How to reach
Rocca San Silvestro in Val di Cornia can be reached, either from south that from north, following the the SS1 Aurelia towards Campiglia Marittima, from which its around 3 kilometers far. The site rises to the slopes of the Mount Calvi in the heart of the archaeological park "Parco Archeominerario di San Silvestro" accessible only with guided tours.
The fortified village of Rocca San Silvestro, known during the whole Middle Age with the name of Rocca a Palmento, was one of the main settlements of the Tuscan Diocese of Populonia and then of Massa Marittima, thanks to its position on a rocky spur dominating the coastline lowland, marshy at the time, between the Gulf of Baratti and the Metalliferous Hills. More than military, its importance was due to the extractive activity, great part of the area of the hamlet was destined to the transformation of silver, copper and lead of which its underground was rich, since the times of the Etruscan.
The castle had its origin between the 10th and 11th century when the counts of the Gherardesca decided to exploit the mining resources of the zone, the first traces of fortifications dating this period: the residence of the Lords (Visdomini) was at the peak of the inhabited area, almost like an 'acropoli' defended by a stone enclosure at the time not strenghtened by the keep, while the rest of the hamlet was encircled by a second walled curtain.
With the decline of the Gherardesca family and, at the beginning of the 12th century, the take over of the Della Rocca as Lords of the castle, Rocca San Silvestro had a strong economic and urbanism growth. The town walls were rebuilt and gifted of a fortified gate preceded by a stone stairway, the feudal residence was provided of a high square watch tower with the function of keep, two water cisterns, the church enlarged and even the houses of the village, almost all at one floor, were reconstructed following a primordial urbanistic plain for the rationalization of the spaces.
Inside the new walls the settlement was divided in sectors, west the residential zone, east that industrial and handicraft. The new foundry and the forge were rebuilt outside the town. In the 13th century the fortifications were strengthened and the greatest part of the residences were raised adding a second floor. At the end of this century began the abandonment of the Rocca, caused by the great conflicts with the near powerful Pisa, by the discovery of new mines in Sardinia, but mainly for the great use of the hydraulic energy in the mining activity's new techniques (here impossible to carry on due to the lack of surface water). The decrease of the inhabitants brought to the transformation in agricultural areas of great part of the mining zones and during the following century Rocca San Silvestro was definitely abandoned. Thanks to the Department of Archaeology and History of the University in Siena on the site have been carried on important excavations.