Roccalbegna literally means “the rock of Albegna” – the river that divides the historic part of the town from the more recent one. After its foundation in medieval times, the city has passively followed the rest of the territory of Mount Amiata from the Aldobrandesca domination to the government of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, but has always stood out for the naturalistic spirit of its inhabitants and their love for large green spaces. .

The first thing you notice when arriving in Roccalbegna is its position. Squeezed between a fortress and the steep Mount Labbro, the town appears proud and shy; perfect portrait of its inhabitants, who have always tried to adapt to the environment without damaging the beautiful landscape.

Today Roccalbegna is the closest thing to an alpine refuge in Maremma, and staying there is a pleasure for all the senses, with the scent of burning wood, the sound of flowing water and the view over the woods of the valley of the Albegna.

TO SEE

The first stop to do in Roccalbegna is the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Piazza XX Settembre. Completed at the end of the 13th century, the church has a beautiful Gothic portal. Inside, the space is bare, intact since the Middle Ages. To the right is a silk flag that belonged to an anti-Jacobin movement known as “Viva Maria”, active in the eighteenth century, in vehement opposition to the French occupation of Tuscany.
Follow the via del Cassero up to the ruins of the Cassero Senese, an ancient fortress that offers a fantastic view of the city from above.
On the other side of the valley you can see the ruins of another castle dating back to the Aldobrandeschi era, colloquially known as the Pietra or the Sasso. It is possible to visit it, but the excursion will require a couple of hours and a good pair of hiking shoes.
Back in Roccalbegna, head towards Via Palazzaccio to see the 13th-century hospital and the Oratory of the Crucifix. The latter is home to a small museum (open on request; 0564 989032; free) which collects the artistic treasures of Roccalbegna, including the works of the seventeenth-century artist Francesco Nasini. The most impressive work preserved there is undoubtedly the Cross of Luke by Tommè. This elaborately painted crucifix dates from 1360 and is said to have saved the city from cholera five centuries later.

IN THE SURROUNDINGS OF ROCCALBEGNA

Built high up among the oaks in the early Middle Ages, it is one of the smallest but most fascinating in the Maremma. The residence was owned by the Piccolomini family until 1960 and has recently been opened to the public. The delicate Italian-style garden designed by Pope Pius II Piccolomini and the small Chapel of the Madonna di Loreto (1650) are worth the visit.

CURIOSITY

ROCCALBEGNA COOKIES

Roccalbegna is famous for its biscuits, in particular a type of very crunchy salty biscuit, flavored with anise. Locals enjoy them dipped in coffee or vin santo. They can be found in any bakery, but those in Libero Conti (via XXIV Marzo; 0564 989025) are considered the best. Roccalbegna dedicates a special party to its biscuits, which takes place on 14 August.

EVENTS

Focarazza di Santa Caterina

24 November

The small hamlet of Santa Caterina is famous for one of the oldest fire rites in the Maremma, the Focarazza. Since the eighteenth century, on the eve of the feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, local men have braved the fire of a burning stake to conquer the stollo (a long wooden pole) and transport it to the center of the town. Blackened and blinded by smoke, the men fight each other for this heavy and still smoking pole and finally lead it to their neighborhood. Eventually, the pole is cut into pieces and each family gets one, to burn in their own fireplace. The ashes are scattered around the fields as a good omen. Other information about Focarazza and other traditions of Santa Caterina can be collected at the small but interesting museum (Via Roma 15; only on request; 0564 969602; free).