The “borgo” of Sassa
Inhabited since the Etruscans’ time
Perched on top of the North side of the Poggio al Pruno hill, the highest peak of the coastal plain between Follonica and Rosignano, the castle of Sassa is the perfect spot to admire the panoramic view of the Sterza valley and a big part of the Cecina valley. The few people still living in Sassa carry the history and tradition of this enchanting place on their faces.
Sassa was documented as an unfortified settlement for the first time in 1128, but it was called a “castrum”, the Latin word for castle, already in documents from 1171.
However, the whole Sterza valley was inhabited from the Etruscans’ time, in the 8th century b.C., throughout the Roman and medieval periods up to today. It was abandoned in a few instances for longer or shorter times, first in the 5th century b.C., then in the 4th century a.D. and in the second half of the year 1000. Since the beginning of the 12th century, many castles have been built in the area. They were made up of a group of buildings, with the lord’s one and the church towering over the others, all surrounded by a mighty wall. Today, three castles are inhabited in the Sterza valley: Querceto, first documented as a castle in 1118, La Sassa and Canneto, documented first as a court in 1128 and as a castle in 1171.
Our castles, especially the ones of Sassa and Querceto, only kept some of their medieval buildings, whereas the whole system of winding roads is still the same.
THE MEDICEAN 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.
THE REDEEMER'S ORATORY
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 SAN MARTINO CHURCH
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.
Other towns to visit
in the area of Montecatini Val di Cecina
Piazza dei Priori 19/20 - 56048 Volterra (PI) - PIVA 01308340502