Tuscany is one of the most famous Italian regions abroad. Many movies chose it as their set and promoted the image of rolling hills, cypress trees, vineyards and medieval villages world-wide. In this article, we will tell you about the coastal area and specifically about Populonia and Baratti: the Etruscan side of Tuscany. This is a place full of history, where to visit ancient borgos and ruins. All of it combined with a beautiful landscape, right in front of the Tuscan Archipelago.
The Archeological Park in Baratti and Populonia
The socalled Parco Archeologico di Baratti-Populonia is a real open-air museum. It streches over 80 hectars between the Gulf of Baratti and the promontory of Piombino. The park lies right in front of the Tuscan Archipelago (Elba, Montecristo, etc.). There you can learn about the Etruscans and the metallurgical activities in the ancient town of Populonia, the only Etruscan town in Tuscany to be built directly by the sea.
The park divides into two main sections. Down hill you find the necropolis together with the old caves and the working areas, while on the upper site there is the acropolis with its temples, buildings and Roman streets. Moreover, part of the ancient walls are still standing on the sea side. What made this area very rich at Etruscan times was hematite, an iron oxide, coming from the big deposits on the nearby Elba Island. Keep reading our article Populonia and Baratti: the Etruscan side of Tuscany to learn more about the Etruscan necropolis in the park and the beautiful borgo of Populonia.
The Etruscan Necropolis of the Park
As we mentioned, the lower part of the park is where the old caves and the industrial headquarters were. In addition, the necropolis was there and among the most important burial grounds you find the Necropolis of San Cerbone and the Necropolis of the Caves (Necropoli delle Grotte). The Necropoli del Cerbone is a very monumental necropolis and the only Etruscan one by the sea. The Necropoli delle Grotte consists of chamber tombs carved into the rock dating back to the 4th century BC. To get there you need to walk up the hill through the woods. The hike takes about 40 minutes. The view over the gulf will surely repay you once there.
The Archeological Park of Baratti and Populonia combines the passion for history to the one for nature. Indeed, many are the paths going from the ancient settlements on the hill to the necropolis on the lower side of the park. What makes this park unique is also the suggestive environment, changing from Mediterranean brush to the clear blue waters of the Thyrrenian sea. Actually the park belongs to the bigger system of the Parks of the Val di Cornia, including more nature and historical parks in the municipality of Livorno.
The Archeological Museum of Piombino
A stop at the Archeological Museum in Piombino is a must to have a complete idea of the Etruscan time. There you can admire many of the artefacts that were found inside the tombs in Baratti. Among them, there are objetcs for personal use, like grooming items and ceremonial objects, as well as weapons and vases. For example, you can see part of the objects from the best preserved tomb in the park, the Tomb of Chariots. Moreover, you can see many Phoenician plates, beautiful Greek vases and last but not least the precious Silver Amphora found by some fishermen in the 1960’s.
Piombino is also the gateway to Elba, the biggest island in the Tuscan Archipelago. It is possible to get there by ferryboat from the port of Piombino in about one hour. This destination is ideal for many, from sea lovers, divers and sunbathers to hikers and nature lovers. Our suggestion is to visit the Island from a different perspective. For this reason we designed a Private Boat Tour on Elba Island. On our website you find more info about the program. Remember that all our tours can be personalized for our clients.
The ancient borgo of Populonia
In the Etruscan history Populonia was one of the twelve powerful city-states. However, it was the only one to be built along the coast. Compared to others, this town became rich thanks to the industrial activities related to iron manufacturing. Its position was very strategic for the presence of rich metallic resources on the Campigliese Mountains on one side and the big hematite deposits on the Elba island. For this reason, the port of Populonia was very prosperous.
Today you can visit the ancient city on the top of the promontory of Piombino. It officially belongs to the association I borghi più belli d’Italia as one of the most beutiful borgos of Italy and expression of the Italian excellence. The association promotes the historical and cultural heritage of small villlages in Italy since 2001. According to the Club, a borgo is identified with a small generally fortified town. A borgo usually dates back to the Middle Ages or to the Renaissance and defensive walls still partially surround it.
What to see in Populonia
The borgo of Populonia is a real jewel along the Tuscan coast, boasting big artistic and historical treasures. Today it represents the perfect match between ancient and modern times. You can have a stroll in the cobble stone alleys within the medieval walls and stop by the artesan shops and the local restaurants. The original medieval architecture is preserved everywhere.
Very interesting is the Collezione Gasparri, a private collection of Etruscan and Roman finds and submarine discoveries. The Gasparri’s owned the property and were awarded this collection as a sign of gratitude for allowing archeological excavations there.
In the small piazzetta you find the Church of Santa Croce (Holy Cross) and from there you easily get to the castle tower. From the top of the hill you can enjoy a marvellous view over the surrounding area and the beautiful Tuscan Archipelago.
Hiking in the Gulf of Baratti
As we mentioned before, what makes this historical area very suggestive is the unique landscape. Next to the Etruscan ruins and to Populonia, a thick pine forest streches along the Gulf of Baratti. There you find a beautiful beach that is mainly public. Surfers really appreciate this place for the good waves, especially in winter time. For this reason, it is also home to a saliling school.
Even hikers appreciate this area for the suggestive paths connecting the gulf to the town of Piombino through the woods. Among the interesting places on the way, there is the rocky cove Buca delle Fate. It is a hidden place ideal for snorkeling. Worth a mention is also the Monastery of San Quirico, also beloging to the Archeological Park of Baratti-Populonia.
The Monastery of San Quirico
Beside the necropolis and its tombs and the acropolis with its temples and old thermal baths, the Archeological Park of Baratti and Populonia includes a medieval monastery. The Monastery of San Quirico is a Benedictine building in the middle of the brush of the promontory. It connects the Etruscan and Roman Populonia to the medieval town of Piombino. To get to the monastery ruins you can chose the hike 300 to Cala Moresca (in Piombino). You can download the map of the area here. In the map you find several itineraries connecting the main attractions in the park.
The area of Populonia and Baratti is the perfect place where to discover the Etruscan side of Tuscany. In addition, you can also enjoy the relaxing beach of Baratti and the adventurous paths into the park woods.