Tuscany’s hilltops hide myriad treasures. The ancient fortified town of Massa Marittima offers surprisingly modern itineraries for historians, art lovers and gourmands alike, a mere 40 minutes’ drive from Borgo.
Perched on a hill with panoramic views over the surrounding countryside and across the sea to the islands of Elba, Montecristo and Corsica, Massa Marittima is remarkable not only for its beautifully preserved medieval centre and the scope of its riches but also the fact that it has somehow escaped the notice of the usual tourist hordes.
A thousand years of history meets modern interactive technology here, where visitors can climb the twelfth-century fortified walls and evocatively named ‘Candlestick’ clocktower for spectacular views of the coast, and gaze at the artworks of fourteenth-century Sienese artist Ambrogio Lorenzetti, whose masterpiece La Maestà is on display at the Palazzo del Podestà. A new exhibition entitled The Roads of Ambrogio: Ambrogio Lorenzetti and sacred art, which traces the artist’s work from 1329–1340 in territories under Sienese rule, is also now on display at the museum complex of San Pietro all’Orto.
Mysteries from the distant past include the suggestively shaped ‘fruit’ on the thirteenth-century Tree of Fertility mural at the Fountain of Abundance, and Etruscan artefacts and a stone menhir, the single example of its type in southern Tuscany, on display at the Museum of Archaeology.
For a tiny town steeped in history, Massa Marittima is surprisingly abreast of the times, with QR code readers available at points of interest throughout the historical centre. Those seeking a little green respite from the summer heat will find it in the cypress-filled Park of Remembrance, where a monument stands to the city’s honorary citizen, Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Situated in the midst of the lush Maremma hills, Massa Marittima is also ideally located to enjoy local gastronomic bounty. Foodies can enjoy a lunch of local specialties in the piazza facing the spectacular Cathedral of Saint Cerbone or in one of the medieval alleyways curving off the main piazza, while wine lovers can wind slowly home along the Monteregio di Massa Marittima Wine Route, where three different mini-itineraries lead to cellar doors and local artisan food producers through a landscape of medieval castles, lakes, and ancient hilltop towns, all the way to the coast.