Grosseto

July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Grosseto lies in the heart of the Maremma, near the right banks of the Ombrone river which winds its way through the vast plain. It is about ten kilometers from the sea. This prevalently modern city has spread out around the small compact historical center marked by the old Medici bastions. As witnessed by an inscription, the Cathedral was begun in 1294 and finished early in the 14th century by Sozzo di Pace Rustichini, known also as Sozzo di Rustichino. The Cathedral was probably built on the remains of a Romanesque church, to judge from the pilasters with engaged columns set against the interior facade and the pilaster strips outside on the side walls. The facade, renewed in the 19th century, has three portals and an elegant loggia with a rose window above. The right side has a fine low-relief portal with a splendid sculpture by Cesare Maccari (1800), and, above, two two-light Gothic windows. The interior has a nave divided from the two aisles by solid compound piers. At the end of still another bay is the apse, semi-circular outside but square inside. Of particular note in the second bay on the left is a fine baptismal font by Antonio Ghini (1470-71) and, in the left arm of the transept, a lovely altarpiece, also by Ginni, with a splendid Assumption (15th cent.) by Matto) di Giovanni. The Museo Archeologico e d’Arte della Maremma has a rich collection of archaeology and art. The Prehistoric section is installed on the ground floor with material from the paleolithic to the Villanovan periods. The Etruscan section presents material from the excavations of ancient settlements including Talamone, Vetulonia. Cosa, Sovana, Castro, Vulci, Pitigliano, Saturnia. Magliano and above all Roselle, where excavations are still under way in the ancient urban area. The upper floor contains the Topographical section where the material is arranged according to the river basin comes from (Ombrone, Fiora, etc.). There is also a rich Collection of religious art on the second floor. Paintinp of the Sienese school dating from the 13th to the  17th century include in particular a magnificent Last Judgement by Guido da Siena or his circle; a charming Madonna and Child by Segna di Bonaventura; a goodly number of works that can be ascribed to the circle of one of the above masters; a moving Crucifixion (first half of the 13th cent.) which is of such high quality that the name of Simone Martini comes to mind; the famous Madonna of the Cherries by Sassetta; and the two Saints, once wings of a polyptych, by Sano di Pietro. The collection also contains works by many other illustrious masters such as Girolamo di Benvenuto, Pietro di Domenico, Riccio, Vanni and Rutilio Manetti as well as a fine Collection of ceramics. The austere 13th-century Church of San Francesco is in Gothic style. The gabled brick facade is enlivened by a portal with lunette and a fine rose window. The convent buildings were on the left side. Still extant is a Cloister with the socalled well of the “bufala”, built by Ferdinando I towards the end of the 16th century. Another well lies outside the church opposite the hospital. San Francesco has a single large nave with a trussed timber roof and a fine terminal chapel. It contains valuable cross set behind the high altar, perhaps an ea ly work by Duccio da Buoninsegna (1289) and a lovely wooden crucifix (15th cent.) of Sienese school. The is tenor is partially lined with frescoes. The Medici Walls were built in the second half of di 16th century and comprise a powerful bastioned cird of walls. At the beginning of the 19th century the glad began to be transformed into public gardens and at one corner rises the Medici Fortress which incorporates thi old Sienese Keep (a solid structure consisting of two tinct but interconnected parts with strongly escarj. bases bordered by a string course). A fine view of theold town can be had from the fortress

Follonica

July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

This industrial town is also a famous seaside resort, with an extensive beach bordered by a flourishing pine grove. The Parish Church of San Leopoldo, a church which dates to 1836-38, is interesting because of the original combination of materials used in its construction – cast iron, stone and wood. The Biblioteca Comunale is also of interest for its exhibition models of 19th-century smelting installations.

Punta Ala
This rocky zone lies at the southern tip of the gulf of Follonica. This patch of land is almost untouched, with a beach of fine sand crowned by a dense Mediterranean shrub which reaches down to the sea. In the last twent:o years Punta Ala has become an exclusive residential area.

