For an introduction to Maremma and a map of the region you may wish to read page one first.
(above) Lake of Burano, a sea shore lagoon with a XVIth century tower to protect the site from raids by Ottoman corsairs: (below) Lagoon of Orbetello and Mount Argentario behind it; the photos were taken from the Roma - Grosseto train after having passed the Montalto di Castro station and having entered Tuscany
The chief strength of Orbetello lies in its position in the midst of the wide lagoon, protected from all attacks by sea by the two necks of sand which unite Monte Argentario to the mainland; and to be otherwise approached only by the narrow tongue, on whose tip it stands. This Stagno, or lagoon, of Orbetello, the "sea-marsh" of Strabo is a vast expanse of stagnant salt-water, so shallow that it may be forded in parts, yet never dried up by the hottest summer; the curse of the country around, for the foul and pestilential vapours, and the swarms of musquitoes and other insects it generates at that season, yet blessing the inhabitants with an abundance of fish. (..) As it travels southwards, the eye rests on the islet of the Giannutri; and, after scanning the wide horizon of waters, meets land again in the dim hills above Civita Vecchia. The intervening tract is low, flat, desert, - here a broad strip of sand, - there a long, sea-shore lagoon, or a deadly fen or swamp, - now a tract dark with underwood, - now a wide, barren moor, treeless, houseless.
George Dennis - The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria - 1848.
The one picturesque point between Leghorn and Rome is where the salt lake of Orbetello opens upon the right of the railway, reaching in a shimmering expanse of still water, to the abrupt purple cliffs of Monte Argentaro.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days near Rome - 1875
After dinner I sallied forth from Grosseto to search for the ruins of the ancient Rusellae, a city boasting an Etruscan origin, and now bearing the name of Moscona. For want of a proper guide, I wandered some hours in a desert country, without finding the object of my pursuit. I discovered nothing but the ruins of an old circular fortress on the summit of a hill.
Richard Colt Hoare - A classical tour through Italy and Sicily - 1819
Grosseto has no interest to the antiquarian, beyond its vicinity to the ancient Etruscan city of Rusellae, which lies a few miles to the north, near the high-road to Siena. At the distance of about four miles on this road are the hot-springs, called I Bagni di Roselle. Above them rises a lofty hill, Poggio di Moscona, crowned with ruins, which the traveller will be apt to mistake for those of Rusellae, as did Sir Richard Colt Hoare. At the little wineshop hard by the Baths a guide is generally to be had. I found not one, but half a dozen - young peasants, who had come to hear mass in the little chapel, and were returning to the site of Rusellae, where their cattle were grazing. There are two ways hence to the ancient city, one on each side of the lofty hill of Moscona. (..) The slopes around it are covered with wood, so dense that it effectually conceals the walls from the spectator at a distance. By this road I entered Rusellae on its south-western side. I then turned to the right and followed the line of walls, which are traceable in detached fragments along the brow of the hill. At first, the masonry was horizontal (..) though small stones were inserted in the interstices of the large masses. But when I had gained the eastern side of the city, I found all rectangularity and horizontality at an end, the walls being composed of enormous masses piled up without regard to form, and differing only from the rudest style of Cyclopean, in having the outer surfaces smoothed. (..) In these walls of Rusellae small blocks are intermixed with the large masses, occupying the interstices, and often in some measure fitted to the form of the gap. The irregularity and shapelessness of this masonry is partly owing to the travertine of which it is composed; that material not so readily splitting into determinate forms as limestone, although it has a horizontal cleavage. (..) The walls on the eastern side of the city are in several parts fifteen or twenty feet high; but on the north, where they are most perfect, they rise to the height of twenty to thirty feet. Here the largest blocks are to be seen, and the masonry is most Tirynthian in character. Dennis
The area enclosed by the walls forms an irregular quadrangle, between ten and eleven thousand feet, or about two miles, in circuit. (..)
Let no one venture to explore the site of Rusellae who is not prepared for a desperate undertaking, who is not thorn-proof in the strength or the worthlessness of his raiment. (..) The area of the city and the slopes around are densely covered with a thorny shrub, called "marruca," (aka Christ's thorn) which I had often admired elsewhere for its bright yellow blossoms, and delicate foliage; but as an antagonist it is most formidable, particularly in winter, when its fierceness is unmitigated by a leafy covering. Even could one disregard the thorns, the difficulty of forcing one's way through the thickets is so great that some of the finest portions of the walls are unapproachable from below, and in very few spots is it possible to take a sketch. Within the city, the thickets are not so dense, such at least I found the state of the hill in 1844. (..) No excavations have been made on this site within the memory of man. Dennis 1848
The Museum, which is in the Town-hall of Grosseto, is of very recent formation, but from the numerous donations received from the possessors of Etruscan antiquities, it already begins to make a respectable appearance. Dennis 1878 ed.
bucchero, a modern term, indicates a black Etruscan pottery which was given a glossy appearance by a particular method of firing, which made it resemble bronze. Some very fine and thin bucchero vases were found at Cerveteri. Other Etruscan towns, e.g. Chiusi developed their own type of bucchero ware; at Rusellae the decoration was mainly based on a sort of round flower or star.
