Roccalbegna is between a rock and a hard place, literally. This medieval town sits at the foot of two extremely tall, steep cliffs in a part of the Maremma that can only be described as harsh and wild.
High up in the valley of the Albegna River, Roccalbegna’s locals are used to cooler temperatures and the dense, uncultivated landscape that surrounds the only side of the town that’s not carved into the cliff.
Part of the Reserva Naturale di Rocconi, this forest landscape is, for locals, like a garden oasis right in their backyards. It’s also protected by the WWF from any human interference including hunting, which only adds to its splendour.
Roccalbegna itsef is watched over by two ancient fortress, the CasseroSenese and the Castello La Pietra. Perched on cliffs on either side of town, these fortresses are the heart and soul of Roccalbegna, constant reminders of the town’s role as a military city in the past and continuing today as symbols of the history that ties this tight knit community together.
Roccalbegna’s rather isolated position has, over the centuries, created a community that is rigorously self-sufficient and fiercely proud. Ask anyone in Roccalbegna what nationality they are and they won’t tell you they’re Tuscan or even Maremman, but Rocchigiani, no ifs or buts about it.
But this self-induced isolation isn’t something to mock. It has cultivated traditions and even entire dishes that are completely unique to Roccalbegna. This small cluster of multi-coloured house, each topped with a crumbling terracotta roof, may not be famous for its monuments or churches, but it is famous for its biscuits – the famed Biscotti di Roccalbegna.
These bow-shaped biscuits laced with aniseed and white wine have medieval roots and are usually prepared for weddings, Easter, other special events and the Sagra del Biscotto Salato (held in August). They’re so good, Maremmani from all over travel to Roccalbegna just to get their hands on some, buying enough boxes of the handmade biscuits to last them months.