Follonica, the magnificent city of “iron” and its surrounding

July 7, 2021 | By

Follonica is an Italian town of 21.047 inhabitants in the province of Grosseto in Tuscany. It is in the territory of the Grosseto Metalliferous Hills, in the center of the homonymous gulf.

Follonica

The particular mild climate of Follonica, due to its “unique” territorial conformation, invites you to visit the area in all seasons. The area is rich in history and food and wine traditions, nature is overwhelming and the beaches, interspersed with rocky promontories, invite you to take long walks even in winter. You can have unique experiences by visiting this territory of the Tuscan Maremma, between the provinces of Grosseto and that of Livorno, still largely unexplored.

As an inhabited center, Follonica is certainly young, its date of birth in fact coincides with the construction of the Royal and Imperial Foundries commissioned by Leopoldo II of Tuscany in 1834. But as a locality and landing point, Follonica is mentioned for the first time in 1038 in a deed of land donation to the abbey of Sestinga, a religious center near Vetulonia, owner of a large part of the Upper Maremma.

In 1399, the area of ​​the current inhabited center became part of the Lordship of Piombino, following its events until 1815. In the 70s of the 15th century, Iacopo III Appiani rebuilt and enlarged the old coastal tower. In the first half of the 16th century, Iacopo VI Appiani set up metalliferous foundries here, having a pier built.

Throughout the medieval and modern times, it will always remain a small coastal village devoid of walled fortifications, except for the first mentioned watchtower.

The history of Follonica is above all linked, in ancient times, to that of the Castello di Valli, whose ruins still stand north of the city on a hill overlooking the Gulf and whose first historical trace dates back to 884: it is undoubtedly the only inhabited center until 1834 when, around the foundries, the village began to develop, which however, until 1838, remained under the jurisdiction of Valli. From that year, the rise of Follonica began hand in hand with the economic and cultural importance that its foundries were assuming, in a crescendo that has made it today’s city; in fact the Leopolda foundry at the time was the second most important foundry in Europe and did business with all the cities. It should also be noted that the use of iron and its derivatives (especially cast iron) have been typical of the city since the time of the Etruscans. They were a great resource for the steel development of the whole area and, even today, traces of blast furnaces can be seen in the nearby metalliferous hills.

Until 1923, it was a hamlet of Massa Marittima, then it was elevated to an autonomous municipality, becoming the first Italian municipality born during the Fascist government. The development throughout the neighbouring territory of mining activities based on the extraction and shipment of pyrite, made Follonica know a huge demographic increase, becoming the residence of many immigrant miners in Maremma from various Italian regions.

During the Second World War, the city was heavily bombed by the Allies and also remained in the hands of the Germans until June 24, 1944.

In 1981, Follonica reached the share of 21.000 residents and the city expanded with the construction of new districts (Salciaina and Pratoranieri).

The title of city was legally conferred to Follonica in 2006.

Let’s start our journey in this unique Tuscan city!

MAGMA – Museum of Cast Iron Arts of Maremma

MAGMA was born from the desire to tell the technological, artistic, and human history of the Follonica steel plant at the peak of its production. The new interactive and multimedia display gives life to the old oven, with a captivating exhibition itinerary that unfolds in three large sections, which correspond to the three floors of the building: Art, History and Production.

Within these thematic partitions, each room develops and explores a topic intricately connected with the production of cast iron not only locally, but in Europe and beyond. Educational activities are carried out by appointment and with schools.

The MAGMA (Museum of Cast Iron Arts in the Maremma) was inaugurated on 29 June 2013 and embodies the entire history of Follonica city Fabbrica, for this reason it is located in the restored spaces of the San Ferdinando smelting furnace, the most ancient city dating back to 1818.

The MAGMA is in the heart of modern Follonica, and the expertise of its master founders.

Inside, objects of artistic and archaeo-industrial value from the nineteenth century (wooden models and cast iron castings) produced by the Follonian ovens are exhibited.

In the Etruscan section, however, the finds of the ancient industrial settlement found near Follonica are exhibited, including an original oven, dating back to the sixth century BC. Since 2005, the museum has been the gateway to the Technological and Archaeological Park of the Metalliferous Hills (reception center and info-point for tourists, with the aim of promoting visits to the area and preserving the historical and archaeoindustrial memory of the city of Follonica).

