Roccastrada in the Alta Maremma area of Tuscany, Italy


Roccastrada is a fairly ordinary place distinguished by the beautiful 13 C church of Saint Nicola in the old part of the town. The municipality of Roccastrada is very large (28,000 hectares) and full of interesting sights. The Town Hall, the Municipal Library and the Theatre of the Concordi are located in the 19 C new part of the town. Stores selling food and other supplies are plentiful, making Roccastrada a shopping centre for the many agriturismi in the surrounding territory.

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The History of Roccastrada

The territory of Roccastrada was under the influence if not the control of Roselle in Etruscan times and it remained so under the Romans and even during the Early Middle Ages (the Dark Ages). The territorial integrity of southern Tuscany was maintained by the Longobards but finally shattered by the gift of the lands of the Bishopric Roselle by Charlemagne to the Pope in the 787. From then on, Roccastrada lay on the boundary between the territories of the Empire and those under the control of Rome. The Aldobrandeschi family took full advantage of this. By means of a prolonged armed struggle, they enfeoffed and reunited the entire Maremma under their own control.

The Aldobrandeschi maintained their territorial possessions until the 13 C. These possessions consisted of small, fortified towns, among which the castles of Sassoforte, Montemassi, Roccatederighi are the most characteristic. These strongholds embody the immobility of an area that remained feudal for an extended period, excluded from the economic development that was taking place in central Tuscany.

During 13 C and the first half of the 14 C, Sienna conquered all the castles of the area, destroying their fortifications and thereby increasing the marginality of the Maremma, an area already weakened by famines and plagues culminating with the Black Death in 1348. In addition, the silting up of "lake" of Prile led to the appearance of stagnant freshwater lagoons that aided the spread of malarial mosquitoes northwards.

Roccastrada submitted to Florence
in the first half of 16 C, a fairly standard example of economic supremacy leading to the political subjection of a depopulated and abandoned territory. The Medicean domination did not substantially improve conditions in the territory, and only the subsequent rule of the House of Lorraine resulted in the removal the main obstacles to the demographic and economic recovery. Starting in the 18 C, there was a resumption of mining, land reclamation together with administrative and institutional reforms.

Anna Maria Baldini

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