The limited extent of the city, only two miles in circumference, does not seem to entitle it to rank among the Twelve chief cities of Etruria. Yet this honour is generally accorded to it; principally on the ground of a passage in Dionysius, where it is cited as taking part in the war against Tarquinius Priscus, independently of the rest of Etruria; which it could not have done had it not been a city of first-rate importance. This is the earliest mention made of Rusellae in history. We next hear of it in the year 453 of Rome, in the dictatorship of M. Valerius Maximus, who marched his army into the territory of Rusellae, and there "broke the might of the Etruscans," and forced them to sue for peace. And again in the year 460, the consul, Postumius Megellus, entered the territory of Rusellae, and not only laid it waste, but attacked and stormed the city itself, capturing more than 2000 men, and slaying almost as many around the walls. Dennis 1848
The fabrication of Etruscan relics, especially of bronzes, is now going forward on an extensive scale in this part of Italy, and travellers should be on their guard when such roba (material) is offered to them for purchase. In this museum the genuine bronzes are exhibited in one case, the false ones in another; thus the amateur has the opportunity of comparing them, and of learning to distinguish them for the future. Dennis 1878 ed.
The Etruscan necropolis of
Casenovole is located on the southern slopes of a hill in the Ombrone river
basin north of Grosseto. The hill, where a late
Etruscan necropolis has been known
since the beginning of the 20th century,
lies next to a small and still active cemetery, which shows that the area was used
continuously for about 2500 years. (..) The corresponding Etruscan settlement has not been located but it was
probably on the hill now occupied by the imposing
medieval castle of Casenovole (..) Soprintendenza of Archaeology of
Tuscany directed the excavation of the
Tombs of the Badger, the Scarab, the
Three Eggs and the Golden Leaves, with
the active support of the local
Archeological Association "Odysseus."
These tombs, of various sizes, all have
an access corridor (dromos) and an
underground chamber, with benches
carved on three sides. Recovered inside were
bone remains from at least twenty-one
burials. Outside the tomb of the Scarab, (..) a gold ring was
recovered in 2010. The gold ring for which the
tomb is named, is a classic U-shaped
gold band with decorative edges; on
each side is a palmette motif holding an
onyx pseudo-scarab in the swivel.
Excerpts from "New Discoveries from the Necropolis of Casenovole, Civitella Paganico (GR) by Maria Angela Turchetti and Paolo Nannini in Etruscan News - Winter 2016".
When we next find it mentioned in history, it is among the cities of Etruria, which furnished supplies to Scipio in the Second Punic war. It sent him its quota in corn, and fir for ship-building. It is afterwards mentioned among the Roman colonies in Etruria. (..)
Within the walls are sundry remains. On the elevated part to the north, which I think to have been the Arx, besides fragments of rectangular masonry, are some vaults of Roman work, which have been supposed, it seems to me on no valid grounds, to have formed part of an amphitheatre. (..)
On the south-western side of the city are three parallel vaults of Roman opus incertum, about a hundred feet long. They are sunk in the high embanked ground already mentioned, in which, not far from them, are traces of a gate through the inner line of wall. Dennis
The focus of the first excavations was on finding evidence of the Etruscan town, because the Roman one did not have an interesting historical background, yet a number of fine artefacts were found which were in line with the Etruscan tradition in terms of material and decoration, but they were made during the Roman tenure of the region.
The layout of the Roman settlement, which was smaller than the Etruscan one, was gradually identified by a long series of excavation campaigns which began in the 1950s. In the Augustan Age (at the beginning of Ist century AD) Rusellae was a flourishing town; it had a Forum surrounded by the main public buildings including one (Augusteum) which was devoted to ceremonies in honour of the imperial family, probably similar to those found at Herculaneum and at Lucus Feroniae, a small town north of Rome.
The city experienced a period of peace and prosperity with intense building activities also in the IInd century AD. A basilica near the Forum is named after the Bassi, because the pedestal of the main statue bears the inscription "Bassus", but the building might have housed the local senate and Bassus might have been a local benefactor.
Excavations have identified also a very small amphitheatre, a house with fine floor mosaics and a theatre. The image used as background for this page shows a capital of a pilaster of the theatre. You may wish to see a page on Alba Fucens, another small Roman town in a rural area east of Rome.
Archaeological and Art Museum of the Maremma: (left) fragment of a balustrade separating the main altar from the nave from a church of Rusellae (VIIIth century AD); (right) 1596 coat of arms of Clemente Politi, Bishop of Grosseto of a noble family of Siena
Rusellae continued to exist after the fall of the Western Empire, and for ages was a bishop's see, till in 1138, its population had sunk so low, and the site was so infested by robbers and outlaws, that its see and inhabitants were transferred to Grosseto, its modern representative. Since that time Rusellae has remained as it is now seen - a wilderness of rocks and thickets - the haunt of the fox and wild boar, of the serpent and lizard - visited by none but the herdsman or shepherd, who lies the live-long day stretched in vacancy on the sward, or turning a wondering gaze on the stupendous ruins around him, of whose origin and history he has not a conception. Dennis
Archaeological and Art Museum of the Maremma: (left) early funerary urn from Vetulonia (see a similar one at Cortona); (right) crater with lid (VIIIth century BC) from Pescia Romana near Montalto di Castro
The town museum of Grosseto was entirely renovated in 1999 and it includes also some exhibits other than those from Rusellae and Museo Diocesano, a section with works of art from churches of the diocese. You may wish to see some Etruscan exhibits from Maremma in the museums of Florence and Rome.
Move to Medieval and Modern Grosseto.
In Maremma - other pages:
Corneto (Tarquinia) - Palazzo Vitelleschi and Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Tarquinia
Tarquinia - Etruscan Necropolis of Monterozzi
Montalto di Castro and Canino
An Excursion to Orbetello
An Excursion to Porto Ercole