CASTIGLIONE DELLA PESCAIA
Castiglione della Pescaia is a beautiful sea town in Grosseto’s province, as well as the traditionally best-equipped and most renowned sea resorts in the High Maremma shoreline.
In 2005 the town was awarded by the Legambiente and the Touring Club as the finest bathing town in Italy, due to its exceptional unspoiled beaches and seawater and to its well-preserved municipality, fitting with a large and good selection of lodgings, parking areas, restaurants, bars, coffee-shops, fashionable shopping centres, nautical sport facilities and music and dancing nightspots.
Castiglione della Pescaia covers an area of almost 209 square kilometres running from the coastal hills to the north of the Grosseto plain.
The town, with amazing views of the Elba and Giglio islands, is divided in two districts: the High Town, a medieval citadel perched on the top of a promontory of Mount Petriccio and expanding around an imposing 15th castle, and the most modern Low Town, rising along the seacoast.
The medieval centre preserves almost intact the features it had in the past. It is surrounded by thick defensive walls with turrets and eleven towers and three massive gates to go into the town where the superb Aragona Castle is standing at the top, overlooking the unchanged citadel and the fascinating Maremma landscape.
The urban planning of the scenic citadel, full of activity the whole year, consists of winding stone streets lined with pretty ancient edifices, covered passages and enchanting squares.
It is believed that the first settlements set up in the immediacy of Castiglione della Pescaia come from the 9th century BC, when the Etruscans were still constructing Vetulonia, one of their most imposing towns in the former Etruria. Those settlements were probably stood in front of the mouth of the Prile Lake, in the former marshy area located backwards the present town. When the Romans conquered the zone, they gave it the name of “Paduline”, while the lake received the name of “Prilis Lacus” and, subsequently, its name was changed into “Porto Traianus”. The Romans started to build a village, to set up fisheries on the banks of the lake, as well as a salt industry. So, the village, known as Salebrone, went into a commercial and military site thanks to its proximity to the Via Aurelia. Later, that Roman mercantile spot received the name of “pescais” from which “pescaia” derivates.
In the year 814 the Holy Roman Emperor Louis I granted Castiglione della Pescaia and its area to the Abbadia di Sant’Antimo. The monks administrated the area until the second half of the 10th century, in spite of the continuous skirmish between their troops and the league of the Lambardi di Buriano, who got hold of the village with the support of the Saxon Archbishop Rainald of Dassel, and even if the Holy Roman German Emperor Otto I had already conceded to the Republic of Pisa the dominion over the shoreline going from Porto Ercole to the outlet of the Arno River. The first huge tower built in Castiglione on a sloping ground comes back from that epoch.
In the meanwhile, the Marine Republic of Pisa had reaffirmed its power over the territory and at the end of the XII century their control over the citadel was consolidated.
Pisa entrusted the administration of Castiglione to some branches of aristocratic families: della Gherardesca, the Gualandi and the Lanfranchi, who were faithfully tied to the Republic.
In 1404 Florence got hold of the town with the agreement of the citizens. In 1447 Castiglione della Pescaia was conquered by Alphonse V of Aragon, King of Spain, and King of Naples, since 1442, with the name of Alphonse I. The town stayed under the Aragonese dominion until 1460, when it was sold to Antonio Todeschini Piccolomini d’Aragona, Duke of Amalfi, becoming also Lord of Castiglione della Pescaia. A few years later he granted the fief to his brother Andrea. Castiglione remained under his power until it was occupied by the mercenary troops hired by the French-Turquish Alliance.
When the Republic of Siena had been conquered by the Kingdom of Spain and its territorial possessions were granted to Florence (1557) by King Philip II, Castiglione was purchased, in 1559, by Leonor Álvarez de Toledo, daughter of the preceding viceroy of Naples and wife of Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Florence. In 1562, when she died, the town was integrated in the Duchy of Florence and, therefore, in 1569, in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
In the last decades of the 18th century, when the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was ruled by the Habsburg-Lorena dynasty, a series of important works in the area of Castiglione della Pescaia were started in order to redevelop the agriculture and the communications in the zone. Besides setting up roads, bridges and aqueducts, the ancient and large Lake Prile, almost dried up in the age, was transformed in a big marsh land, which nowadays, after being properly dried, constitutes the wonderful nature reserve of Daccia Botrona. This protected area is believed one of the most remarkable habitats in Italy with an exceptional ecosystem worldwide appreciated.
The municipal area of Castiglione della Pescaia extends to the pretty small towns of Tirli, Buriano, Vetulonia and Punta Ala, located at a short distance from Castiglione.
Tirli is an enchanting ancient village where the rural traditional High Maremma’s culture remains intact, as well as its remarkable gastronomy.
Buriano, with its marvellous views over the High Maremma countryside, has an imposing medieval fortress.
Vetulonia is considered one of the main twelve Etruscan towns in Italy. The Etruscan civilization arrived there around the 10th century B.C. and lasted until the 1st B.C., when the town was conquered by the Romans. The town preserves stunning remains of its defensive walls, temples and necropolis. The most valued archaeological findings in the town and in the surroundings are currently hosted in the high interesting “Isidoro Falchi” Archaeological Museum.
Punta Ala is a small and fashionable sea resort provided with excellent tourist facilities and with an ample and fully-equipped port.
Where to eat:
Ristorante “Pierbacco” (Piazza della Repubblica, 24). It is a beautiful restaurant offering some superb fish dishes. The antipasti and the home made pasta with seafood are not to be missed. Wine list is excellent. A full meal is over 50 €.
Ristorante “La Fortezza” (Via del Recinto, 1/3). It is a lovely restaurant located close to one of the ancient entrance gates to the High Town. The restaurant has a charming terrace for meals in season. It offers a delicious selection of local marine specialties, like the fettuccine with lobster. Wine list is very good. A full meal is around 40/50 €.
Ristorante - Pizzeria “La Scaletta” (Via Montebello, 1). It is busy popular both restaurant and pizzeria with an enchanting gardened terrace for meals in season. Its specialties run from tasty grilled meat and fish to delicious pasta dishes and a very good variety of pizzas. Wine list is based on good Maremma’s wines. A full meal is about 35/45 €.
Pizzeria “Il Vecchio Frantoio” (Via della Chiesa, Tirli). It is a well-known spaghetteria and pizzeria located in the neighbouring medieval village of Tirli, with some outstanding views over the fields, the surrounding hills and the sea. Cold meats, Maremma’s cheeses and pizzas are absolutely great. Local wines are genuine and very good. A full meal is around 25/35 €.
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