The museum has been set up on three floors with an exhibition, multimedia and interactive path also suitable for children: art, on the first floor, exhibits the high level of specialization and refinement achieved by the Follonica Foundries. History, on the second floor, examines the reasons that have allowed this land to be exploited in the steel industry for millennia. Production, in the basement, shows the complex technological system used by the plant for the casting of cast iron.

Through documents and testimonies, films and reconstructions, it is possible to understand the activity of the historic establishment and the importance of Follonica as a factory city.

In 2015, the museum won the Dasa Award 2015 for being the best that in its exhibition showed the themes of the world of work of the past, present and future.

Church of San Leopoldo

The church of San Leopoldo is in the center of Follonica, precisely in piazza della Chiesa.

The neoclassical church, with a Latin cross shape, was designed by architects Alessandro Manetti and Carlo Reishammer, built between 1836 and 1838, and consecrated in 1838 in the presence of the Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany.

It was the first Italian church to include numerous cast iron elements, such as the pronaos, the rose window on the facade and the apse, identifiable from the outside of the structure; The tip of the bell tower (built with travertine from nearby Valpiana) is also made of cast iron, as are some interior furnishings, all produced in the Royal Follonichesi Foundries, placed in front of the same church since 1836, when it was decided by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, to make Follonica the seat of the Royal Administration of the Rio mines and iron foundries.

The interior is enriched with wall decorations made by Giuseppe Castellucci in 1928, a marble tabernacle and a baptismal font made by Lorenzo Nencini in 1841.

Before the construction of the church, the town of Follonica belonged to the rural church of the neighbouring castle of Valle; over time, this parish proved insufficient, to the point of making it necessary to build a larger parish church.

Alessandro Manetti was commissioned by Leopoldo II to design the church and the first instructions for setting up the construction site were delivered in May 1836. The work, which had begun to be suspended in June, resumed the following winter; in January 1837, due to the bad season, only the base had been completed, while, before the summer suspension, the whole erected building had been covered at the top with timber as a temporary shelter for the church from the elements.

During the same summer of 1837, Alessandro Manetti called the architect Carlo Reishammer to collaborate in the works, in particular he commissioned him to carry out the executive drawings of the decorations, and among these those relating to the cast iron pronaos. With the resumption of the works, in the winter of 1837-1838, all the necessary works were completed to allow the consecration of the church in May 1838, in the presence of Leopold II, the Grand Duchess Maria Antonia, and numerous religious and administrative authorities.

At the time of the consecration of the church, the pronaos had been completed with a cover supported only by cast iron arches, without the frame and the frieze, where the bas-reliefs that Lorenzo Nencini executed in 1841 were placed. The pronaos was in fact completed on a date following the 1838 as an epidemic of Arab smallpox spread.

The work on the church resumed in order only in 1840: on the facade, in memory of the consecration, two engravings in Latin were placed, while in 1841, in addition to the works of the aforementioned Nencini, Reishammer delivered the drawings of the confessional and the pulpit, also in cast iron, and finished the pronaos, also with decorations underneath the timber, such as studs and rosettes, in cast iron. It can be assumed that the church of San Leopoldo in Follonica was definitively completed in 1842.

Tomboli di Follonica Nature Reserve

The Tomboli di Follonica nature reserve is a protected natural area in the Tuscany region established in 1977. It occupies an area of 94 ha in the province of Grosseto.

The Tomboli di Follonica state nature reserve extends along the coast starting from Puntone di Scarlino. It is a very exclusive protected area, in fact a part is located within the town of Follonica, which includes two public parks: the Pineta di Levante and that of Ponente. The protected area covers a total area of 55 hectares, of which 11 are used as a public garden.

Part of the Tomboli di Follonica State Nature Reserve consists of the two urban parks Pineta di Levante and Pineta di Ponente). It extends along the coast from Follonica to Puntone; the vegetation is typical of the Tuscan coast, with coastal dunes, Mediterranean scrub and pine forest of maritime and domestic pines.

