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Suvereto, a thriving Maremma town

Suvereto coffee shop just outside the main gate
Always the first stop for us is the coffee shop La Gattabuia just before you pass under the old walls into the centro storico

Suvereto was the first place in the Maremma that Elena and I visited together about 9 years ago, though her family trips to the southern coastal strip of Tuscany go back decades and many Florentines still drive west for their summer escape to the seaside near Suvereto. We've written about many towns that we like in the Maremma but Suvereto remains our favorite place and perhaps the only one we would happily swap with Lucca on a permanent basis.

Suvereto, Tuscany
Decorations in the cloister of the Franciscan monastery

We've spent numerous weekends in the countryside all around the town in various types of bed & breakfasts and agriturismo accommodation like Le Foreste just west of town and the slightly plusher Casa Cavallo near the hamlet of Prata to the north, but whatever time of year we happen to be there, Suvereto is always lively and charming, never empty but never too crowded.

Its location in the alta Maremma is ideal, being half way between Massa Marittima and Castagneto Carducci and a short drive from the Spiaggia di Rimigliano and the Gulf of Baratti. Campiglia Marittima and the bigger coastal town of San Vincenzo are also nearby as is the ancient Etruscan settlement of Populonia where the coastal walk Via dei Cavalleggeri is to be found.

Palazzo Comunale, Suvereto
Palazzo Comunale

At first glance Suvereto has everything that people love about Tuscany. The ruins of a 700 year old castle, La Rocca Aldobrandesca, sit at the highest point with the ancient walls encircling the town in the shape of a pentagon with 8 defensive towers.

The medieval centro storico is lined with well preserved stone buildings, the most important of which is the 800 year old Palazzo Comunale.

All around the town there are vineyards, olive groves and woodlands of oak, chestnut and cork trees that fostered a long tradition of Suvereto charcoal burners, carpenters and blacksmiths. Cork in fact gave its name to the town from the Latin suber for cork.

The landscape is pastoral rather than dramatic with gently rolling hills overlooking the fertile Val di Cornia and the town faces south-west towards the sea giving it glorious year-round sunsets. If Suvereto were somewhere in the Chianti hills like Panzano or in the Val d'Orcia it would be on every tourist's list but thankfully, like much of the Maremma, it remains off the beaten track and rarely mentioned.

A wooden sculpture of a cinghiale in Suvereto
Like most of the Maremma, Suvereto is cinghiale country

However, despite a population of only 3,000, Suvereto has such a strong civic pride and determination to prosper rather than just survive that it took the initiative 54 years ago to proactively promote its culture, traditions and territory by setting up an organization called Ente Valorizzazione Suvereto (EVS).

But the fact that Suvereto continues to be a thriving Maremma town probably has more to do with its wonderful location and climate as well as the physical attractiveness of this well-preserved town.

Suvereto, Tuscany

The EVS organization orchestrates a year-round schedule of events, including a weekend medieval festival with the townspeople in costume, various historical reenactments involving fencing and archery competitions, a Palio delle Botti competition which requires pushing barrels containing 5 quintals of wine and a whole series of musical events.

Suvereto takes its medieval history seriously and set up the Compagnia d'arme Cavalieri di Ildebrandino in 2008 to promote medieval fencing and chivalry with particular attention paid to historical accuracy with regard to the costumes and materials used for fencing displays and duels.

Suvereto, Tuscany

Suvereto's oldest festival - La Sagra del Cinghiale - continues into its 56th year over two successive weekends this December, making it one of the longest running in Tuscany. Food and wine have become a very important part of the Val di Cornia economy so for the last 10 years there has been another annual event called Sapori tra le Mura which showcases all the local 'zero kilometer' agricultural products.

Suvereto Medieval Festival poster
Suvereto takes its Medieval history seriously, in particular the year 1201

And naturally, as this is a wine producing area, there is a Vermentino festival in June and another separate wine event in early August - Calici di Stelle - where sommeliers serve glasses of wine together with expert commentary on the numerous high quality wines being produced in the Val di Cornia DOCG and Suvereto DOCG zones.

Suvereto was the first municipality in the upper Maremma to be granted the Charta Libertatis (self-autonomy) and it came about after a battle in 1201 against Saracen pirates that took place on the plain of the Cornia river.

A knight of the ruling Aldobrandeschi family by the name of Ildebrandino won the battle with the help of the townspeople and when he was welcomed into Suvereto afterwards with a festival in his honor he granted the town a charter of freedom to manage its own finances, though political control remained with the Aldobrandeschi family.

Suvereto, Tuscany

Suvereto today may be a small town in terms of population but what you don't see on a superficial visit is the diversity of the agriculture in the fields and woods all around the town and the dynamism that this has created for Suvereto which will ensure that it will continue to thrive and prosper for years to come.

For example, Stefano Pazzagli was the first person to introduce spelt into the Val di Cornia and now cultivates a variety of ancient grains. Simone Favilli breeds massive Chianina cattle nearby and Roberto Catania makes unfiltered olive oil and transforms fruit and vegetables into jams, sauces and pickles.

The Germandine family arrived from Liguria to grow medicinal and aromatic plants organically and others have come to the fertile Val di Cornia to cultivate organic fruits and vegetables as well as to create vineyards, of which there are now so many and of such good quality that both Suvereto and Val di Cornia have DOCG status.

Andrea and Francesco Deiola's family came to Suvereto from Sardinia and they are cheese artisans making pecorino from their own flock of sheep and Mauro Cecchetti is now the last known charcoal burner of Suvereto and has spent 40 years tending to his fires in the woods around the town. There are many others with similar stories who decided that this area of the Maremma was the perfect place both to live and to start their business and many of them also offer accommodation to tourists.


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