The village of Sassa
inhabited in Etruscan times
High up on the northern promontory of Poggio al Pruno, the highest point in the area that overlooks the coastal plain from Follonica to Rosignano, the castle of Sassa has a unique panorama over the entire Val di Sterza and a good part of the central Cecina Valley. Sassa gifts visitors with the silence, history and tradition seen in the faces and memories of the few local inhabitants.
The first mention of Sassa as a settlement without forti cations dates to 1128 but already from 1171 mention is made of a castrum, castle, or a forti ed settlement. This area of the Val di Sterza where Sassa stands was, nevertheless, inhabited in Etruscan times, 8th century BC, in Roman times, in the Middle Ages, up until today abandoned though for periods in the 5th century BC and between the 4th century AD and the second half of the 11th century.
At the beginning of the 12th century numerous castles were built in the area, a group of buildings amongst which architecturally important are the nobleman’s residence and castle church, encircled by a mighty wall. There are three today still inhabited in the Val di Sterza, Querceto documented as a castle in 1118, Sassa a settlement in 1128 and castle in 1171, Canneto a settlement in 1128 and castle in 1171. The castles in our area, particularly Sassa and Querceto, have only partially survived over the centuries, while only the narrow alleyways have remained intact.
THE MEDICI TOWER
The village of Sassa, reached from the fork on the SP18 “dei Quattro Comuni”, developed around the Medicea tower, built on a high spur of rock. The building has a slightly rectangular base and a sloping wall leading up to the threshold of the imposing entrance gate. The construction is characteristic of that of the second half of the 15th century, following the invention of
the mortar and gunpowder, favoring slanting walls to break the destructive force of the cannon balls.
The turret, that up until the middle of the 18th century was used for military necessities, was about eight meters higher than it is today. This gave it a broad eld of vision, to the east to the hills that separate Sassa from the area beyond Saline di Volterra and to the west to the Val di Fine. The building has been restored in recent years, especially the upper part, and today is lived in by the owners.
ORATORY OF THE REDEEMER
Continuing the walk around the medieval village, near the tower, you come across the Oratory of the Redeemer. The little religious building was commissioned by Lorenzo Regoli during the 18th century and used as a family chapel. It was built probably to house a stone statue decorated in stucco, of Christ the Redeemer. Very expressive, with a body not very proportional, the statue dates to the 17th century. Around the niche where the statue is housed recently a decoration has been discovered that reproduces a neoclassic marble altar. Twisted columns, beams, gables and wood are typical of provincial architecture, that adapted what was locally available to suit the depth of the pockets.
THE PARISH CHURCH OF SAN MARTINO
Certainly not to be missed is the Parish Church of San Martino Bishop. The church, originally dedicated to San Nicola, became a parish church in 1361. From its medieval origins damage and expansion transformed it over the centuries. The original building was quite small, a chapel, apse at the eastern end and entrance to the west. The most important development came about during the middle of the 15th century when the building was extended from the south wall over the ancient cemetery, this distorted the orientation. The apse and main altar, together with the presbytery, were placed in this new part of the building, creating an unusual orientation with the altar to the south and entrance north facing.
The bell tower was built in 1788, as recorded on the plaque under the bell compartment on the south wall. e church has never been important from the architectural or artistic point of view. The altars that were built along the walls during the 18th century were removed in the 19th century, in this same period the altar dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary was built, already endorsed at the beginning of the 17th century, as was the imposing entrance that reaches up almost to the roof on the north face. Worthy of mention is the font in red marble from Castagneto Carducci (16/17th century), with a column with unpretentious decoration and a pentagonal basin.
In the summer the locals return to their home town with their children and grandchildren, to enjoy the cool hilltop climate. It is thus that in August Sassa comes alive with festivals and other events, that allow one to enjoy the local dishes especially game.