Massa Marittima Tourist Attractions
SituationThe name of the town is misleading: Massa Maríttima does not lie on the sea, but some 20km/12.5mi inland, northeast of Piombino.
the adjective Maríttima refers to the Maremma.HistoryThe area around Massa, on the southern slopes of the Colline Metallífere, the "ore-bearing hills", was already settled in ancient times, and both Etruscans and Romans worked the copper and silver to be found here. Massa's rise to become the chief town in the Maremma began in the eighth century, when the Bishop of Populonia, fleeing from the malaria of the coastal region, made it his episcopal seat. During the Middle Ages, particularly in the 12th-14th centuries, handsome public buildings were erected in the town. Pisa and Siena contended for possession of Massa, a place of some military importance, until it was finally incorporated in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. But the town could not escape the ravages of malaria, and between the 16th and 19th centuries its population fell steadily and its importance declined. Only after the draining of the marshes and the eradication of malaria was it able to develop and prosper again. Massa Maríttima was the birthplace of San Bernardino of Siena (Bernardino Albizzeschi, 1380-1444).
The Città Vecchia (Old Town) of Massa Marittima, around the Cathedral, takes its character from its 13th and 14th century buildings. Farther east, in the vicinity of the old castle, is the Città Nuova (New Town), most of which dates from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Piazza Garibaldi, the main square of the Città Vecchia, developed in irregular fashion over the centuries, with the Cathedral, the Bishop's Palace (Palazzo Vescovile), the Palazzo Pretorio, the Palazzo Comunale and other historic old buildings.
Cathedral of San Cerbone
On the south side of Piazza Garibaldi, approached by a broad flight of steps, is the Cathedral of San Cerbone, which dates in its present form from 1228 to 1304 and accordingly shows both Romanesque and Gothic features. The facade, on which Giovanni Pisano (c. 1250-c. 1320) worked, has round-arched blind arcades, the lower tiers of which continue round the side walls. On the lintel of the main doorway is a finely carved relief depicting scenes from the life of San Cerbone. Abutting the left-hand side of the church rises the massive campanile, with five tiers of windows, increasing in number from the lowest to the uppermost tier so as to create a striking perspective effect. Over the crossing is an octagonal dome. The interior (aisled) contains some notable sculpture. In the right-hand aisle is a font carved from a single block of travertine, with reliefs of scenes from the life of John the Baptist by Giroldo da Como (1267). In a chapel in the transept is an Altar-piece of the Madonna delle Grazie, modeled on the "Maestà" of Duccio di Buoninsegna and attributed to Duccio himself or one of his many pupils.
Arca di San Cerbone
In the crypt (entrance beside the high altar) is the Arca di San Cerbone, the Shrine of St Cerbonius, with a series of magnificent reliefs of scenes from the Saint's life: the masterpiece of the Sienese sculptor Goro di Gregorio (14th century).
On the west side of Piazza Garibaldi in Massa Maríttima, facing the cathedral, is the Palazzo Pretorio or Palazzo del Podestà, built entirely of travertine. It was formerly the residence of successive governors and rulers of Massa Maríttima (the podestà, the commissari, the capitani di guistizia). A severe Romanesque building (13th century), it bears on its facade the coat of arms of governors of Massa and Siena from 1426 to 1633.
Adjoining the Palazzo Pretorio in Massa Maríttima is the tower-like Casa dei Conti di Biserno, a Romanesque building of the 13th century (partly rebuilt in the 19th century).
Immediately adjoining the Casa dei Conti di Biserno is the Palazzo Comunale, a massive travertine structure formed out of a number of Romanesque tower houses (including the 13th century Torre del Bargello). On the first floor is the Gabinetto del Sindaco (Mayor's Room), with 16th century frescoes and one of the masterpieces of Sienese painting, Ambrogio Lorenzetti's "Madonna and Child with Angels and Saints" (c. 1330).
Above the Cathedral rises the Fortezza dei Senesi, built by the Sienese around the old Castle of Monte Regio after they gained control of Massa in 1335. Notable features of this Città Nuova (New Town) are the Torre del Candeliere (1228), also known as the Torre del Orológio (Clock-Tower), and the new Sienese structures.
The Museo Archeológico (Archeological Museum), in Piazza Matteotti, contains pictures of the Sienese school and archeological material from the surrounding area.
East of the Museo Archeológico via the Corso Diaz is the Romanesque and Gothic Church of Sant'Agostino (1299-1313), with an aisleless interior and a handsome campanile of 1627.
In the Museo della Miniera (Mining Museum), on the south side of the old town of Massa Maríttima, the different mining techniques used in Tuscany are displayed in an old mine-shaft.
Address: Palazzo del Podestà, Piazza Garibaldi 1, I-58024 Massa Maríttima, Italy
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Oct 31: 10am-5:45pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 10am-4:30pm; Closed: Mon
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 10am-4:30pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €5.00, Group discounts €4.00, Concession or reduced rate €3.00
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.