It is undoubtedly one of the most evocative places to visit, especially if you are an adventurous tourist, a nature lover and have decided to spend your holiday in Follonica, a paradise with clear and clean waters. The Tomboli di Follonica state nature reserve contributes to the beauty and uniqueness of this splendid seaside resort, nestled in the heart of the Tuscan Maremma.

Where there is no excessive anthropic impact, the undergrowth is still well developed with a fair spread of holm oak, cork oak and filliera. In the sections of the Reserve where the mobile dune still appears, formations of sea daisy, sea lily and spartina grow. In the humid areas, located inside the pine forest, there are surfaces with marsh reeds and rushes.

Among the most common species present in the Reserve, we find corvids and small mammals such as hedgehogs and squirrels. Terrestrial tortoises are also found without difficulty. Noteworthy is the wintering of the coal tit.

The starting point for visits is the town of Follonica, which can be reached by following the signs from the Via Aurelia.

Cala Martina

Cala Martina, like Cala Violina, is part of the Bandite di Scarlino Nature Reserve, and it is located between Follonica and Punta Ala.

The beach is not very wide, about 600 m in length and about ten meters wide. It has a mainly stony bottom, both in the water and as regards the beach. This feature makes it very suitable for snorkelling and diving. The water is crystal clear and crystal clear. Access is only possible from the sea or, via the Via delle Costiere, on foot or by bicycle. This street is closed to vehicular traffic. The access points to reach the beach are numbers 9 and 10, indicated with “Cala Martina 1” and “Cala Martina 2”. Both paths to get there are steep. For the disabled, it is not accessible by land due to this very steep part.

The closest car park is in via Lungomare Garibaldi, at the Scarlino Tourist Port. It is open from 8 to 20 and offers 440 parking spaces. It is paved, for a fee, but it is not guarded.

Cala Martina is a free beach, with no refreshment points. To experience it to the fullest, you need to organize yourself bringing everything you need for a day to spend under the sun. Behind the beach there is a pine forest, but to protect yourself from the sun, it is advisable to bring an umbrella or towels to build a shelter.

For the walk you need to allow at least 45 minutes of walking. The road winds through the trees and you should not go under the sun. A certainly faster way is to get there by bicycle.

The promontory that divides Cala Violina from this beach is called Punta Francese. This place is famous for being the point from which Garibaldi set sail in 1849, aboard a boat of Ligurian sympathizers who was waiting for him, managing to escape from the Papal soldiers.

The monument dedicated to him, on the path leading to the beach, was placed there precisely to commemorate his escape to Porto Venere.

Palazzo Granducale

The Palace was built in 1845 to house Grand Duke Leopold II, and is currently the seat of the State Forestry Corps. Inside, you can admire stuccoes and frescoed ceilings, the beautiful garden with monumental plants and the white marble bathtub, commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to Canova’s workshop to donate it to his sister Elisa Bonaparte, Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

Palazzo Granducale was built in 1845 to house Leopold II during his frequent visits to Follonica.

On the top floor, there were the forest inspector’s house and office, in fact today the building is the headquarters of the State Forestry Corps and attached to it  is possible to visit, on request, the garden with monumental plants and the famous Bathroom of Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister, copy made by a pupil of Canova.

It is a great example of Liberty style; the interior of the building has tempera frescoed ceilings with grotesque and stucco motifs.

Before the construction of the Clock Tower, there was a small chapel which in the 1700s was replaced by an oratory and after a short while, next to this, an apartment was built which became the headquarters of the direction of the ovens.

The tower with the clock dates to the 1930s, and there were also two artistic bronze bells, cast in Pistoia by Terzo Rafanelli.

After the construction of the Palazzo Granducale, the tower building was divided into apartments for the employees of the Foundries.

Scarlino

Located 12 km away from Follonica, Scarlino is an ancient and small village perched on Mount d’Alma at the foot of the Castle (also known as Rocca Pisana). In the village, we will find a suggestive “cobweb” of alleys (typical of medieval villages) which opens onto three doors, Porta a Mare, Porta Scabris and Porta della Fonte.

After a long abandonment, the summit area of ​​Scarlino returned to be inhabited in the Etruscan era (7th and 6th centuries BC). In this period melting furnaces were built for the reduction of iron and a fortress to control the Gulf of Follonica. In Roman times the site was abandoned again, only to return to be occupied on a permanent basis in the early Middle Ages.

