A Brief History Of Maremma Tuscany

Maremma Tuscany had different prehistoric, Etruscan and Roman settlements that left important historical and artistic sites scattered throughout the territory. In Etruscan and Roman times, Maremma was known for its farms, which were drained by subterranean canals. In particular, the towns of Populonia, Cosa and Tarquinii were important economic centers, and different ports handled Etruria’s foreign trade. Towards the end of the Roman Empire, the region declined rapidly. Drainage was neglected, and malaria became widespread.

A Brief History Of Maremma Tuscany

In the early Middle Ages, Maremma was home to one of central Italy’s most important noble families: the Aldobrandeschi, who built many of the fortresses that today dominate most cities in southern Tuscany. And even a “Maremma” pope was elected in 1073 when Ildebrando di Soana became Gregory VII.

Throughout the Spanish and Sienese rule, extensive swamps and coastal marshes covered the fertile lands of Maremma, where many died of malaria. Different literature pieces testify to the depth of the problems in the area, including Dante Alighieri’s 13th canto of “Inferno” in The Divine Comedy.

Maremma was eventually used only as a winter grazing ground for herds from the Apennines, despite reclamation efforts by the grand dukes of Tuscany in the 18th and early 19th centuries and despite the presence of brigands who raged on horseback.

In the 1930s, Mussolini’s government began a structured reclamation and drainage of the swamps, a process that culminated later in 1951 when the Maremma Land Reform Agency definitively changed the face of the territory with new roads, farms and rural service centers.

Etruscan frescoes in Tarquinia, Roman Ruins in Ansedonia (Cosa), a historical photo of the reclamation works
Etruscan frescoes in Tarquinia, Roman Ruins in Ansedonia (Cosa), a historical photo of the reclamation works

Today, Maremma Tuscany’s economy is based mainly on agriculture and tourism. The main plantations include cereals, fruit orchards, olive groves and vineyards. The area is also rich in minerals, such as pyrite, iron, mercury and antimony. Fishing still represents one of the local traditional activities along the coast. Maremma is a fantastic destination for different types of tourists, such as nature, sports, wine and beach lovers.

The Name “Maremma”: Origins And Uses

For many scholars, the name Maremma derives from the Latin word maritima, meaning “coastal region”. Others believe it comes from the Castilian Spanish word of marisma, which means “swamp”.

You might have heard this name associated with a series of animals. In fact, the Maremma has given rise to or given its name to several breeds of animals. These include the Maremmano working horse used by butteri; the Maremmana breed of large grey cattle; the Maremmano breed of shepherd’s guard-dog; and the Macchiaiola Maremmana breed of a small pig.

Sources:
Encyclopædia Britannica
Principe Corsini Magazine
All photos from tuttatoscana.net

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