Years ago named Ravi in Maremma and now known simply as Ravi, this unexplored hill town in Tuscany is an oasis of peace and quiet and a tiny gem in Maremma's treasure chest of special places.
If walking around the inside of a tiny living medieval castle and then watching the colour of a newly painted building fading to the pale older pink of its neighbour sat in a tiny piazza with views of the Maremma's wooded mineral-rich hills is the fastest thing you fancy doing on a day in Tuscany, then the quiet old mining hill town of Ravi is for you.
Unvisited by no more than perhaps budding medieval archaeologists studying for their university degree at nearby Siena it may be, but unloved Ravi clearly isn't. For unlike one or two other neighbouring hill top towns I won't mention here, this one has clean streets and an absence of any shabby corners.
But then, you'll only find corners in the "younger" buildings and streets of Ravi, as its heart - its intact middle ages castle - is round!
Ravi was built during the Dark Ages and, unlike many other of its counterparts in Maremma, didn't change hands that often. The earliest surviving documentation of its existence as "Ravi in Marittima" is in a church script of 24 May 783. By the year 1032 it had also become known as "Ravanzinao or Ravazzano".
From its first beginnings as a possession of the powerful Bishops of Roselle who ruled large parts of Maremma, their change of fortune led Bishop Berardo of Roselle in August 1118 to concede the "title" of ruling power to the head of what had become a great seat of Benedictine power across southern Tuscany: the Abbot of Sestinga at "Abbazia di Sestinga" in Castiglione della Pescaia. In doing so he also transferred to the Abbot the value of half of the tithes of the villas of Ravi, those of nearby castled Tatti and Caldana, as well as others along his land between the tower of Teupascio and the River Brume.
In the thirteenth century the town and its castle changed hands again: this time from the Counts of Alberti (a branch of the Monterotondo Alberti's), to the noble Pannocchieschi della Pietra (of whom Nello d'Inghiramo Pannocchieschi was Lord and legend tells murdered his wife Pia de Tolomei in order to marry Marghertia Aldobrandeschi, daughter and heiress to the powerful "Red Count", Count Ildebrandino Aldobrandeschi of Sovana and Pitigliano). And, finally to the Malavolti family of Siena, who alternatively placed Ravi under the dominion of ruling Massetani families, but more often those of Siena. It was to the latter that the people of Ravi eventually gave their oath of allegiance and fidelity.
There is a legend about just a handful of men and women who successfully defended Ravi castle against attack in the last of Siena's wars... visit the Castello di Ravi page - link below- below to find out more.
Ravi in Maremma formally fell under the control of the Republic of Siena in 1438 and remained so until the wide swept divvying-up of Maremma that took place in the 16th century between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Pope, when Ravi became part of the territories of the Duke.
By 1833 there were only 309 people recorded as living within the parish.
Ok, at the risk of annoying you and repeating myself, I feel obliged to say that a visit to Ravi isn't going to fill a morning or afternoon with places to see and things to do. Other than taking an incredible five minutes trip back in time in the theatre set that is its castle - the photographers amongst you will linger for longer - and then sitting in the tiny piazza outside of its walls contemplating what life years ago would have been like within them, striking-up a conversation with the very friendly locals, and then perhaps strolling around to the bar for a cafe.
Even a walk up behind the two churches to explore the town further won't take more than another ten minutes.
That just leaves returning to the tiny piazza, sitting, breathing, watching, reading... all the while the pink of one newly painted palazzo slowly fades to the beautiful aged patina of its neighbour. And that will take as long as you have...
So, what I want to say is that if you won't feel like you are on holiday if you aren't busy seeing something or doing something, then don't plan a special trip to Ravi. Rather visit as part of a day out amongst the metelliferous hill towns to see its special castle, or on your way to the sea etc.
Suggestion: you could hill-jump from Scarlino with its magnificent ruined castle, to Gavorrano and the UNESCO Parco Nazionale Technologico Archeologico delle Colline Metallifere Grossetane (The Tuscan Mining Geopark), to Ravi, and then to Caldana and its own middle ages castle and visit the old Cava di Marmo - marble quarry. All with beautiful stretching panoramic views and medieval streets and alleyways. But only if you want a packed day.
On the other hand, if the tune of the simple magic of everyday life here in Maremma has started to sing in your heart - and, be warned, it does without you ever noticing! - then do make a special trip just to Ravi.
For lovers of geology or mining history, the visitor centre at the open-air Ravi Marchi Mine Museum opened its doors in September 2012.
The restoration of the Miniera Ravi Marchi mines as an open-air museum and visitor centre has, after a very long time and considerable investment, now been completed. The area is part of the new Parco Nazionale delle Metallifere Grossetane and the Parco Minerario Naturalistico Gavorrano - Gavorrano Mining park, and you can't miss it for its iron "castelli" (towers) are a highly visible part of this landscape and you will pass them and the visitors centre alongside the road on your way into town.
Part of the Mount Calvo (bald mountain) mines, the "Miniera Marchi" was active from 1910 until its closure in 1965. It was the only mine in the Gavorrano area not owned by the Montecatini family and belonged, instead, to the northern-Tuscan family of Marchi from which it took its name. It was the first processing plant in the area for pyrite and at its height of production employed hundreds of miners, workers and technicians.
Historic miners protest
It was here that in 1963 miners occupied the pits of Vignaccio for two months during the autumn of 1963 in protest of the dismissal of 160 jobs and 250 employees. An action that gathered much national and international support and which some believe heavily influenced the changes to the Italians government at the time.
Communication with the outside world was via the exchange of recorded tapes: some of which are still preserved.
The visitor centre is open at the weekends.
If you are staying in the area, a night tour of the museum area with the "castelli" towers lit is quite an atmospheric experience.
This is probably going to be the shortest information I will ever need to write about where to park, as, even at its "busiest" you will always easily find a place to park along the various places available main road through and in the central piazza. And they are free.
It may be tiny, but it is special. Discover its legend and take a walk inside: the Castello di Ravi.
The closest place to stay is in Caldana, the next hill town along, and one of the best recommendations I can give you is the four star farmhouse and hotel accommodation at Montebelli Agriturismo & Country Hotel.
Explore some more...