Scarlino is a delightful medieval village perched on Monte d’Alma (250 meters above the sea). In the thirteenth century, probably in 1240, it was among the first towns of the Maremma to organize itself as a free municipality. The town is dominated by the 13th century Pisan fortress (its visit is decidedly suggestive) in front of which there is an archaeological park that has returned finds dating back to the late Bronze Age (12th – 10th centuries BC). All the artifacts found in the excavations can be admired in the Territory Documentation Center (located in the town hall) including the Scarlino treasure, that is the terracotta vase containing 100 gold florins from seven different mints.

The walls also depart from the fortress, which by incorporating the whole town, have kept intact the typical charm of medieval villages made up of alleys, streets and access gates which in Scarlino are three and precisely: Porta della Fonte, Porta Scabris and Porta a Sea.

Scarlino also has a modern tourist port (the port was already used in Roman times), the sea is in fact just 7 km (approximately) from the village, and we remind you that along the 13 km of Scarlinese coast you will also find the beach of Cala Violina, one of the most beautiful in the Maremma.

Towards the end of the 10th century (AD), the early medieval huts gave way to houses built with more complex building techniques.

In this context, Scarlino had by now become a populous fortified center, seat of strong noble powers and a very active rural community. In 1162, as indicated by the diploma of Federico Barbarossa, Scarlino was formally within the Pisan countryside. However, the fortress was still under the control of a branch of the Alberti family (known since the 11th century).

During the thirteenth century, the power of Pisa definitively asserted itself over Scarlino, thus supplanting the rights that the Alberti had in the territory. From this moment on, Scarlino remained under the Pisan dominion until 1398, when it became part of the possessions of the Appiani.

Gavorrano

Gavorrano is an Italian town of 8.467 inhabitants in the province of Grosseto in Tuscany.

It is located on the northern slope of Monte d’Alma to the east of Scarlino, in the territory of the Grosseto Metalliferous Hills and known for its large deposits of pyrite intensively exploited until the early 1980s.

Gavorrano is 19 km from Follonica, immersed in the Maremma Mediterranean scrub, and is the place where the sad story of Pia de ‘Tolomei, mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy, took place.

The territory of Gavorrano appears to have been frequented already in the Etruscan period, as evidenced by the remains of various necropolises found in flat areas at the foot of Monte Calvo and dating back to the 7th century BC. (Poggio Pelliccia, San Germano, Santa Teresa), probably burial areas of settlements now disappeared and dependent on the city-state of Vetulonia.

Gavorrano is mentioned for the first time in a document dated 1164, when Frederick I granted Count Alberto degli Alberti di Mangona to take possession of the fief again. The son of Alberto IV, Rainaldo Alberti di Mangona, ruled Gavorrano until his death, when the Pannocchieschi d’Elci counts took over in the middle of the 13th century, who submitted the village first to the Municipality of Volterra, and subsequently to that of Massa Marittima. (1320).

During the struggles between Massa and Siena, the village of Gavorrano ended up being conquered by the city of the Palio, although for a certain period, starting from 1379, it remained under the control of the Malavolti family. In 1465 Gavorrano was definitively ceded to the Republic of Siena and inexorably followed the fate of the Sienese state, before being annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the mid-sixteenth century.

After centuries of depopulation and anonymity, Gavorrano imposed its history at national levels after the unification of Italy, when in 1898 an important pyrite deposit near the town was discovered by Francesco Alberti. Gavorrano became a mining center of absolute importance, possessing one of the most important pyrite mines in Europe, and experienced a strong demographic increase over the years of mining, as well as a considerable urban development with the birth of new modern villages (Bagno, Filare, Crickets, Potassa).

In 1960, the territory of Scarlino and the coast (Puntone, Portiglioni) broke away from Gavorrano to form an autonomous municipality. With the closure of the mines in 1981, there was a significant decline in population; however, thanks to the enhancement of the old quarrying sites and the presence in the municipal territory of historic villages of artistic interest (Caldana, Giuncarico, Ravi), Gavorrano has recently rediscovered itself as an important tourist resort in the Grosseto Maremma.

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