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65km (40 miles) S of Volterra; 67km (41 miles) SW of Siena; 115km (71 miles) SW of Florence

Inland Massa Marittima, sitting stately atop its 356m (1,168-ft.) mount with a sweeping view over the farmland far below and Metalliferous Hills beyond, is an Etruscan grandchild. It's a medieval mining town that's heir to ancient Pupolónia. When St. Cerbone moved his bishop's seat here in the 9th century, he kicked off Massa's Middle Ages prosperity, based on mining the metal-rich hills around it. It established a republic in 1225 and grew fat on mine proceeds -- unfortunately attracting the attentions of the nearby Sienese.

In 1335, Siena attacked and subdued Massa, taking the upper half of town and fortifying it as their Città Nuova (New Town). In its heyday, the city produced both religious heritage (St. Bernardino of Siena was born and died here) and civic legacy: The first mining code in European history was drawn up here in the 14th century, one of the most important legislative documents from the Middle Ages.

Massa has a fine crop of small museums and an impressive cathedral, and makes a great cultural timeout if you're holidaying by the coast. For most of the year, the two-tier town lies empty for exploration.