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Grosseto

Grosseto is a beautifull city: clean, quite and, over all, very green. Its old name, Grossetum, was showed for the first time from the Bulls of the Popes Innocent II in 1138, Celestino II in 1143 and Clement III in 1188. The ancient inhabitants of the town, to assert their Etruscan origins, adopted the emblem of the Grifo, a mythical winged animal often represented in Etruscan works of art. Later the Grossetani gave it a red shield as a backgroung, to make known their enduring loyalty to the Ghibelline side. Later they armed the Grifo with a sword, to commemorate the brave defence of the town in September 1328 against Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian: he had besieged Grosseto with a powerful army, but was utterly defeated and driven away after four days’ battle.

Folklore traditions: la Merca

“La merca” was in the past a proper cerimony. During the month of May the herdsmen counted and cut out the new calves, and they were sent into a labyrinth of “mandrioli” (wooden pens) thus starting the ceremony of branding and the official entry of the calves and ponies into the herd, in front of certain of the city’s authorities. While a long metal rod with into a central enclosure, in the middle of which is a forked tree-trunk. The animals is lassooed and while two men throw it to the ground and tie it, another takes the hot iron and brands it. The May A group of “Maggiolatori” was composed of a small chorus and a few musicians - playing the fisarmonica and other instruments. They went from farm to farm (and some still do today) on the night between 30 April and 1st May. They were dressed in an unusual fashion, clothes with many colours and flowers, and asked permission from the head of each farming hausehold to sing in “ottava rima”. After this they offered their flowers to the girls of the household, and in return they were given eggs, cheese, wine or other victuals.

History and culture

It’s difficult to find a single symbol that can sum up the multiplicity of the influences that, over thirty centuries, have helped to shape the Tuscan coast and its immediate hinterland, making this area an immense store of historical and cultural resources. Thanks to a wise policy of conservation, these are still available to those who wish to discover the many unique features of this area. Here unspoilt countryside surrounds Etruscan tombs and the excavations of ancient Roman cities, towns and villages still distinctly medieval in character and complex systems of Renaissance fortifications. In past centuries the economic and cultural life of Tuscany was concentrated in the towns and villages built for safety on the heights, and still surrounded by walls today, while the magnificent facades of their battlemented civic buildings are decorated with the coasts of arms of the “podestà” who ruled them. The wach-towers, the well-defended gates, the fortresses also served to control mineral deposits, outlets to the sea and important trade routes. Indeed the inland areais dotted with faschinating towns and villages offering a host of architectural delights: a small selections of these includes Suvereto, Campiglia, Roccastrada, Chiusdino, Scarlino, Scansano, Capalbio and Pitigliano, but visitors will discover art treasures and historic buildings tucked away in many other places just a few miles from the sea. Innumerable buildings - whether they be isolated pievi (parish churches) of famous religious monuments - are well worth a visit for their architectural merits, the works of art they contain, or their role in the religious history and popular devotion of Tuscany. The peaceful countryside of the Maremma is dotted with the age-old remains of Etruscan civilization. The tombs of the necropolis of Populonia are located close to the gulf of Baratti, and the powerful cities of Roselle and Vetulonia once overlooked Lake Prile. The ancient Etruscan cities, and the finds and remains scattered around the region are now being safeguarded bu such schemes as the Prco Archeologico-Naturalistico Baratti-Populonia and, in the province of Grosseto, the Parco della Civiltà Etrusca, comprising five separate archaeological areas.

Nature and enrivonment

After Cecina the coast becomes sandy again with long beaches backed by extensive pinewoods: all the seaside resorts, from Castiglioncello to the border with Lazio - includine Castagneto-Donoratico, San Vincenzo, Follonica, Punta Ala, Castiglione della Pescaia and Marina di Grosseto - are shaded by large umbrella pines. These pinewoods, often planted to replace the original coastal forests of holm oaks and other trees, are part of a landscape that was formed at least two centuries ago by human intervention. They are now a familiar feature of the Tuscan coast and constitute a natural environment worthy of special protection, not only because they are the habitat of a wide variety of flora and fauna, including the dense Mediterranean undergrowth, but also because they are notable tourist attraction, offering opportunities for delightful walks and cycle rides, or simply shade for bathers on hot sunny days. Comprising twenty kilometres or sandy coast interspersed with rocky outcrops and splendid coves - with no human settlements or access roads, except for forest tracks closes to traffic - the Monti dell’Uccellina, dominating the central and southern parts of the Parco Regionale della Maremma, culminate at an altitude of 415 metres in the Poggio Lecci. The rugged terrain and thick forest have contributed to the survival of one of the few areas in Italy that can be described as truly unspoilt. The wild boar, the symbol of the Maremma, has its ideal habitat here in the dense vegetation; consisting of the holm oak and the undergrowth of heath and juniper, it is made impenetrable to man by thorny bushes and creepers. This area is also home to herds of Maremma cattle, left to run wild in the reclaimed areas, and the horses of the butteri (the local cowherds), the result of careful breeding by the Etruscans and Romans in antiquity and by the Medici in more recent times. Once as island, the Monti dell’Uccellina was gradually absorbed by the floor plain of the Ombrone, a river bearing large quantities of sand, like the other watercourses that have gradually linked Monte Argentario to the mainland - although its insular nature is still clearly evident - and have now definitively incorporated the promontory of Piombino into the coast. This is the other face of the Tuscan coast: after the sandy beaches and pinewoods beyond Populonia, the rugged cliffs with interesting erosional phenomena rise sheer from the clear blue waters of the Buche delle Fate. Two narrow sand bars link Monte Argentario to the mainland, and there couldn’t be a greater or more fascinating contrast than the one between the wild rock faces of Monte Telegrafo (635 m), covered with Mediterranean macchia, and the still waters of the lagoon, with its silent reed beds where the little egret and heron nest. This is a unique environment, where the circulation of the water is ensured by a number of channels and slow infiltration through the two sand bars.

