Searching for a "fact on Italy"? These interesting facts about Italy are from Maremma in Tuscany and Lazio: a place with a rich Etruscan, Roman, medieval, pirate, Spanish, mining... history, together with intriguing tales and legends. I hope you enjoy reading them.
1. The most beautiful beach in Italy is in Maremma: the stunning white sand cove of Cala Violina within the Bandite di Scarlino nature reserve.
2. Cinnabar mercury ore, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, pyrite and other minerals were mined from Maremma's metalliferous hills and those around the volcanic Monte Amiata from pre-Etruscan times until very recently.
3. Maremma's volcanic past is the source of the energy produced from vapour at the geothermal wells around Montieri: the most powerful in Europe, driving 40MW geothermal power plants.
4. Nearly all of Maremma is a national park, nature park, nature reserve, World Wildlife Fund site, or UNESCO World Heritage site. In Maremma Grossetana alone there is one Regional Park, a National Park and twenty-nine natural reserves.
5. In the heat of August in the beautiful and unspoilt countryside around Marina di Alberese you may see the "fata Morgana" mirage elevated above the fields of wheat and sunflowers.
6. It was not until after the second World War that the lowland areas in Maremma become habitable and began to be systematically cultivated. The drainage of the marsh and swamp lands eradicated the harsh malaria ridden life that had plagued Maremma from the middle ages. It only takes one listen to evocative renditions of the local song Maremma Amara to gain a sense of the severe conditions suffered by Maremmano people.
7. The beautiful Bay of Barrati along the Costa degli Etruschi was once covered in hills of 2,500,000 tonnes of black iron-smelting waste - in places up to 10 metres high - produced by Etruscan and Roman metalworkers.
8. You can walk from one Etruscan city to another in Maremma in 3km deep channels carved out of tufo rock: from Pitigliano - also known as little Jerusalem - to Sovana.
9. Herds of horses still run wild in Maremma with oxen, wild boar and deer: the Maremma breed of horse called the Maremmano runs wild together with "Razza Maremmana", long-horned Maremmana cattle, in the stunning Parco della Maremma - Maremma Natural Park, around Alberese.
10. Maremma is home to pink flamingos: in the Laguna di Orbetello, and the Diaccia Botrona nature reserve situated between Castiglione della Pescaia and the Marina di Grosseto.
11. The only Etrsucan city built by the sea is in Maremma at Populonia
12. 6,000 Etruscan tombs in one place: there are many Etruscan sites and tombs in Maremma, but in Tarquinia in Maremma in Lazio, there are over a 6,000 within the necropolises around the town, 200 of which have wall paintings.
13. Napoleon's sister Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi once ruled Tuscany from a tiny place called Montioni in Maremma where, as the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, she turned around the fortune of the local alum mines, reclaimed the countryside and planted cotton, olive groves, and French vines. To read more: Montioni
14. The second smallest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire, built to hold about 1200 spectators of gladiatorial games and fights, is in Maremma at Roselle. Itself one of the most interesting and important archaeological sites in the whole of Italy.
15. Etruscan wine made in Maremma was much sought after and exported across Europe.
16. The precious spice saffron was farmed in the middle ages around the town of Campagnatico and is now a "Prodotto Agroalimentare Tradizionale della Toscana" (Traditional Foodstuff Product of Tuscany).
17. The first Super Tuscan wine was from Maremma: under the Tenuta San Guido in Bogheri estate label "Sassicaia".
18. The Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio passed the last months of his life in Porto Ercole, Argenteria, Grosseto Maremma where he died of a fever in hospital on 18 July 1610. He was apparently on his way to Rome to collect a pardon for killing a young man, but died of lead poisoning from his paints before being able to do so.
19. The story of a Sienese lady at the centre of a Maremma medieval murder mystery inspired both the medieval poet Dante Alighieri and the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti to immortalise her: Pia de Tolomei.
20. Maremma's "Butteri" are the last cowboys in Europe and on 8 March 1890 they defeated Buffalo Bill in a contest of skill whilst he was in Rome at the Prati di Castello on his European tour of the Wild West Show.
21. Perhaps more legend than fact, a flame-red haired and violet-eyed Maremman girl Margherita Marsili was abducted by Barbary Coast pirates from the most beautiful castle in Maremma, sold to the Sultan of Constantinople where she became his wife and ruled with her two sons.
22. Military troops refused to return to the medieval tower of "La Torre degli Appiani" on the island of "Isolotto dello Sparviero" built to defend the port of Punta Ala, due to the violent and repeated attacks by the same said Barbary pirates... Cala del Porto Punta Ala
23. The largest aquarium in Tuscany is in Maremma: Aquarium Mondo Marino
The lovely photograph at the top of the page is of the medieval village of Buriano in Maremma Grossetana and was taken by local Maremmano Riccardo Senesi. To see more of his great photographs of Maremma click on this beautiful landscape pictures link.
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