Castiglion della Pescaia
Well known seaside resort on the Maremman coast.. Castiglion della Pescaia has a lovely beach and varied cliffs along the sea. The picturesque portcanal is always full of fishing boats and yachts. There is also a fine pine grove set above the city which here and there reaches right down to the sea. Clinging to a hillside and esclosed within a solid circuit of walls, the old medieild town of Castiglione Castello is dominated by the fuse Aragonese fortress of the 14th-15th century.

San Gimignano

July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

The architecture of San Gimignano makes this small city, so concentrated and noble, unique with the geometric pattern of the towers rising above the town. It was already known in Etruscan and Roman times. During the Middle Ages its importance grew thanks to the presence of the Via Francigena, the most important route at the time which connected Italy to all of Europe. San Gimignano almost always sided with Florence, but was unable to expand its power or its boundaries further because geographically it was inhibited by nearby Florence and Siena. The two urban spaces with the greatest wealth, artistically speaking, are the Piazza della Cistema and the Piazza Duomo. The former takes its name from the 13th-century cistern set almost in the center of the square. All around is a series of medieval buildings including, on the south, the Palazzo Tortolini Treccani (14th cent.) with two tiers of two-light windows, the Casa Salvestrini and the Casa Razzi (13th cent.); on the west side, the twin Guelph Towers of the Ardinghelli (13th cent.); and lastly, on the north, the Palazzo Cortesi flanked by the tower of the same name known also as Torre del Diavolo (Devil’s Tower). The Palazzo del Podesta, built in 1239 and enlarged about a century later, rises up on the Piazza Duomo. There is a fine fresco by Sodoma on the ground floor. One of the tallest towers (51 m.), the Torre known as Rognosa, rises up over the palace, while right across the way is the Collegiata, built around 1239 on the ruins of the old parish church of San Gimignano, with a fine facade in brick and stone. The tripartite Romanesque interior has magnificent cross vaulting. On the internal wall of the facade there are frescoes by Taddeo di Bartolo, and, at the sides, two wooden statues by Jacopo della Quercia (1421). The walls are entirely covered with fine frescoes: on the wall of the right aisle there is a beautiful cycle depicting Scenes and Episodes of the New Testament by Barna da Siena. At the back of the aisle is the Chapel of Santa Finn (patron saint of the city), with terra cottas by Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano; the frescoes on the side walls with Episodes from the Life of the Saint are by Ghirlandaio (1475), the fine altar piece is by Giuliano da Maiano. On the wall of the left aisle there is another fresco cycle of Stories of the Old Testament. Note the fine ciborium (1475) by Benedetto da Maiano on the high altar and an Annunciation by Ghirlandaio in the loggia of the Baptistery. The Palazzo del Popolo (now Town Hall) stands to the left of the Collegiata. It was built in the second half of the 13th century and enlarged in the early decades of the next century. The fine facade is spangled with the coats of arms of the podesta. Inside are the Museo Civico and the Pinacoteca Civica. The former is installed on the top floor and exhibits extremely interesting works including a fresco of the Maesta by Lippo Memmi. The latter contains a valuable collection of paintings of the schools of Siena and Florence from the 13th to the 15th centuries, including works by Filippino Lippi, Coppo di Marcovaldo, Pintugicchio and Benozzo Gozzoli. Near the Piazza del Duomo is the Piazza Pecori with the fine Palazzo della Propositura, seat of the Museum of Religious Art with its rich collection of paintings, precious church furnishings and minor arts. Near the square is the Rocca, built by the Florentines in 1353. This solid bastion is pentagonal in plan and has small towers and the remains of walls. Other historical buildings of note include the Church of San Bartolomeo (13th cent.), with a brick facade decorated with two orders of blind arches; the Church of Sant’Agostino (late 13th cent.), with an extremely simple facade and works by Benozzo Gozzoli, Lippo Memmi and Bartolo di Fredi inside; the Church of San Pietro (11th cent.); the Church of San Jacopo (13th cent.), with a nave only and unusual elements in the vaults which spring from transverse arches on engaged piers with half columns; and finally the former Church of San Francesco (now used as a wine cellar) with a lovely white facade.

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