La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima

Middle Ages Castles in Maremma, Italy

La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima - the Campiglia di Marittima middle ages castle - is a very beautiful location. I visited in April when these photographs were taken and the site was bathed in glorious April sunshine and full of wild flowers. The panoramic views from the castle of the Maremma Livornese coastline and inland hills with the neighbouring Rocca di San Silvestro were stunning.

And it was so peaceful: apart from a couple of Austrian cyclists touring the area, I had the whole castle and grounds to myself with just the sounds of a goat bell to break the blissful silence.

Middle ages castle: La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima in Maremma Italy
The remaining part of the palace of La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima

The site itself has been restored with considerable evident investment and thought. (After the excavations between 1994 and 1999 of the Department of Medieval Archaeology of the University of Siena, it was re-opened in June 2008). There are many benches on which to sit and ponder what life would have been like here, or upon which to just rest a while amongst the planted trees, shrubs and natural carpets of wild flowers.

The medieval castle keep of La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima in Maremma Italy
The view of the Rocca di Campiglia Marittima site and castle keep from the Viale Guerrazzi entrance

There are picnic tables, a toilet (with disabled access) and path and sunken lighting.

Plus a mini "amphitheatre" with a rotating wooden "stage": the scene for open-air performances and festivals such as the "Arcieri del Drago" - the Dragon Achery contest held each year at the end of April.

The grounds of La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima in Maremma Italy
Picnic seating at the middle ages castle of La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima in Maremma Italy
Picnic tables and seating at the Rocca di Campiglia Marittima site

To see the panoramic views that the castle originally enjoyed, you will need to climb the metal staircase that has been built alongside the towns aqueduct (built in the 1930's) in what would have been the inside of the castle to reach the viewing areas: one of the roof of the aqueduct and another along a further iron platform.

View from La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima in Maremma to La Rocca di San Silvestro
In the centre of this photograph, just below the peak of the hillside is the white La Rocca di San Silvestro. The information board on the rooftop of the aqueduct reads: "A direct line of sight connected the part of the castle Campiglia reserved for the nobility to the castle of "rocca" San Silvestro, another "castello" controlled by a branch of the Della Gherardesca family."

I love castles and have done since I was a child, but have a fear of heights: not a great combination when you want to explore them! And the staircase, although not steep, left me shaky! But I readily climbed it a few times just to see the views again. On a clear day it is possible to see the island of Corsica.

View of the Maremma Livornese coastline from La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima
View from La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima of part of the medieval borgo below, the church of Pieve di San Giovanni, and the Maremma countryside
Views of the Maremma Livornese coastline and the medieval borgo of Campiglia Marittima: the result of 13th century expansion of the castle. In the second photograph the 12th century rural church - le Pieve di San Giovanni - can be seen to the right.

It is a beautiful site and I can highly recommend it.

Even if castles aren't your kind of thing but you are visiting Campiglia Marittima, La Rocca is a wonderful place for a picnic and a great spot for the kids to wander and play whilst you relax (just watch out for the iron staircases).

Spring flowers at La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima
The carpet of spring wild flowers at La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima

 

The Medieval Castle

The monumental complex of La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima occupies a semi-circular hill 281 metres above sea level and includes a keep or donjon, cistern, imposing crenellated walls with a mullioned window, and fortress walls with bastions.

The I Parchi della Val di Cornia La Rocca di Campiglia information board reads:

"The term "rocca" (fort, castle) is used to describe the complex of buildings which can be admired on top of the hill. These stone-built edifices are the product of several construction phases, spanning the 12th and 14th centuries. Up until the end of the 13th century, the buildings were inhabited by the members of a branch of an important aristocratic family, the Della Gherardesca family.

This family was responsible for turning the small village of huts at Campiglia into a castle, which was mentioned for the first time in a document dating to 1004.

The upper part of the hill was thus the most representative area of a settlement which, as of the 12th century, also comprised a "borgo" (a medieval hamlet, often with defensive features) which stood on the terraced slopes below the Rocca, and which was defended by an impressive stone-built outer wall.

From 1994 until 1999, the Medieval Archaeology Department at the University of Siena carried out annual excavation campaigns inside and outside the buildings which form part of the Rocca. The information gathered during these investigations, including analysis of the medieval architecture of the borgo, have enabled us to reconstruct the complex history of this site."

Castle in the middle ages: the ruins of the palace at La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima

The I Parchi della Val di Cornia information board for this part of the Rocca di Campiglia marittima castle - the palace - tells us that:

  • the double lancet window provided light for the first floor of the palazzo which was divided from the ground floor by a system of wooden floors;

  • at the sides were storage niches for household objects; a dividing wall was built during the 13th century to support the wooden floors of the first floor of the building, replacing an earlier system of stone pillars;

  • the original levels of the earth floor and earlier beaten earth floors of the first phase of the medieval village are visible;

  • there was a latrine on the first floor, the drain for which was later used as a rubbish tip; a slit window lit the ground floor.

