its history and mines
by Silvia Messeri
Gavorrano is a few kilometres from Follonica, in the heart of the Upper Maremma. Situated on the side of Monte Calvo, 273 metres above sea level, this medieval village offers the visitor a verdant panorama of chestnut woods and maquis stretching to the plain of the river Pecora.
Up until a few decades ago this was a marshy area, but now cultivated fields prevail, from which the signs of what nowadays is called industrial archeology can be discerned. In fact, one of the most characteristic aspects of the area around the village is that of the mining shafts, evidence of a period which lasted for a hundred years.
A view of Gavorrano (photo ©FAN)
The history of the village itself is lost in the past centuries. Caput Boreanum was its original name, indicating the top of the hill where it was built, but the first written evidence dates back to the 9th century during the period of Charlemagne. In fact, he was the person who gave the castle of Gavorrano to the Alberti family of Mongona as a means of thanking them for their support during the war, subsequently won, against the Longobards.
Then in the 12th century the village passed to Gualfredo, bishop of Grosseto and, finally, in the 13th century, to the Pannocchieschi counts. They are linked to the sad tale of Countess Pia de' Tolomei, unjustly suspected of infidelity by her husband, Nello Pannocchieschi, who had her thrown from the castle tower.
With the discovery of its enormous pyrite deposit in 1898, Gavorrano's economy depended for a hundred years on mineral extraction, right up to the 1980s.
Besides Gavorrano, the mineral was also extracted in the neighbouring areas of Ravi, Rigoloccio and Valmaggiore. Despite the fact that the mines are now closed, many of the infrastructures used to extract the pirite are still intact. The most important one is known as "Pozzo Roma", situated almost at the entrance to the village, and distinguished by its huge metal structure.
A few hundred metres distant is "Pozzo Valsecchi" which was used to ventilate the mine and is the only one in Europe made out of wood.
Today this enormous historical heritage is about to gain importance with the creation of one of the biggest mining parks in Europe. At present, it is however possible to visit a small "Mining Museum" run by the municipal tourist board.