Grosseto, the capital of the Maremma
Among the provincial capitals of Tuscany, Grosseto is not the most famous for tourism. This city certainly does not have the appeal of the great art cities like Florence and Siena, however, as you will see in this guide there are many reasons to visit it. The small historic center of Grosseto, enclosed within the Medici walls, houses various architectural treasures and some interesting museums. Grosseto is located in the middle of the Maremma in an excellent position both to reach the sea which is just 12 kilometers away, and to visit the surrounding hills on which some of the most beautiful villages in the region stand.
Things to see in Grosseto
- Chiesa di San Francesco
- Museo archeologico e d’arte della Maremma
- Museo d’arte sacra della diocesi di Grosseto
- Polo Culturale Le Clarisse
- Chiesa di San Pietro
- Piazza Dante Alighieri
- Museo di storia naturale della Maremma
- Walls of Grosseto
- Cassero Senese
Chiesa di San Francesco
We begin the tour in the historic center of Grosseto with the church of San Francesco overlooking the homonymous square of San Francesco. Originally the church was dedicated to San Fortunato but, during the thirteenth century, it was ceded by the Benedictine monks to the Franciscans who named it after the saint of Assisi. Over the centuries, the church has undergone several restorations and even substantial changes. In the seventeenth century the side chapel dedicated to Sant’Antonio was added, while the bell tower was rebuilt in 1926.
The building has a sober gabled façade opened by the portal, enriched by a lunette with a fresco by Giuseppe Canucci, Madonna and Child between Saints Francesco and Fortunato. Above there are a tabernacle that protects the portal and a rose window. The interior, with one nave, is in the Franciscan Gothic style. Here you can admire a famous crucifix on wood (dated around 1285) of uncertain attribution (among the hypotheses Duccio di Buoninsegna, the Master of Badia a Isola and Guido di Graziano). In the chapel of Sant’Antonio there are frescoes of excellent workmanship made by Antonio and Francesco Nasini. Finally, along the left side of the church, there is the cloister of the Franciscan convent with the so-called Pozzo della Bufala in the center.
Museo archeologico e d’arte della Maremma
The Museo archeologico e d’arte della Maremma is located in Piazza Baccarini 3, in the building that was once the court. The exhibition is divided into five sections for a total of 40 rooms. The museum traces the history of the Maremma from prehistoric times to the modern age through many archaeological remains and works of art.
The first section is dedicated to the collection of the Giovanni Chelli, who founded the museum in 1860. Here we find Etruscan ceramics and cinerary urns mostly from Volterra and Chiusi. The most important piece in this room is a bucchero bowl from the 6th century BC. on which the Etruscan alphabet is engraved.
Rooms 2 to 12 house the second section which is entirely dedicated to the ancient city of Roselle. The path of this section follows a chronological criterion that goes from the origins of the settlement to the last evidence of the late imperial and medieval era.
The third section (rooms 13-23) is dedicated to the archeology of the Maremma. This section is a real journey through time that goes from prehistoric times to the end of the Roman Empire. The exhibits come from various areas of southern Tuscany, from Monte Amiata to the Island of Giglio passing through Vetulonia and Castiglione della Pescaia.
I pass directly to the fifth section (rooms 35-40) because in the fourth there is the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art which I will discuss later. These rooms are dedicated to medieval and modern Maremma with a focus on the city of Grosseto.
Museo d’arte sacra della diocesi di Grosseto
The Museo d’arte sacra della diocesi di Grosseto is part of the museum itinerary of the archaeological museum to which it was joined in 1975. The collection of sacred art occupies rooms 24 to 34 and starts from the collection of the founder of the Museum , Monsignor Antonio Cappelli, who had acquired several works especially from the Sienese school. In the museum the works are exhibited in chronological order from the 13th to the 19th century.
Among the most important works are the Final Judgment by Guido da Siena (13th century), Crucifixion with the Madonna, Saints Gerolamo, Andrea and Francesco and the donor Francesco Maria Piccolomini by Alessandro Casolani (1583) and the Madonna delle Ciliege by Sassetta (mid 15th century).
Polo Culturale Le Clarisse
The Polo Culturale Le Clarisse is located inside the former convent of Santa Chiara and is managed by the Fondazione Grosseto Cultura. 4 museum institutions are part of the complex: Museo Collezione Gianfranco Luzzetti, Clarisse Arte, Museolab and collezione etnografica Roberto Ferretti.
The Museo Collezione Gianfranco Luzzetti is a collection of paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo periods, with works by the artists Antonio Rossellino, Giambologna, Rutilio Manetti and Camillo Rusconi. Clarisse Arte is a space reserved for temporary exhibitions and a documentation center. The Muselab focuses on the history of the city and the surrounding area. The Collezione Etnografica Roberto Ferretti traces the history and studies of Roberto Ferretti who was an anthropologist born in Grosseto.
For more information, I leave you the official website.
