Visit Pomarance in Tuscany

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Pomarance in the province of Pisa

Pomarance is a town in the upper Val di Cecina located on the border between the province of Pisa (of which it belongs) and the province of Siena. The town is located in a hilly area, crossed by the Cecina river, in the so-called “Valle del Diavolo” (Devil’s Valley). This part of Tuscany is in fact known above all for the presence of large sources of geothermal energy, which give life to the phenomenon of geysers. It seems that this very suggestive phenomenon has struck Dante Alighieri who was inspired by this valley when he conceived his Inferno.

Once known as “Ripomarancia”, the village was long disputed by the bishop and the Municipality of Volterra. In 1472 it passed under the control of Florence but after just a century, it obtained the right to elect its own magistrates autonomously and towards the end of the 18th century it became an autonomous municipality. In 1818, the engineer Francesco Giacomo Larderel began work on the construction of the first plant in the world for the extraction of boric acid from geothermal steam. This event marked the birth of geothermal industry. The world cradle of geothermal energy now known as Larderello was named after him.

What to see in Pomarance

Pomarance is not just renewable energy and cutting-edge technologies. The hamlet has well preserved its medieval layout as well as some villages that are nearby. There are many things to see and do here, in the historic center are the Pieve di San Giovanni Battista, the Palazzo Comunale, the Museo Casa Bicocchi and some historic buildings such as that of the de Larderel family.

Pieve di San Giovanni Battista

The Pieve di San Giovanni Battista has medieval origins and stands on an ancient Etruscan necropolis. In the nineteenth century the building was profoundly remodeled and today very little remains of the original forms like the blind arches on the facade. The interior, with three naves, was frescoed in 1837 by Luigi Ademollo with a cycle of Scenes from the life of Christ. In the church you can also admire the Annunciation by Pomarancio and a Madonna and Saints by Vincenzo Tamagni.

Pieve di San Giovanni Battista in Pomarance
Pieve di San Giovanni Battista (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

Casa Bicocchi

The Museo Casa Bicocchi in Pontedera is an interesting dive into the past. The palace, perfectly preserved, with all the furnishings and objects, offers an overview of what the prestigious houses of the nineteenth century were like. Among the environments that can be visited there are some rooms, the kitchen, the dining room, the library, the chapel and the lounge for music. The rooms are very refined and embellished with magnificent frescoes. From Palazzo Bicocchi you pass to the historic halls of Palazzo Ricci where the Mostra permanente Guerrieri e Artigiani is set up. The exhibition collects numerous archaeological finds from the territory of Pomarance documenting a long time span from the Paleolithic to the Renaissance.

Things to do around Pomarance

  • Rocca Sillana
  • Hamlets to visit
  • Museo della Geotermia
  • Natural reserves
  • Masso delle Fanciulle

Rocca Sillana

The mighty Rocca Sillana dominates the Val di Cecina and the whole geothermal area from the top of an impervious hill (530 meters above sea level). There are various hypotheses on the origin of the name “Sillana”. The best known, but almost certainly without foundation, brings up the civil war between Mario and Silla which took place between 83 and 82 BC. According to this hypothesis, the fortress dates back to Roman times but in reality the construction of this complex dates back to the 12th century and the origin of the name could derive either from the Etruscan name “Sillano” or from “Silvanus” which refers to fact that this area is rich in woods.

Over the centuries, the fortress has been controlled by the bishops and then by the municipality of Volterra and finally by Florence. Renovated several times to cope with the evolution of military technology, the fortress was redesigned in its current form by the architect Giuliano da San Gallo in the 15th century. The complex is enclosed within solid walls with a polygonal plan with corner turrets. In the center stands a square tower which has partly collapsed. If you are looking for a truly phenomenal panoramic point of view, you cannot miss the Rocca Sillana.

Rocca Sillana
Rocca Sillana (Photo by LaraGiovani / CC BY)

Hamlets to visit near Pomarance

In the municipal area of Pomarance there are some very nice small historic villages. Libbiano is a beautiful village where a castle once stood, the main monument is the church of Santi Simone e Giuda which dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. Montecerboli is the true birthplace of the activities related to geothermal energy in Val di Cecina. Here in 1818 the first plant for the extraction of boric acid was built. The town is worth a visit also and above all because it has preserved its oldest nucleus very well. Montegemoli is famous for its bread known (in fact) as “pane di Montegemoli”; the most interesting things to see are the Church of San Bartolomeo and the round tower which bears witness to the past of this center.

Museo della Geotermia

The Museo della Geotermia in Larderello offers visitors a complete path to discover the world of geothermal, from its origins to the most modern technologies. The visit begins with a room dedicated to renewable energy and Enel Green Power’s activities. From there the museum itinerary continues backwards, returning to the dawn of geothermal energy, to the thermal baths of the Etruscan and Roman times, in particular in the cities of Volterra and Populonia. In the following rooms the birth of modern geothermal energy is addressed with the discovery of boric acid in the Cerchiaio lagoon of Monterotondo Marittimo and the beginning of chemical activity by Francesco De Larderel. The last rooms are dedicated to today’s geothermal industry. The museum uses cutting-edge technologies (and it could not be otherwise) and has multimedia spaces of great impact such as the 3D reconstruction of the center of the earth.

Natural reserves

The Riserva Naturale di Monterufoli-Caselli extends for over 4000 hectares between the municipalities of Pomarance, Monteverdi Marittimo and Montecatini Val di Cecina. Established in 1995, this protected area is characterized by peculiar geological phenomena which have a great mineral and mineralogical wealth. In the reserve you can spot numerous animal species including roe deer, fallow deer, wild boar, wolves and mouflons.

On the other side of the municipality of Pomarance we find the Riserva Naturale di Berignone. Characterized by dense woods crossed by various tributaries of the Cecina river, the reserve is spread over an area of just over 2000 hectares. Inside the reserve there are also the natural pools at the Masso delle Fanciulle and the Masso degli Specchi.

Masso delle Fanciulle

The Masso delle Fanciulle is located in a bathing stretch of the Cecina river that flows in a green valley between the towns of Pomarance and Volterra. Ideal for a restorative and above all refreshing bath during the summer, the Masso delle Fanciulle offers crystal clear waters in a naturalistic context made of luxuriant woods. Along the course of the water there are various points where to spread the towel, several waterfalls and points where to dive.

How to get to Pomarance

Pomarance is located about 85km from Pisa and 100km from Florence. The nearest railway station is that of Volterra-Saline-Pomarance which is connected to Pisa by regional trains with a stop in Cecina. Buses leave not far from the station for Pomarance.

By car from Pisa you have to take the Fi-Pi-Li towards Florence until the Pontedera-Ponsacco exit; from there continue on the SS439 towards Volterra-Pomarance. From Firenze Fi-Pi-Li in the direction of Pisa up to Pontedera-Ponsacco and then SS439 or Firenze-Siena to the Colle Val d’Elsa sud exit and then SP542 up to the deviation for Pomarance.

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