Capalbio

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Capalbio what to do? For once the question should be: 'What to experience in Capalbio?' Because the municipality of Capalbio offers the opportunity to enjoy some quality quiet time: the time to appreciate the sea and the beaches of Capalbio, and the time to immerse yourself in its books and films… also, time as the protagonist that always flows in the same ravines and the very stones of the 14th century village, visions of Capalbio that have the charm of Tuscany and that were the catalyst for others to come from outside and build here, for example , in Capalbio with its mysterious traits, a work of art that, in this sense, belongs to it more than any other one: the Tarot Garden.

To visit Capalbio - this amazing town in the extreme south of Tuscany in the province of Grosseto - you need to start from the end. Otherwise the risk is to stop in one of the time machines built in Capalbio by nature and history and remain there still and excited.

Let’s start from the Tarot Garden in Capalbio, Italy. This art park spans over two hectares on the southern slope of the hill in Garavicchio, nearly 7km south-east from the main village. It was conceived, designed and built in 1979 by the French artist, sculptor and painter who was born in le de France in 1930: Niki de Saint Phalle: tarot garden. Niki mostly lived in the USA and built this garden containing, among esoteric paths and pop environments, twenty two giant sculptures, some habitable, in the green vegetation of the Maremma, colourful and inspired by the world of Tarot.

These works are the result of the genius of an artist who chose Capalbio and the Maremma in Tuscany for her art. The Tarot Garden, Tuscany was created in 1979 and completed as recently as 2002 with the death of Niki. It has been open to the public since 1998 and part of the Tuscany culture route that fans of the genre cannot possibly miss out.

The history of Capalbio started in 273 B.C. when the Romans founded it on the hills between Lake Burano, Italy Ansedonia and today’s Capalbio the Latin colony of Cosa. This area is called the Golden Valley. Initially, the area was divided by the Romans into small plots but already towards the 1st century B.C. it is assumed that the 1,400 hectares of the Golden Valley had been captured by at least eleven noble families. 
The lords of these families built huge villas where workers and slaves lived and wine and oil for export by sea were mainly produced. Several of these villas are still under excavation and studies because they contain a wealth of great information; some of these can be visited by the general public.

One of these mansions is also visible from the Aurelia, if you are coming from this direction, at the junction with the hamlet of Giardino. Drive up the foothills and soon you will encountered the remains of the villa called 'Sughereto of Ballantino', with its beautiful and well preserved turrets. Go up the hill to the town of Giardino and the hill of Settefinestre and to the second villa which takes its name from the hill itself and that, dated from the 1st century B.C., was owned by the Sestii Senate family. The Settefinestre Villa is in excellent condition, given the age, and one of the largest found, about 30,000 square metres, a true city; starting from its heavy buttresses and climb to the terraces, you can walk between the arcades and arches, corridors and mosaics, tools and equipment used for the production of oil and wine, that have provided many explanations on the agricultural activities of the time and its techniques. The Settefinestre Villa is the subject of research by all Tuscan Universities, in particular Siena and the British Academy in London.

Capalbio can be traced to the year 805 A.D. in a text in which Charlemagne cites the donation to the monks of the Three Fountains of the Agro Cosa and he cites among the locations exactly Capalbio. Some are not sure that in his chart Charlemagne really referred to the beautiful town but the transition under the dominion of the Church is indeed confirmed in a 1161 A.D. document.
The strategic location of Capalbio, Tuscany as a sea port and also a control hill on the lower portion of Tuscan Maremma, was responsible for the contentions between Siena and Orvieto during the 13th century. In 1300 Capalbio became the property of the Count of Mangiante Messer Ranieri who chose the protection of Siena. Orvieto tried to break his rule but, between 1339 and 1343, it was the Aldobrandeschi family who took it over to sell it in 1358 to the Orsini. In 1410 the Republic of Siena finally took control of Capalbio with a pact of submission which was made official on 17 September 1416.

Capalbio, Italy with the domination of Siena has a period of real prosperity and growth, in many occasions Siena demonstrated to be particularly interested in the town. It was repeatedly claimed by Lords and Cardinals, Friars and Military leaders as in 1452 when the abbot Angel of the Three Fountains Monastery claimed the possessions of 1161. He lost his case but he submitted again in 1459. Once again he lost his claim. In 1464 the Lords of Orbetello tried to claim it, on behalf of Orviet;, other official documents were filed with no results. The friars of the Convent of the Three Fountains sued Siena again to get Capalbio back through their Abbot Erulo in 1466, then still the same friars in 1467, in 1468, in 1475 and again in 1476. An incredible amount of official documents that makes it inexplicable why Capalbio has today become a major cultural centre and not the home of all lawyers.

The 16th century in Capalbio is wealthy and flourishing until, in April 1555, the Spaniards conquered Siena. After raiding the town, they gave everything to Cosimo I de Medici and the great Florentine family took possession of Capalbio, which fell slowly in disgrace and then into complete oblivion. In the 18th century it was adjoined to the State of the Presidi, and in the 19th century (1842), merged to the town of Orbetello. It regained its administrative autonomy only in 1960.

In the 19th century Capalbio was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. During this time banditry was rampant and fierce but also legendary. Capalbio was a land of bandits but it became almost the capital as on the night of 24 October 1896 in the surrounding countryside the most notorious bandit of the Tuscan Maremma was killed during an attempt to capture him: Domenico Tiburzi said Domenichino. Known to the world is the photo portrait of the bandit apparently standing at the time of capture, in reality he was dead and with toothpicks to keep his eyes open, tied upright to a pillar of the Capalbio cemetery.