Spas, sport and liusure activities

The abundance of thermal and mineral water springs, and the matchless beauty of places where nature, art, history and archaeology combine harmoniously have made numerous spas in the coastal area, or just inland from it, tourist attractions of international renown. Most of the spas in this part of Tuscany are of ancient origin. Before the Romans, who, as is well known, were very fond of spas, especially as resorts for recreation and social activities, the Etruscans were already accustomed to talking the waters at Saturnia and Roselle. Other spas were added in Roman times: Bagni di Caldana, the baths at Casciana, the hot springs at AQUI Terme AND, AS BOTh Pliny and Varro recorded, the baths as San Giuliano. The spring at Uliveto was already known in the year 1000. The sole exception is the spa of San Giovanni, on the island fo Elba, which was only opened in 1962 and is now one of the leading centres for thalassotherapy in Italy. For at least a century the Tuscan coast has been meeting the needs of a heterogeneous public of all ages with a tourist industry at an international level capable of anticipating, year after year, the tastes and trends of successive generations. The coast boasts a large number of bathing concessions, free beaches and facilities for all kinds of aquatic sports. There are numerous marinas and surfing, windsurfing and canoeing schools. While, because of the favourable climatic conditions, a seaside holidays is possible in Tuscany from May (or even earlier) until October, the coastal strip and the area just inland from it often numerous opportunities for outdoor activities in splendid surroundings throughout the year. There are also lots of opportunities for outdoor activities in the province of Grosseto. In the area round Roccastrada there’s network of paths totalling nearly 150 km, divided into eight easy routes, clearly marked and suitable for walking year-round. Castiglione della Pescaia is the starting-point for various walks to the surrounding areas that are of both historical and naturalistic interest: the one to Principina a Mare, which passes through a magnificent pinewood, is also suitables for cycles. In the Parco Naturale Regionale della Maremma there are various theme tours: San Rabano, the watch-towers, Cala di Forno, the mouth of the Ombrone and Talamone, forest and fauna oriented nature trails. In the park, canoe trips around the mouth of the Ombrone are also possible. Cycling has long been a popular sport in Tuscany and on its roads one frequently comes across groups of amateurs or professionals tackling the slopes - steep or gentle as they may be - of the region’s innumerable hills. Slightly more challenging routes climb the low hills of the Costa degli Etruschi or the Maremma, while mountain-bike riders will get a lot of fun exploring the network of paths through the woods and forests of the interior. Those who prefer riding horses have plenty of riding schools and stables to choose from because Tuscany is the region boasting the largest number of these facilities in Italy. The most outstanding of the events opening the season on the coast is the celebrated Carnival at Viareggio, with a procession of floats that is even more complex and spectacular. For opera lovers, the Festival Pucciniano at Torre del Lago Puccini is held in July and August on the shore of the lake which was a major source of inspiration for the composer. At Easter there’s the spectacular and very popular Palio della Costa Etrusca, a horse race in which the jockeys of the Palio di Siena ride bareback on the beach at San Vincenzo. At Massa Marittima, in the Balestro del Girifalco - held twice a year, on 20 May and the second Sunday in August - besides a procession in traditional costume and a display by flag-wavers, crossbowmen shoot at the girifalco, a target in the form of a falcon. Marine festivals are held on 15 August at Porto S. Stefano (this is a race between four brightly-painted boats representing the different quarters of the town) and on the first Sunday after 15 August at Castiglione della Pescaia, where the town’s five districts compete with each other. For the Carriere of 19 August, Scarlino turns itself into a medieval village animated by the locals in costume who perform as if they were in a vast open-air theatre.
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