What to see in Montemerano, a jewel of Maremma
Montemerano, one of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy
Montemerano is a typical medieval hamlet, one of the most beautiful and well preserved in Maremma and Tuscany. Located near Manciano in province of Grosseto, Montemerano is considered one of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy and when you’ll visit it, you’ll understand why. This hamlet has well preserved within the walls its alleys and squares able to give numerous picturesque views. Montemerano stands with its distinctive heart shaped plant on a hill surrounded by olive and cypress trees.
According to tradition, the origin of the name Montemerano come from the roman consul Marius, defeated by Sulla during the roman civil war in 88-82 before Christ.The documents start to mention Montemerano since the 9th century when its castle was a property of the Abbey of San Salvatore. During the Middle Ages many has dominated the hamlet as the Aldobrandeschi, the Baschi and the city of Siena.
Over the centuries Montemerano was provided by three city walls: the most ancient enclosed only the castle, the higher part of the village; the second one, made by Siena, protect also the district around the fortress; the last one completed the defences including also the chiesa di San Giorgio.
What to do and what to see in Montemerano
You can get inside Montemerano from north crossing the Porta Grossetana and from south through the Porta del Ponte; near the northern city gate there is a large parking lot and you can start your visit from there. Crossing the Porta Grossetana, we get to piazza della Chiesa; here, on the left, we find the extraordinary romanesque chiesa di San Giorgio.
Chiesa di San Giorgio
Known since 1382 but expanded and re-consecrated in the 15th century, the chiesa di San Giorgio is one of the most important romanesque monuments of the entire Maremma. Inside there are art works from the fifteenth century until the 18th century, from the Gothic to the Baroque and Rococo. Among the most importante works there are the frescoes of the transept and the chancel (14th-15th centuries), the polyptich Madonna in trono col Bambino e santi by Sano di Pietro (1458), the assunzione di Maria (1460), the wooden statue of San Pietro (1450) by Vecchietta and last but not least the famous Madonna della Gattaiola by the Maestro di Montemerano. The name Madonna della Gattaiola come from the hole created in the bottom of this 15th century Annunciation. According to tradition, this hole was made to allow cats to pass (in italian gatto means cat and gattaiola is a passage for cats). It seems that at one time this board was a door, and that opening for cats has been created by a priest who wanted to get rid of mice.
During the visit, we can’t give up a walk to discover the secrets of Montemerano. I suggest to walk randomly and to get lost in these narrow streets, looking for the most beautiful views between the stone houses, arches, squares, climbs and descents. From the main road, via Italia in Montemerano, you can take one of the streets on the right that lead to some graceful tiny squares, as piazza del Ritiro and piazza San Martino; or you can take the climb on the left, to get to the centre of the hamlet: piazza del Castello.
The square perfectly captures the essence of the village: a timeless place where peace reigns supreme among beautiful medieval buildings. We are in front of one of the most beutiful examples of medieval city planning; one of the buildings, on the right, if the arch is behind you, is the palace belonged to Aldobrandeschi at first, then to Baschi and finally to Siena, behind it you can see an high tower once part of the castle.
Just few steps from piazza del Castello, to get to the last two squares completing the centre of Montemerano: piazza del Forno and piazza del Campanile where is the bell tower of the ancient pieve di San Lorenzo (1188) at which place today there’s a theater.
Coming back, you can decide to take via Italia, cross the Porta del Ponte and circumnavigate the entire city centre, or you can pass through “la Buca“, a passage created into the walls during the Granducato di Toscana.