In 2015 it was released in all cinemas The tale of tales, a film by Matteo Garrone which was then nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes festival. The peculiarity of the film was that it set fantastic stories in places particularly evocative of the Italian territorysuch as the Alcantara Gorges in Sicily or Castel del Monte in Puglia.
An idea that often comes to mind when, traveling through the different areas of Tuscany, it actually seems like we have found ourselves in the middle of a saga fantasy.
It happens especially in the south of the region, where the small medieval villages, the views only partially modified by human intervention and some particular conformations of the territory give this historical and fantastic flavour.
A special place in this imaginary is held by small village of Roccalbegnajust a few hundred inhabitants in the province of Grosseto, between Arcidosso and Santa Fiora, on the edge of the Maremma and on the slopes of Mount Amiata.
When you come across Roccalbegna for the first time, arriving from one side or the other of the state road 323, you are amazed by its scenic position, at the foot of a steep cliff on whose summit lie the remains of a medieval fortress, several hundred meters above the village.
Opposite, on the other side of the town, is the Cassero Senese, another fourteenth-century fortification that stands on the top of a more modest cliff, geographically closing the village along the road that crosses it. In fact, under the Cassero cliff, the Albegna river flows, which has dug a deep bed here, lower than the level of the town.
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Roccalbegna and its forts
The fort that watches over the town of Roccalbegna from the top of the highest cliff is the Aldobrandesca fortressalso called more simply the stone by the local inhabitants, perhaps due to the particular way in which the building adapts and is incorporated into the rocky hill that hosts it.
The Aldobrandeschi fortresses are a real genre in this slice of Tuscan territory. The noble Aldobrandeschi family, in fact, had vast territorial possessions in the region between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. Characteristically, the forts that mainly dot the current province of Grosseto, but also the Val d’Orcia and northern Lazio, are distinguished by their position at the top of the town, with a main body flanked by a watchtower .
The one in Roccalbegna has been in ruins for some time now, but it was probably equipped with two levels in the main body. In disuse since the seventeenth century, the Rocca Aldobrandesca today represents a panoramic place that is worth a visit.
To reach it, arm yourself with good shoes and tackle the arduous path, equipped with stone steps, which from Bar La Rocca, at the eastern entrance of the town, climbs up to the fort. Among the ruins, with due caution, you can look out from the city walls and enjoy the panorama that opens up to your eyes: the network of alleys and orthogonal streets of Roccalbegna, designed by Sienese architects during the thirteenth century, the bell tower of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, the Cassero, the sinuous curves where one can imagine it has dug its own course the Albegna river, the soft hills covered in woods, the olive groves and pastures. A real dive into this little-frequented corner of Tuscany.
Also the Sienese keep, on the lower cliff on the other side of the village, was probably built by the Aldobrandeschi. It also fell into disuse early, but was partially saved by the decision of the Bichi family of Siena, new administrators of Roccalbegna in the mid-17th century, to make it their residence. Reachable by climbing a few steps after navigating the alleys of the centre, the Cassero is another panoramic place, from which you can admire the suggestive looming of the Sasso over the village of Roccalbegna on one side and the Maremma countryside on the other.
The church of Saints Peter and Paul
Despite the very small size of the village of Roccalbegna, there is no shortage of places of interest to visit during your stay.
In addition to the two forts, the city walls which can still be glimpsed in the Porta di Maremma from which one exits the village towards the west and in the three Sienese towers scattered around the corners of the town, at Palazzo Bichi-Ruspoli, an important role is played by the main of the churches in the village, the one named after Saints Peter and Paulin the small quadrangular square that houses the town hall, at the end of via Garibaldi.
Its construction dates back to the 13th century, with classic Roman-Gothic styles, such as the large rose window that characterizes the façade.
Inside, characterized by a single rectangular room and a small apse, the main attraction is represented by the three tables created by Ambrogio Lorenzetti around the middle of the fourteenth century. In fact, a notable one stands out at the main altar Madonna and Childflanked by representations of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in the typical iconographic representation which sees one holding the key in his hand and the other intent on writing his letters while holding a sword in the other hand, symbol of his martyrdom by decapitation .
The church has other minor works of art such as the fourteenth-century wooden crucifix, the sixteenth-century frescoes that decorate one of the niches, a Madonna with Saints Christopher and James by the local Baroque painter Francesco Nasini and a valuable Renaissance stoup at the entrance. The movement’s banner is also worthy of interest Long live Maria of 1799the anti-Napoleonic insurrection which had its motto in the Marian cry and which succeeded in freeing the entire Grand Duchy of Tuscany from French military occupation for a short period.
To close your visit to the small magic of this characteristic village, a good idea is to exit the village at the Porta di Maremma, admiring on the right the poor perfection of the Church of the Madonna del Soccorso, the small church located on the crossroads of the streets. Take a left and follow the road that descends downwards.
You will leave the town behind and arrive on the banks of the Albegna river, the last of the fundamental geomorphological characteristics of Roccalbegna. Here the ruins of an ancient mill, with the millstones still visible, and the impetuous flow of the river between various waterfalls will complete the picture of this small village, but which hides an infinite amount of charm far from the eyes of tourism mass.