The Museums and historical/artistic itineraries
For those who love learning about a territory or simply browsin through its history, the Costa Argento is a veritable goldmine waiting to be discovered. Beginning with the Etruscans, the people who possibly left the most important imprint on the territory, moving on to the world of the Romans, their proud successors, through the Middle Ages, the period which saw the growth and development of its villages, to the State of the Garrisons, the era which saw the arrival of different populations on the coast, all the way to the colours and thousand facets of modern art, the Costa Argento offers a selection of interesting itineraries to choose from.
The Etruscans and the Romans
A short distance from the seaside village of Talamone, near Fonteblanda, rises the Talamonaccio, a small hill which, in the past, was of great strategic importance. Today it is an archeological site of great interest because it is here that one of the most important archeological finds of the entire Maremma territory was found: the Pediment of Talamone. Currently displayed in the hall on the ground floor of the Archeological Museum of Orbetello, the pediment, a lovely relief work which depicts a scene from the myth of the “Seven against Thebes”, was part of a great temple and everything seems to suggest that the hill was a prominent holy place. Moreover, the lagoon town’s museum, located within the Polveriera Guzman, houses many of the finds discovered in the territory, comprised primarily of Etruscan grave tools.
Leaving Orbetello for the Argentario Promontory, you can admire the walls which enclose the citadel, whose first part is of Etruscan origin. In Porto S. Stefano, on two display surfaces within the Spanish Stronghold you can admire the permanent Exhibit “Submerged memories” wherein are displayed finds, most of which date to Roman times, recovered from the waters of Formiche di Grosseto, from the selfsame promontory and from the Giglio and Giannutri islands. Likewise the two islands are places of historical interest, particularly of the Roman era. Despite the fact that they are not open to the public, on the Giannutri island, which is the southernmost in the Tuscan Archipelago, there are the ruins of the Roman villa Domizi Enobarbi, whereas at Cala Spalmatoio there are visible remains of the dock.
The old Roman family has left its traces also in Giglio Island where, near the port at the Saracen’s Cove, you can still see the walls of a cetaria, that is, a seaside pond where Romans bred moray eels, and part of another imposing Roman villa which once was part of the town. As we head south, the small promontory of Ansedonia is worth visiting. From here you can see the “Tagliata”, an Etruscan hydraulics work (also known as the Queen’s Gap) and the ancient city of Cosa which is, after Roselle, the most important archeological site in the province of Grosseto.
The Middle Ages
Although all that endures from Etruscan and Roman times are the archeological remains and finds housed in museums, the historical towns themselves become open air museums of the medieval time period. Capalbio is the most interesting example of this, thanks to its walls, which are intact and still walkable, that enclose the town made up of alleys and old homes. It has been so ever since Siena, which governed the area, and later on the Medici, the great Tuscan nobles, resided in the town. The Palazzo Collacchioni, in the main square, is worth visiting. Here you can see the fortepiano on which Giacomo Puccini, who greatly loved this land, composed some parts of Turandot. If from the palazzo you continue on up to the tower which dominates the town, you will be treated to one of the loveliest panoramas in Costa d’Argento, with a view that ranges from the red roofs of the houses, the wonderful shades of the fields to the intense azure of the sea.
The powerful Aldobrandeschi family, undisputed lords of the area, remained in Magliano in Toscana until the fourteenth century; they are responsible for the imposing surrounding walls (which were subsequently restored), the palazzo and the churches which still exist in the town. The Parish of San Martino is especially outstanding. Built in the Romanesque/Gothic style, with interesting frescoes within dating to the XV and XVI centuries, during the tourist season it is the headquarters for cultural events and concerts. The main church of Saint John the Baptist, also built during medieval times, underwent Baroque remodeling and is located in the main square. The Church of the S.ma Annunziata, dating to the fifteenth century, and the ruins of the San Bruzio monastery, both located outside the walls, are worth visiting.
The Giglio Island also boasts its share of medieval history; the town of Giglio Castello, situated in the upper part of the island, is the work of the Aldobrandeschi family who enlarged a former old fortification. It is a small, fascinating network of small streets, old buildings and imposing walls towering over the Albobrandesca Stronghold, also known as the Pisana Stronghold.
The State of Garrisons
The State of Garrisons was instituted in 1557, when the Spaniards transformed the lower Maremma area into a strategic military outpost. Due to its location on the coast, it was ideal for keeping an eye on the smuggling and forays carried out by pirates in the Tyrrhenian Sea. We still find traces of the State of Garrisons today in the surnames, historical traditions and, particularly, in the towers and forts which dot the entire area overlooking the sea. Unfortunately some of them are only ruins while others have been privatized. The Spanish Stronghold in Porto Santo Stefano, the Stella Fort and the Stronghold in Porto Ercole are worth visiting, while a pleasant walk in the promontory leads to the Argentiera Tower.
The coloured glass and parts of the Tarocchi Garden by Niki de Saint Phalle represent modern art in the Costa d’Argento. An itinerary to discover mysteries small and great within a magical realm which the world-famous artist, who died in 2002, recreated in a village green in the town of Capalbio. A renowned tourist destination, the Tarocchi Garden is created to captivate both young and old, a perfect example of how accessible and tangible modern art can be. Despite the fact that they lie outside the above-mentioned historical periods, these two small museums represent two important aspects of the territory and surely merit a visit: the Maestri d’Ascia Exhibit, on the second floor of the Spanish stronghold in Porto Stefano and the Museum of Peasant Civilization in Albinia, in the town of Orbetello.