Is Massa Marittima on the sea or not?

Massa MarittimaThis is certainly the first question that people ask when they come across the name of this town for the first time.

How many visitors have asked themselves if Massa Marittima is on the sea or not! We will immediately clear up the matter and explain once and for all to our dear guests in Tuscany that in spite of the fact that is it called Massa Marittima, this town lies about twenty kilometres from the sea on a splendid hill at 387 metres above sea level.

But what is the reason for the misleading name? As regards the history of the place name, we can tell you that it was mentioned in some texts by the Roman writer Ammianus Marcellinus who called it „Massa Veternensis“ when telling us that Gallus Caesar was born here from Galla, the wife of Costantius, the brother of the emperor Constantine II. He was born in around 350 ad.

However, this was not the first name of the town, given that, due to the important mining activities that had already begun in the area in Etruscan times and constantly continued until recent years, the town was known as „Massa Metallorum, inimica civium suorum“ (Massa of Metals, enemy of its very citizens), due to the malaria that raged in the area until it was reclaimed in the nineteenth century by the Lorena Grand Dukes and the scientist, Ximenes.

But going back to „Massa“, the name is thought to mean – in Roman times and certainly after the fall of the empire – „Mansi“, that is, farms. Confirmation of this is given in Theodosius and Justinian‘s codex‘s where the name of „Massa“ was given to many other villages in Italy, where these were the meeting points of farms, industries or, in our case, mining activities.

The misleading adjective, „Marittima“ has another history. This is totally due to the very nature of the area, that has always been surrounded, as we have already said, by unhealthy and totally inhospitable swamps. So true is this that the town was the last settlement before reaching the sea and from the eleventh century to the eighteenth century a popular proverb ran: „Look at Massa and pass by“.

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