Today Capalbio is a location for VIPs, frequented by an elite tourism made up of actors and politicians, prominent journalists and authoritative writers, residing in the beautiful villas with pools scattered around the area, or you can meet them under the sun umbrellas of Ultima Spiaggia or Macchiatonda. They can be also met in the renowned restaurants of its countryside and the old town, or at the many different events that abundant in Capalbio especially in hot and sunny seasons. A recognized tourism that has expanded the reputation of this town at the extreme border of Tuscany, and just about two hours from Rome.

There are twelve kilometers of Capalbio beaches, six of these are free beaches, all surrounded by very large, dense and intriguing Maremma Mediterranean vegetation, along these twelve kilometres there are only three access places to the sea. The sand is pleasantly changing, fine in some locations instead ferrous and black in others. The sea is clear and clean and has allowed Capalbio to receive top honours by the authorities inspecting the beauty of the seas and the coastal territory.

Capalbio historical centre boasts medieval cobbled streets and it is enclosed by the 15th century walls over which you can walk and enjoy beautiful views. You can access the walls from Porta Senese on the eastern side, with its beautiful clock tower, and reach Via Lazzerini and the Church of St. Nicholas. Dating back to the 12th century, St Nicholas is rich in numerous frescoes from the Sienese school (14th. century) and the Umbrian school (15th century). A little further on, the Aldobrandesca Rock is impressive and was restored in the 19th century by one of the most well-known nobles of Tuscany, Giovanni Battista Collacchioni, advocate of the passage of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany to the Kingdom of Italy. From inside the Palace you can go up the tower that dominates the whole village. Finally Piazza Magenta, is a secluded and charming corner of Capalbio, often decorated by its inhabitants with striking floral decorations. Piazza Magenta is a portion of Capalbio that oozes with history and emotion.

There are two other things in the area, maritime stations aside, that you should definitely go and visit.

First of all the Tricosto Castle known as Capalbiaccio. Simply head back to the village of Giardino, six kilometers south-west of Capalbio, follow the dirt road on the hill in front of you. Capalbiaccio dates from the 12th century, and follows the history of Capalbio. It belonged first to the brothers mentioned above and then gradually all the others until the Republic of Siena, which decided to get rid of it and had it destroyed. Its remains were recovered thanks to the excavation works of the so-called Medieval archeology and are today visible.

For the second obligatory visit we enter the naturalistic dimension because we are talking of Lake Burano. The whole lake, which can be reached from Capalbio Scalo, which is the most southern point of the Maremma, covers 236 hectares and is a National Nature Reserve. Inside it is the WWF Oasis of Lake Burano, with access only from the Litoranea State Road. If you visit it, you can get in touch with the flora and fauna of this enchanting wetland. The WWF also organizes dedicated trails and tours for fans of photography or birdwatching. Free roaming is not allowed and there are only guided tours. Along the perimeter of the Burano Lake, Capalbio on the coast, there is also a beautiful tower, dated from the 16th century, called Torre del Buranaccio. It is a kind of fort with a large square base, once used as a surveillance point by the State of the Garrisons as it lies in the intersection of the borders between the Papal States and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. You can even get there on foot.

From the point of view of culture, there are at least two appointments that you have to put on the agenda. The first is the 'Capalbio cinema International Film Festival' which takes place in July. Its first edition in 1994 was opened by the well-known film director Michelangelo Antonioni and is one of the most prestigious festivals dedicated to short films. It takes place over five locations in the area during four evenings at the end of which international juries of the highest level deliver the festival awards. 'Capalbio Books' takes place in the beautiful Piazza Magenta, during eight nights in August with book signings and the presence of VIP artists. A festival of great quality with exceptional guests which confirms the elite vocation of Capalbio.

After visiting churches, palaces, towers, Roman villas, and enjoying various books and films, you  could also decide to go for a horse ride, a typical activity of Capalbio Maremma i Toscana since time immemorial. Maremma is full of equestrian centres, the tradition of horse riding here remains strong and Capalbio is no exception. If you want to experience Capalbio Maremma i Toscana, a horse ride must be considered.

After the ride, you should then enjoy some traditional dishes from Capalbio food and wine. Acquacotta, a soup made with onions, celery, basil, tomatoes, stale bread and pecorino (sheep) cheese, a typical dish of the Maremma cowboys ; or the soup with soffritto which is based on pork lard. In the cuisine of Capalbio there is also Tagliatelle and wild boar. Among the 'poorer' recipes, there are dumplings made without potatoes and once made by farmers with a mashed flour, salt and water, today it is considered a delicacy. As with Pagnone, another typical Capalbio food for the poor. This is bread cut into cubes and put in boiling water, then drained and seasoned with olive oil and pecorino cheese. 
Beware. Food is important in Capalbio and if you have visited its churches, palaces, towers, roman villas, books and films without tasting the local recipes, well you haven’t really been to Capalbio!

If you enjoyed this part of Tuscany, there is one thing you should keep in mind. This area has a special characteristic compared to many other small villages in Tuscany. History is protagonist here but up to a certain point. Capalbio has a life of its own, you can visit Capalbio of yesterday but also today and the two are not expected to be intertwined . Capalbio has its own special character.