Sant’Antimo Abbey. Tuscany

One of the most examples of monastic architecture of the 13th century and by far the most important Romanesque building in the southern of Tuscany near Montalcino.

The church we see today was built around 1100 and took the place of an older 9th century abbey, of which little is left.

Until the 14th century it was an important spiritual, economic and cultural centre, often in conflict with the Republic of Siena.

The refined architectural elements

recall a decorative richness with French influences.

In the wine region between Bibbona, Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci

After a long absence, this afternoon I wanted to go back to the countryside between the hills and sea in the lower province of Livorno, which even in this wintry season, looks extremely suggestive and that can give, to those passing through, a serenity that only places like this can transmit.
Taking the provincial road SP 16A from Bibbona towards Castagneto Carducci, the landscape offers rolling hills that slope down towards the sea with a succession of olive groves, vineyards and forests of holm-oak and oak trees. Here and there, there are ploughed fields, which in this period are a bright brown colour thanks to the light rainfall over the last few days, and vines stripped of their leaves, waiting to be pruned.
In the 5km that separate Bibbona and the Avenue of Cypresses at Bolgheri, you come across a number of agritourism farms and country houses and the entrance, at the 3km point along the provincial road SP16A, to the ‘Tenuta di Biserno’, an estate that produces excellent wines.  
Continuing along this provincial road, you arrive at the Avenue of Cypresses, which connects San Guido to Bolgheri “in duplice filar” [“in double rows”], as the poet Giosuè Carducci recounts.  

After a few minutes on this cypress-lined avenue going towards Bolgheri, you reach the beginning of the town, that today presented itself with the sun illuminating the castle facade, while in the background the sky didn’t look any too promising.  

 If, at the junction of the provincial road, rather than going to Bolgheri, you turn right towards the sea, after about 1 km there is the junction with the provincial road SP16B that, from the Avenue of Cypresses reaches Castagneto Carducci and where, along the way, you pass all the best Super Tuscan wineries. I look forward to telling you about these in one of my next articles.

The ruins of the largest copper mine in Europe are to be found in Tuscany.

My interest in mines led me to visit the Camporciano Mine at Montecatini Val di Cecina in the province of Pisa on 4th December, on the day that 170 years of the feast of St. Barbara, patron saint of miners, was celebrated.
The Camporciano Mine was the largest copper mine in Europe.
The ore was first mined in the period of the Etruscans (600 BC) when they came from Volterra to extract the precious mineral that was useful to them for utensils and furnishings, it was exploited through the centuries up to 1907, when the final closure was decreed.
The Alfredo Well, the hub of the mine from where the valuable copper was extracted, had a depth of over 300 metres.
In the early 2000’s, thanks to the Mayor Renzo Rossi, the town council followed with attention with the partial safety measures and restructuring of the principal structures of the mine, creating a very suggestive museum park of industrial archaeology. It is possible to visit and is located about half a mile from the town of Montecatini Val di Cecina, in the north of the metalliferous hills. Today there are guided tours of the mining complex and the Alfredo Well.IMG_9076.PNG

A trek near my Tuscany house discovering old railway bridges

I would like to begin my blog with the story of a trek near my house – but not for this less interesting than other experiences in far-off countries – that is rich in natural and historical
interest in this lesser-known area of Tuscany.
We are in the Natural Reserve of Monterufoli – Caselli in the province of Pisa and I start walking early morning on a cold and sunny winter’s day, starting from the point where the
Ritasso torrent crosses the entrance to the Villetta di Monterufoli estate in the commune of
Monteverdi Marittimo.
The path of the first section runs along a field, but soon arrives at the woods and with clear white/red signs, you can distinguish the site of the old railroad tracks coming from Casino di Terra that served the lignite mine from 1850 to 1929 and was then subsequently
Running parallel to the path, you can see still the brick barriers on the river bed that were used in the past to channel the water to an Old Mill still visible between the dense Mediterranean vegetation on the west bank of the torrent.
Continuing the trail, you arrive near the First Bridge which is possible to see from standing in the torrent, whilst it is worth crossing the torrent to reach the west bank, very interesting for the flora present in the vicinity of an old dwelling with many varieties of moss and lichens, that give you an idea of the undergrowth’s microclimate that would already have been present here before the great ice age.
Arriving near the Second Bridge, but certainly the first in order of size, you have to ade through the torrent below, following the majestic brick arch that has a single 30-metre span and is certainly more than 20 metres high. You climb out of the torrent on the opposite side to meet the railway tracks again and here there are rocky outcrops and mounds of debris colonised by unusual herbaceous flora that is typical of or exclusive to these rocks and that produces rare spring blooms, characterised by yellow clumps of Euphorbia Spinosa.
Upon reaching the Malentrata torrent, also known for the old magnesite mine and the presence of numerous minerals, it is important to remember that this area is part of the metalliferous hills.
At this point you go beyond the third railway bridge to come across a trench that was carved out of the serpentine rock by the hands who gave life to the railway. These spectacular “green rocks” – magmatic rocks – originated 180 million years ago on the ocean floor.
The path continues its descent along the Ritasso torrent and the trek continues up to where the landslide in September 1929 led to the abandonment of the railway. There, it is possible to cross the landslide that has now settled and follow the path to where the Ritasso torrent flows into the Sterza torrent to then return along the asphalted road.
I don’t know for how long it will be possible to admire these bridges that I have written about, clear cracks and signs of slough can be seen in all of them, as they now defy time
by at least 160 years and have been in a state of total abandonment for no less than 90 years.
If one day you would like to follow the trail, I would be happy to accompany you and recount the long history in memory of the many workers who took part in both the construction of the railway and in the hard work in the lignite mine tunnels, which I will be
describing soon in my blog.