As soon as we strolled into Massa Marittima on a sunny spring Sunday we were entranced. The spectacular Piazza Garibaldi is surrounded by stunning medieval buildings. The town was founded by the Etruscans.
The cathedral of San Cerbone sits high above the piazza and is reached by a steep stone stairway, making it seem very imposing. It is built of Travertine and was begun in the 12th century and finished in the 13th century. It has had several renovations over the centuries.
The interior was largely under scaffolding when we were there, but we could see that it is magnificent. It boasts a rose window with rare 14th century glass, a Romanesque font from 1267, a Gothic reliquary (1316) and a 14th century fresco under which is a Roman sarcophagus from the 4th century…and many other stunning pieces.
Above this part of Massa Marittima, which is called la Citta Vecchia, the old city, is la Citta Nuova, new city. I don’t know why there is this distinction because the Candlestick Clock tower was built in 1228 and the Sienese Fortress dates from the 14th century.
Of course we had to climb the tower. The stairs were particularly steep and narrow, but the view from the top was worth the climb. On a clear day, which it was, you can see Elba, Montecristo and Corsica.
Climbing down was not much better than the climb up. Most of it required going down backwards.
There is also a beautiful park at the top of the hill. It would be a lovely place to walk for the lucky residents of Massa Marittima.
We found an excellent enoteca, Le Sedici, where we were able to buy some local wine, olive oil and other local products.
On the way back to the car park we located the Fonte dell Abbondanza, the Source of Abundance. It is a covered spring and at the end of the building, now covered by glass, as it is being renovated, is the most interesting frescoed wall. It was dubbed the Fertility Tree when it was discovered in 2,000. Some bright spark felt the need to paint a tree covered with penises. Funnily enough, my youngest brother went through a stage when he was a teenager where he drew penises all over the place, Perhaps this was just the fertile mind of a 13th century young lad.
Massa Marittima is well worth a visit. It has some pretty streets to wander in. There are interesting shops, restaurants and bars. We will be back as we didn’t have time to see any of the museums.
Massa Marittima is in southern Tuscany, about 50 kilometres NNW of grosseto. The name Marittima doesn’t refer to the sea, but to Maremma, the name of the area.