdi. In 1208 the territory of Querceto was given to the Commune of Volterra and from then on its population became inhabitants of Volterra. Today the castle is of modern construction, there only being the parish church left to testify to its past. In the centre of the village is the large Ginori-Lisci villa, that is probably where the medieval stronghold was located. , is on a rock spur, noteworthy is the construction of the castle and extraordinary the parish church of San Giovanni.
Together with history and archaeology, the Val di Cecina adds underground a wealth in raw materials: alabaster, important artistic material , rock salt from Saline di VolterraThe village developed around the salt quarry. Up until the Middle Ages in the Saline di Volterra area, there were many springs of salty water, from which salt was extracted through boiling. Around the wells there were modest buildings that were used to produce salt, and the houses of the workers. The contemporary urban centre was built in the 1700s, commissioned by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Peter Leopold. The factory for salt extraction was inaugurated in 1790 and in a short period of time around it new buildings were built, many as part of the industrial process but also houses, a school and a church., and the steam from the boraciferous geysers of the geothermal area, with LarderelloThe village developed around the plant for the production of geothermal energy. The village was founded by Francesco De Larderel, the first to harness the energy from the geothermal lagoni (steaming pools), starting in 1818 and it became an industrial village where the plant's buildings and workers' houses were established. Near the urban centre there still exists the industrial area characterized by the presence of tall refrigerating towers for the endogenous vapour. Around the village there are vapour ducts carrying the steam to the plants to be transformed into electrical energy. These pipes are one of the characteristics of the area surrounding Larderello and have become part of the landscape., and its very interesting Geothermal Energy Museum.
Last but not least LibbianoThe castle stands on a spur of rock between the Trossa and Adio streams. Today only the village remains, the castle was totally destroyed except for the fortified construction of the Rocca. In the village there still are remains of medieval buildings, amongst which probably the town hall where the rector sent from Volterra used to live, after the castle of Libbiano passed to Volterra at the beginning of the 1200s., MiccianoOriginally a castle, of which there still are a few traces in the existing buildings, only its urban fabric is proof of its ancient role, as is its position, on a spur of rock between the Adio and Trossa streams. In 1014 Micciano was administered by the monastery of San Pietro in Monteverdi, later it passed to the bishop of Volterra in 1186, after which the inhabitants made an oath of allegiance to the Commune of Volterra., LustignanoThis village with the typical layout of a medieval urban settlement overlooks the right hand side of the Cornia river from 400 mt. above. It is rooted in prehistory, and in the Etruscan period played a political and economic role in the relationship between Volterra and Populonia, due to its location on a road along the valley of the river. After the Ancient Roman period, testified to by the name of the castle, a latinization of the Etruscan word Listenio, here the African Bishop Regolo was martyred on escaping to the village after the Arian persecutions in the 5th century. As all the other localities in this area, Lustignano was one of the theatres of the battles for the control over the area between the Abbey of Monteverdi (of Lombard origin) and the Bishop of Volterra and the Commune of Volterra. and La LecciaA small village that stands in a position where in the Middle Ages there was a castle, of which first mention was made in 1028, and of which there still are a few remains of the walls and some buildings. The castle was essentially property of the bishop of Volterra, although the Cadolingi Counts and the abbey of San Pietro in Monteverdi made claims on it. In 1204 the inhabitants of the castle made an oath of allegiance to the Commune of Volterra. are on hilltops and their urban layout reveals their ancient origins as castles.
The nearest urban centre to the Tyrrhenian coast is Monteverdi Marittimo, with the Caselli Nature Reserve from which the village and the hamlet of CannetoThe Castle of Canneto, already recorded in 1084, is situated in the valley of the Sterza stream, along the roadway linking the Val di Cecina to the Maremma area. It was built on a plain overlooking the valley and has an almost circular urban layout. The castle was part of the territory ruled by the Abbey of San Pietro in Palazzolo and it passed to the Commune of Volterra in the first decades of the 1200s. There still remain most of the medieval perimeter wall and the remains of ancient walls now part of more modern buildings., rise, still preserved is the structure of a medieval settlement, and there also are the ruins of the Abbey of San Pietro in Palazzolo, that originated from the monastery founded in 754 by the nobleman, Walfred.