Ten things to see and do in the warm heart of Tuscany (and surroundings)

Crystal clear beaches, medieval villages, unique museums and nature reserves: GeoGravel will take you on an adventure to discover 10 magical places in the warm heart of Tuscany.

GeoGravel Tuscany is not just a gravel event, it is also an opportunity to discover a wonderful area rich in history and traditions, an area that stretches from the sea to the hinterland and includes medieval villages white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, but also extraordinary museums and hidden gems whose names are lost in legend.

We have compiled a list of 10 places not to be missed in the Pomarance area, perhaps to be visited during a GeoGravel Tuscany holiday.

  1. The Avenue of Cypresses in Bolgheri 

The Viale dei Cipressi is a road in the municipality of Castagneto Carducci, in the heart of the Livorno Maremma.

It is almost five kilometres long and connects the Oratory of San Guido, on the Via Aurelia, to the picturesque historical centre of Bolgheri, dominated by the massive castle. 

The avenue is lined on both sides by  dense, centuries-old cypresses, which create shade and cut through the Maremma countryside, an area very rich in vineyards and olive groves.

Its origins date back to the 19th century, when the Via Imperii (today's Via Aurelia) was rebuilt and a series of perpendicular streets were built; on this occasion, the road to Bolgheri was gradually embellished by the double row of cypresses.

The avenue, which now has around 2,400 cypress trees, took on its present appearance between the 19th century and the early 1920s, although it was not paved until 1954.

The place was made famous by Giosuè Carducci, who lived in the area for many years, in his famous poem Davanti San Guido. To commemorate Carducci, in 1908 Giuseppe Della Gherardesca erected a small obelisk at the beginning of the avenue, near the Oratory of San Guido.


2. Etruscan Coast, Bibbona and Casale Marittimo, Carducci
The Costa degli Etruschi (Etruscan Coast) is located in the province of Livorno and takes its name from the numerous Etruscan necropolises found mainly between the Gulf of Baratti and Populonia, originally the only Etruscan town built along the coast; the name was later extended to the entire coastline of the province of Livorno, largely corresponding to the Maremma livornese (the ancient Maremma of Pisa). Small, perfectly preserved medieval villages that are well worth a visit, such as Castagneto Carducci, Bibbona and Casale Marittimo, are part of this extraordinary area between the sea and the hills.

3. Biancane Park
The Biancane Park is a natural area close to the centre of Monterotondo Marittimo (GR) where you can admire the characteristic "biancane", one of the many places where geothermal energy strongly characterises the landscape on the border between the provinces of Pisa and Grosseto. 

In fact, various types of geothermal manifestations can be found here, such as soffioni, subterranean vents, putizze and fumaroles.

The heart of the geothermal area.

4. Pomarance

Pomarance is the centre of GeoGravel Tuscany, the arrival and departure point of the 4 rides and the GeoFestival. 

Called Ripomarancia until the 14th century, then Ripomarance and finally Pomarance, this village in the Val di Cecina was long disputed between the Bishops and the Municipality of Volterra; in recent decades it has undergone a series of changes that have transformed the ancient medieval village into a modern town.

Pomarance is located in the centre of the "Devil's Valley", a region characterised by the presence of boraciferous fumaroles, which have made it the world capital of geothermal energy. 

An almost lunar and extremely evocative scenario that did not leave Dante indifferent, as it is said that it inspired some of the landscapes of his 'Inferno'.

5. ‘Masso delle Fanciulle’

The "sea" of the Cecina Valley. In this place, along a stretch of the Cecina river between the municipalities of Pomarance and Volterra, the river forms a natural swimming pool with many small waterfalls about two metres high; a true paradise with numerous small beaches and a small lake between two stone stacks: this is the Masso delle Fanciulle (Rock of the Maidens).

The name derives from an ancient legend: three girls, victims of the excessive morbid attentions of a local squire, sought refuge under these very trees and, seeing the rock, thought of jumping into the water to save themselves, but unfortunately they drowned.

The Masso delle Fanciulle is therefore part of a natural area that has been a popular destination for centuries, first for the local population and then for tourists: it is an enchanting and picturesque place that boasts a beautiful landscape.


6. Geothermal Museum
In Larderello, it is possible to visit the "Geothermal Museum", founded at the end of the 1950s and located on the ground floor of the recently renovated Palazzo de' Larderel.

The museum tells the story of energy through an interactive and multimedia tour that allows visitors to learn about the evolution of this natural resource and the industrial techniques used to exploit it. The visit includes a tour of the museum halls, the plastic model room and the covered lake.

It is a highly multimedia museum, particularly suited to understanding the phenomenon of geothermal energy and its industrial development, and a good introduction to a visit to the area.


7. The villages of Montecastelli Pisano and La Leccia
The village of Montecastelli, in a panoramic position overlooking the surrounding countryside, is extremely well preserved and pleasant.

The urban structure in concentric circles around the top of the hill, the narrow streets, the narrow alleys, the covered porticoes and the stone houses still faithfully reflect the medieval appearance of the village.

The Romanesque parish church, dedicated to Saints Philip and James, and the imposing Pannocchieschi tower, which dominates the village, are particularly noteworthy. Near Montecastelli, a few metres from the provincial road, is the Etruscan tomb of the "Buca delle Fate", dating back to the 8th century BC.

The village of La Leccia is a small medieval hamlet in the Val di Cornia, on the road that links Sasso Pisano to Larderello, on the edge of the ancient cork and holm oak woods from which it takes its name.

La Leccia stands on the site of a medieval castle, first mentioned in 1028, of which only a few walls and buildings remain.

From the road that links Sasso and Leccia, it is possible to reach the excavations of the ancient Baths of Bagnone: a vast Etruscan-Roman thermal complex that was active from the 3rd century B.C. until the late imperial period, testifying to the exploitation of local geothermal resources since ancient times.

8. Rocca Sillana
Among the many monuments and settlements that occupy the hills of the Cecina Valley, the Rocca Sillana, in the municipality of Pomarance, is one of the most important and was one of the largest settlements in the area, opened to the public a few years ago. 

The Rocca stands isolated on an impenetrable hill, but it is a place rich in history, densely populated in the Middle Ages and controlling a vast territory. According to tradition, the name of the castle comes from the Roman general Silla, who besieged Volterra in 80 BC. In reality, the name Rocca Sillana has more recent origins, as it was known until the middle of the 18th century as the castle or fortress of Sillano, a term first mentioned in a document dating back to 945.


9. Sasso Pisano washhouse
Sasso Pisano is a hamlet in the municipality of Castelnuovo Val di Cecina, in the province of Pisa, rich in natural geothermal phenomena such as "putizze" and spontaneous vapours that come out of the ground and spread the characteristic sulphurous smell in the air.

The many thermal springs near the small village of Sasso Pisano also feed an old, recently restored washhouse, located behind the cemetery, along a path that descends down for almost 30 metres, fed by slightly mineralised 36° C hot water.

It is the ideal place to take a warm, relaxing bath in the middle of nature.

10. Populonia and the Gulf of Baratti
The Gulf of Baratti is a small slice of unspoilt nature between the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas, just a short distance from Piombino, on the Tuscan coast between Livorno and Grosseto. 

The splendid beach, which slopes gently into the waters of the gulf, is protected by a thick pine forest and the sea is one of the clearest in Italy.

The gulf of Baratti is also of great historical value.

It is the site of the Baratti and Populonia Archaeological Park, which includes the necropolis of Populonia, one of the most important monuments of the entire Etruscan civilisation.