Grosetto is the main city in the Maremma territory, as well as the capital of the province after its name. Grosetto lies at 15 kilometres from the most beautiful lengths of the Tyrrhenian coastline, at the centre of a plain in the proximity of the mouth of the Ombrone River.
The province consists in 26 municipalities expanding from the Monte Amiata, the south side of the Colline Metallifere (Metalliferous Hills) to the border line of the Maremma plain with the Lazio region.
Though the city was one of the main Etruscan sites in the territory as the numerous finds and remains currently visible in the city and in its area are giving evidence, its first historical records come back from 803, when the town and the whole area was a county administrated by the powerful Aldobrandeschi family, to whom the Church of San Giorgio and other valued properties connected to that Church were given over.
In 935, when the prosperous neighbouring town of Roselle was razed by the Saracen pirates -which later than the end of the Roman Empire kept on being the main centre of the area - Grosseto began gradually to increase, becoming the first city of the county and preserving that position until the fall of the Aldobrandeschi dynasty, which occurred in the mid of the 13th century.
In 1137 the town was besieged by the troops of the Lothair III, Holy Roman Emperor, conducted by the Duke Enrich X of Bavaria, in order to establish the authority of the empire over the county. The town wasn’t conquered, but in 1138 Pope Innocent II tried to bring the extremely independent Grosseto nearer to the political interests of both the Church and the Holy Roman Empire by conferring it the status of Episcopal site, which formerly Roselle had held. It is necessary to bear in mind that Pope Innocent II had been supported by Lothair III to occupy the papacy after the double papal election on February 1130, when both Innocent II and Anacletus II were elected popes originating a schism which lasted until January 1138, when Anacletus II died.
At the beginning of the 12th century Grosseto had ratified an agreement with Siena in order to divide with it the commercial rights over the salt mines in the territory. In 1151 the agreement developed into an oath of allegiance to Siena, but in the second decade of the 13th century, when the town was still administrated by the Aldobrandeschi, the citizens received from that dynasty the right to vote, consisting in the election of a podestà, a court composed of three members and the corresponding consuls, so that the Grossetani abjured from their loyalty to Siena. After a series of more or less peaceful attempts to come to an understanding, in 1244 the Republic of Siena sent to Grosseto an army arranged by 3,000 men who conquered the town, which was subsequently changed into an impregnable citadel. Nevertheless, the brave town tried in vain quite a few times to recoup its independence. The dominion of Siena over Grosseto endured until 1559, when the entire area was given over to Florence by the Kingdom of Spain. The Duchy of Florence was ruled in the age by Cosimo I de Medici, who was related by marriage to the Spanish grandee. The Medici dynasty brought to Grosseto and to its geographic area a notable social and economic progress, which started with the dryieng of the surrounding marsh plain, the construction of inland waterways, public buildings and artistic monuments, as well as developing the medieval defensive walls into the imposing Medicean city walls, which represent one of the most admirable architectonical works in the town. In the first decades of the 19th century they were adapted in public avenues and gardens.
In the 18th century, when the Habsburg Lorraine dynasty took charge of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Grosseto became and independent province and the town was designated its capital city. The town and the whole province saw a long period of affluence, taking on a steady growth from the last decades of the 19th century.
In spite of the serious damages caused by WWII in Grosseto, it still preserves an interesting historical centre where the age-old representative buildings have been restored or even completely reconstructed.
- Main sights to visit in Grosseto:
- The Cathedral of San Lorenzo (Piazza Dante). The magnificent 13th Romanesque Cathedral is entitled to the patron saint of the town. Its construction is attributed to the Sienese architect Sozo di Pace Rustichini, who erected the Cathedral on the site of the former Church of Santa Maria dell’Assunta, the main church in the town in the old-age.
The façade, which was restored in the first half of the 19th century, is featured by an alternation of white and red marble stripes; three wooden carved entrance doors depicting scenes from the life of Jesus and the Evangelist; a beautiful loggia in the last level with gothic arches supported on slim columns with capitals. The façade is crowned by an enormous rose stained glass window placed in the centre of the apse.
The indoors is arranged by a Latin cross nave separated by large arches supported on solid pillars dividing the nave into three aisles. The central one finishes in the semicircular apse. The splendid stained glass sided windows from the 15th century keep the Cathedral into an enchanting daylight ambience. The most important artworks there hosted are: the wonderful baptismal font and the altar of the “Madonna delle Grazie” (a fervent name which was given in the Middle Ages to the miraculous Assumption Virgin), both of them carved by the Tuscan artist Antonio di Paolo Ghini, between 1470 and 1474, and the marvellous panel of the “Madonna delle Grazie” painted by Giovanni di Matteo around 1470, which is enclosed in a marble aedicula from the 15th century, also carved by Ghini, placed over an outstanding altar devoted to the Virgin built in 1704 by the Senese sculptor Giovanni Antonio Mazzuoli. The artworks devoted to the “Madonna delle Grazie” are placed in the Chapel after her name located on the left aisle.
The high bell-tower in Sienese style was added in the first decade of the 14th century. It was completely restored in 1911.
- The Museo Civico Archeologico e d’Arte della Maremma (Piazza Baccarini, 3). It is the most prestigious archaeological museum in Southern Tuscany. It preserves one of the best collections in Italy of Etruscan art. The museum is divided into four main sections. The bigger one includes the Etruscan findings, while the others respectively house a series of vestiges from the prehistoric settlements in Maremma, numerous Roman statues and artefacts, as well as an interesting art collection from the Middle Ages, from which make stand out the panels painted by such as prestigious artists of the Scuola di Siena as Segna di Bonaventura (active from 1298 ca. to 1331) Donato Martini (brother of the most famous Simone, active from 1290 ca. to 1340 ca.) and “Il Sassetta” (nickname of Stefano di Giovanni, 1392 – 1451).
- The Medicean walls. In 1565 Cosimo I de Medici commissioned from the eminent architect Baldassare Lanci da Urbino (1510 ca.- 1571) the design of a new line of fortified walls, in order to replace the medieval ones and make the town a stronghold able to defend the southern border of Tuscany in the event of war. The work lasted until 1593 and was conducted by Marino Lanci, son of Baldassare. The imposing city walls overlooking the historical centre of Grosseto are believed a masterpiece of the Rennaisance military architecture. They consist in a hexagonal circuit with a five-sided bastion on each angle, which were principally used as outlooks. The huge Cassero Senese, the fortress built in 1344 when the town was dominated by the Republic of Siena, stands to the northeast of the walls and was included within them in the 16th century.
- Where to eat: Grosseto is proud of having some of the best restaurants in the area offering the tasteful and genuine specialties of the Maremma territory. Among them we suggest you:
- “Canapone”(Piazza Dante, 3). This is one of the most noted restaurants in Grosseto. Its exquisite cuisine is specialised in the traditional dishes from the Maremma coastline prepared with the best fresh fish. Wine list is excellent.
A full meal per person is about 40/50 €.
- “Il Canto del Gallo” (Via Mazzini, 29). Is a small friendly charming restaurant with a succulent traditional inner Maremma cuisine. It specialties are the “acquacotta”, a long variety of chicken dishes, cold cuts and white and red meats. Local wines are very good.
A full meal per person is about 25/35 €.
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