Chiesa di San Pietro
Located on Corso Carducci, the main street of the historic center, the Church of San Pietro is the oldest in Grosseto. The first official documentation that mentions San Pietro is a bull of Pope Clement III of 1188 but in all probability the foundation of the church dates back to even to the eighth century. During the 11th century the church was rebuilt in its current form even if its appearance has been radically changed by some restorations dating back to the 17th century, a period to which the bell tower also dates back.
In the lower part of the facade there are four bas-reliefs depicting a palmette frieze, a running dog, San Leonardo, and an eagle. The semicircular apse is the element that more than any other preserves the Romanesque forms of the past. The interior, with one nave, preserves a wooden crucifix from the chapel of Santa Maria a Grancia.
The Cathedral of Grosseto is dedicated to the patron saint of the city San Lorenzo. The current church was built starting from 1294 on the spot where the Pieve di Santa Maria once stood. The works for the construction of the cathedral of San Lorenzo underwent some interruptions and were completed only during the fifteenth century (the bell tower for example dates back to 1402). The current appearance is the result of a series of alterations. In particular, in the sixteenth century both the interiors and the façade were extensively retouched. Further work was carried out on the façade also during the nineteenth century.
The facade has elements of Romanesque and Gothic inspiration. The dominant element is the two-color scheme consisting of the alternation of bands of white marble alternating with bands of red marble. The right side is the one that mostly follows the original design of the architect Sozzo Rustichini who had designed the church at the end of the 13th century. Here you can admire two Gothic mullioned windows and a remarkable access portal rich in sculptural decorations with anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and plant motifs.
The church has a Latin cross plan which was probably set up at the time of the sixteenth century works directed to the Sienese architect Anton Maria Lari. The interior, with three naves divided by pillars, re-proposes the theme of two-tone red white. Here are some interesting works such as the holy water stoup, a fifteenth-century wooden crucifix, perhaps the work of Vecchietta, the baptismal font and the altar of the Madonna delle Grazie made by Antonio Ghini and the painting Virgin with angels by Matteo di Giovanni.
Piazza Dante Alighieri
To the right of the Duomo and contiguous with its square is Piazza Dante Alighieri, the beating heart of the historic center of Grosseto. It is a very beautiful square occupied on two sides by pretty multicolored buildings at the base of which runs a portico. On the other two sides there are the Duomo and Palazzo Aldobrandeschi; in the center of the square there is a nineteenth-century statue portraying the Grand Duke Leopoldo II.
Also known as Palazzo della Provincia, Palazzo Aldobrandeschi is one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Grosseto. Built at the beginning of the twentieth century according to the project of the architect Lorenzo Porciatti, the building is in neo-gothic style of Sienese inspiration with evident references to the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena.
Museo di storia naturale della Maremma
The Museo di storia naturale della Maremma documents the Tuscan environment and is designed as a meeting place between the scientific community and the general public. Through the long exhibition and thanks to the educational activities proposed, the museum explores the issues related to natural habitats and the world of nature in general. The museum has three locations, the central one where there is the actual museum, located in Strada Corsini in Grosseto, the municipal aquarium and the Roselle astronomical observatory.
The museum is spread over three floors: on the ground floor there are the ticket office, the conference room and the library, while on the first and second floors there are the 12 rooms along which the exhibition itinerary develops. The first section of the museum is dedicated to earth sciences. The two main rooms of this section are dedicated to minerals and rocks, with many finds from the Grosseto Maremma, the Amiata and the Metalliferous Hills, and to paleontology. The second section focuses on life sciences with a room dedicated to coastal and hilly environments and one dedicated to high-hilly and mountain environments.
For all information on timetables, tickets and events organized by the museum, I refer you to the official Official website.
Walls of Grosseto
The walls of Grosseto are among the best preserved city walls in Italy. The first wall circuit with which Grosseto was equipped dates back to the period of the foundation of the city, 12th century, but over time it was continually modified and strengthened.
Subsequently, when Grosseto became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (16th century), the walls were rebuilt and modernized by the will of the Grand Duke Francesco I de’ Medici. In this circumstance the walls were equipped with six corner bastions one of which, on the east side, is occupied by the fortress that incorporated the ancient Cassero Senese which is the main testimony of the medieval fortifications of Grosseto together with the Porta Vecchia.
A further modification took place in the nineteenth century when the walls, now without a real military function, were readapted in order to accommodate avenues and public gardens. Today it is possible to walk along the entire route which measures just under three kilometers.
The Cassero Senese, also called Fortezza, was built in the central years of the 14th century. The keep is placed above the bastione fortezza, on the eastern side of the city walls. The structure looks like a solid and squat tower with a rectangular base with walls covered with travertine. The covered terrace located in the upper part dates back to the sixteenth century. Once the defensive function ceased, the keep was used as the headquarters of the military district and then abandoned; it was only at the end of the 70s of the twentieth century that the structure was renovated and redeveloped. Today the Cassero Senese is used as a venue for temporary exhibitions.