The Cale di Terra Rossa are a series of little coves of pebbles uncrowded and situated in the initial part of the panoramic path that leads to Cala Violina along the coast from Portiglioni – Puntone di Scarlino.
The pyrite at Terra Rossa
The discovery in 1898 of a huge pyrite deposit, one of the largest in Europe, in the hills south of the village of Gavorrano changed the appearance and economy of this strip of the Tuscan Maremma for decades. Used mainly for the production of sulfuric acid, an essential component for the chemical industry, pyrite was in great demand not only on the domestic market but also abroad and in particular in France. The profitability of the mining company brought an influx of workers to Gavorrano and nearby villages with consequent exponential increase in the amount of ore mined: in 1905 the business was acquired by the Unione Italiana Piriti and shortly after, in 1910, it passed to Montecatini (later called Montedison and today Edison). As early as 1909, a system was started to build to transport the ore to the Scarlino Scalo railway station by cableway, in order to speed up the delivery of the product and reduce costs: the first “flying” load passed over the Padule di Scarlino in 1911. Towards the Scarlino Scalo station also converged the analogous systems of transport of the material extracted in the nearby mines of Niccioleta and Boccheggiano, so that the Scarlino station became one of the main European mining terminals. The inadequacy of the railway became evident: to comply with the requests and dispose of the extracted ore it was necessary to resort to ships. The obstacle constituted by the absence of an equipped port nearby was overcome with the construction of a mining terminal at the promontory of Terra Rossa, stretched out to sufficiently deep waters to ensure the berth to a concrete pillar, a few meters from the shore, of the vessels intended for loading the ore. The marine terminal of Terra Rossa was thus connected to the railway station by an extension of the cableway, which entered into operation in 1919 and passed through the hamlet of Puntone di Scarlino and beyond, behind the current marina.
The pyrite arrived at Terra Rossa by cableway was unloaded into a huge 10,000-ton silo expanded in 1930-1931 and still largely preserved. The silo was connected to an underground tunnel hosting a second cableway suitable for transporting the mineral up to the pylon at sea, where it was loaded inside the holds of the boats. The cableway stopped working in 1968 and afterwards the complex mineral transport system was completely dismantled; the pyrite continued to arrive at Terra Rossa with trucks until 1977, when it was decided to leave the site because the tonnage of modern merchant ships did not allow their mooring to the pylon, forcing a heavy transshipment on barges that carried the ore to ships waiting in the harbor.
After decades of complete abandonment, the Municipality of Scarlino has started a gradual environmental reclamation of the site with the dismantling of the buildings in a state of decay, the demolition of the dangerous pylon at sea and the rearrangement of the remaining structures in order to transform the entire terminal of Terra Rossa in a Mining Archaeological Park.
The Terra Rossa Mining Archaeological Park
The creation of the Terra Rossa Mining Archaeological Park was commissioned by the Municipal Administration of Scarlino in order to preserve an important industrial archeology site, suitable for illustrating to future generations an important moment in the history of this territory. The evocative path in the Terra Rossa Mining Park allows you to visit the remains of the silo that contained the pyrite arrived here from Scarlino Scalo through the long cableway and the underground tunnel with the installations of the minor cableway that conveyed the mineral to the pylon at sea.
Long path: The Cale di Terra Rossa can also be reached from Cala Violina and other coves along the way (Cala Martina and Cala le Donne) through the panoramic path that proceeds north along the coast.
From Cala Felice: 10′ on foot, 3′ by bike.
From Cala Martina: 30′ on foot, 10′ by bike.
From Cala Violina: 60′ on foot, 20′ by bike.
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