Bibbona, from the Etruscans to seaside tourism
Bibbona is a municipality in the province of Livorno located in a beautiful area that extends from the slopes of the Colline Metallifere to the sea. It is a very varied environment in which wooded areas and open countryside areas alternate, accompanying us on the journey between the historic center and the coast. Here we find Marina di Bibbona, one of the best known seaside resorts on the entire Etruscan Coast.
The origins of Bibbona are indeed very ancient. In the area, finds dating back to the Lower Paleolithic and numerous testimonies of the Etruscan presence have been found. Among these there are some bronzes, including a famous statuette depicting a goat, which are now preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Florence. It also seems that the toponym comes from a name of Etruscan origin which later changed over the centuries to become “Bibbona”.
In a rapid leap from antiquity to the Middle Ages, we find Bibbona and its castle among the possessions of the Counts of Gherardesca before entering the orbit of the Republic of Pisa which exercised its dominion over these lands until 1406, when it was annexed by Florence.
The eighteenth century was a very important century for Bibbona because major reclamation works were started first by the marquis Carlo Ginori and then by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. Completed around the middle of the 19th century, these reclamations made many areas of the Pisan Maremma habitable and cultivable, thus guaranteeing better living conditions for the inhabitants of the area.
The development as a holiday resort dates back to the 70s of the twentieth century when several campsites, residences and marine colonies were built to accommodate tourists.
What to see in Bibbona
Although many know Bibbona as a seaside resort, we must not neglect its historic center where we find characteristics common to many other Tuscan medieval villages. The inhabited area develops following the perimeter of the ancient castle and houses some buildings of considerable interest such as the Pieve di Sant’Ilario, the Palazzo del Comune Vecchio, the Chiesa di San Giuseppe, Palazzo Gardini and the Rocca while the Fonte di Bacco and the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pietà are located just outside the walls.
Pieve di Sant’Ilario
The Pieve di Sant’Ilario is located in the heart of the historic center of Bibbona in Piazza XX Settembre. The church is characterized by a bizarre trapezium-shaped plan which is due to a fifteenth-century expansion which added a second nave on the left side of the main one. The original core is in Romanesque forms and dates back to the 12th century. The facade and the right side of the church date back to this period while the portal is a reconstruction.
Inside you can admire a sixteenth-century ciborium, two marble stoups (XIV and XVI century) and the painting Madonna del Rosario (16th century).
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pietà
Located just outside the entrance of the village, the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pietà is a fine example of Renaissance architecture characterized by a Greek cross plan with a central dome that stands above a small drum. This church was built at the end of the fifteenth century according to the plan of Vittorio Ghiberti and Ranieri da Tripalle.
On the lintels of the three entrance portals you can read epigraphs in Latin that read respectively: “Terribilis est locus iste ets” (Terrible is this place), “Hanc est domus Dei porta Coeli ets” (This is the house of God and the door of Heaven) and “Domus est pietatis et gratiae ets” (This is the house of piety and grace).
Inside we find a tabernacle painted with Saints Bernardo, Paolo, Tommaso and Stefano and a tempera tablet with the image of the Pietà (14th century) positioned on the main altar and a Trinity attributed to Cesare Dandini.
Fonte di Bacco
The Fonte di Bacco is a beautiful fountain located just outside the walls of the castle near the town hall. The structure is made up of two parts: an upper part the so-called “Arco di Bacco” and a lower part with the sink and the drinking trough where the water from the upper part once flowed. The Arco di Bacco has different decorations: in the keystone we find a stem ending in a cross reminiscent of that of the Maritime Republic of Pisa, while the Florentine lily is depicted inside.
Thing to do around Bibbona
Macchia della Magona
Bibbona is a place capable of bringing together the most diverse interests and even nature lovers will appreciate this location thanks to the presence of the Macchia della Magona protected natural area. This large forest, over 1600 hectares, is very rich in plant species typical of the Mediterranean scrub, native animals and even migratory birds. Inside there are several perfect itineraries for hiking, mountain biking and even horseback riding.
Marina di Bibbona
The time has finally come to move to the sea to reach Marina di Bibbona. Developed around a fort built by the Lorraines around the mid-eighteenth century, the city has established itself as one of the main seaside resorts in the area since the last decades of the twentieth century. The mild climate, the long sandy beaches and the large pine forest have made Marina di Bibbona an ideal place for a relaxing and fun holiday also suitable for families with children.
Now a curiosity: have you ever heard of California? No, I’m not talking about the state on the west coast of the USA but about La California, the small village near Bibbona. The name comes from a story of a lucky emigration. A resident of the area, after emigrating to California, returned to live here with the money he had earned in the States and built a farm that he called “La California”. Over time that name was also adopted by the rest of the village so now we have a little bit of California in Tuscany!
Bibbona is also a good starting point to reach many other interesting places scattered along the Etruscan Coast. There are Castagneto Carducci where you can visit the home of the great poet Giosuè Carducci; Bolgheri with its famous tree-lined avenue and its prized wine; Campiglia Marittima and Populonia for a holiday dedicated to archeology; medieval villages such as Sassetta and Suvereto and also Piombino with the beautiful Piazza Bovio.
How to get to Bibbona
Bibbona is located about 45 kilometers from Livorno. To reach the village there are several viable options.
Public transport: since Bibbona is not served directly by the railway, you will have to arrive by train to Cecina and then take a bus.
By car: coming from the north you will have to take the A12 motorway heading south and exit at Rosignano Marittimo. From there, follow the direction of Rome and continue on the Aurelia Variant SS 1 to the La California – Cecina Sud exit; finally turn onto SP 39 in the direction of Bibbona. Motorway A12 is also for those coming from the south, then SS 1 in the direction of Grosseto with exit towards La California-Cecina Sud; usual turn on SP 39 towards Bibbona.