 

Ruins of the middle ages castle tower at La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima

The I Parchi della Val di Cornia information board for this tower tell us:

  • the inhabitants used to throw broken objects and scraps of food into the interior of the shaft;

  • a stone vaulted ceiling used to cover the shaft, which was probably accessible by means of a wooden ladder;

  • a stone vault used to separate the first floor from the second floor, both of which were illuminated by large windows giving access to a system of external wooden balconies;

  • the tower must have consisted of at least two other storeys, with wooden floors in between.

The I Parchi della Val di Cornia Stone Architecture information board reads:

"Following definitive consolidation of their political powers, members of the Della Gherardesca family, later given the title "conti di Campiglia" - Counts of Campiglia, decided to build a new residence. During the 12th century, on top of the previous huts, first the tower was erected which is now home to the museum, and then the so-called palazzo.

These are powerful stone structures, evident signs of the economic power of the famliy which commissioned them. The refined details of the architectural design denote the handiwork of specialized master builders, who may have come from circles involved in the urban building sector, probably mediated by Pisa.

In the first few decades of the 13th century, following political differences between the Counts of Campiglia and Pisa, some of the buildings were occupied by a military garrison sent by the city, and these soldiers lived in the castle until the beginning of the 15th century. After this time, following the conquest of this area by Florence, a larger military contingent, sent from Florence, continues to be stationed within the castle complex until well into the 16th century."

The middle ages castle cistern at La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima
The Rocca di Campiglia Marittima medieval cistern. The I Parchi della Val di Cornia information board reads: "The large cistern, built in the first decades of the 13th century, together with the tower. Inside, it was lined with water-resistant plaster. Rain-water, which drained off the rooves of the tower and the "palazzo", flowed into the cistern through the rectangular chamber which is still visible opposite you, from which water could also be drawn. there was once a flat roof above the stone vault, becoming thereby a further observation point commanding the surrounding area."

The I Parchi della Val di Cornia Reconstruction of the 10th century village information board reads:

"The stone-built buildings were constructed on top of a previous settlement standing on the flat area on the hilltop.

Archaeological investigations have made it possible to distinguish the remains of a village which existed at least since the 10th century. Its inhabitants lived in wooden huts, perhaps defended by a palisade, and they based their economy on large-scale pig farming.

The pigs grazed in the surrounding dense forests of ilex and oak trees. It is possible that this settlement, which is not mentioned in documents, was an outlying hamlet of a larger farming town situated in the surrounding area. Maybe this larger site received the hind quarters of the pigs which were raised here, as a form of tax, given that no trace of the rear parts of the animals was found during excavation of the animal bone remains, and their subsequent analysis.

The castle belonging to the Della Gherardesca family, mentioned in documents as of 1004, was inhabited by pig farmers, and consisted of large huts with a stone socle (low wall or base), where the only trace of an aristocratic presence can be seen in the remains of wild animals (game) which have been found: animals which, according to the customs of the time, could only be hunted by the local aristocracy."

 

Reaching the castle

The entrance to the middle ages castle La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima
The entrance to the Rocca di Campiglia Marittima castle is the doorway you can see to the right in this photograph. The house on the left belongs to an architect: a lovely spot for a house in Maremma - next door to a castle!

There are two routes to the castle - both on foot - from within the town which join together before the castle entrance, and one externally along Viale Mussio.

Make your way up through the town and, if the photographers amongst you aren't too distracted by the incredible medieval architectures of low alley ways and arches, and balconies covered in flowers, you will eventually reach the summit of the hill on which the town resides and La Rocca.

La Rocca Opening Times and Admission Fees

The Rocca di Campiglia Marittima is open every day from 10:00 to 17:00.

Admission is free.

 

The Rocca di Campiglia Marittima Museum

The Rocca di Campiglia Marittima museum is discreetly housed in the still intact castle keep: apart from the the sign on its two dark glass doors, you wouldn't know it was there. Yet more evidence of the way in which the planners of the restoration of this site gave considerable thought to its presentation.

Castles from the middle ages: La Rocca di Campiglia Marittima
The keep tower on the left houses the museum and the modern building on the right is the aqueduct that was built between 1930 and 1931 to supply the town with water. The information board tells us that its construction necessitated the destruction of much of the original "palazzo" and the tower behind it.

It is home to the archaeological remains found on the site, amongst which is an almost complete armour, a helmet and a small collection of weapons.

Opening times:

January, February, March, October, November and December
Only open upon prior reservation for groups

April, May, 1 - 5 June and 15 - 30 September
Open Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 15:00 to 19:00.
Extraordinary openings for Easter festivities and for four-day weekends.
From Tuesday to Friday open only upon prior reservation for groups.

15- 30 June and 1 - 15 September
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 15:00 to 19:00.

July and August
Open every day from 17:00 to 23:00.

 

More information

For more information about excavations that took place between 1994 and 1995 on the site visit the Università degli Studi di Siena website* (in Italian) for La Rocca di Campiglia, which has somee great reconstruction drawings of how the castle would have looked during the different phases of its development.

* Website no longer available.

 

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