Populonia is the only Etruscan city directly on the sea. The city has been inhabited since the Villanovan period by scattered households, distinguishing themselves by boasting a privileged relationship with the Sardinian market. During the period of Near Eastern acculturation, aristocrats at the helm of the political life in the settlement led an opulent life. This social class was particularly wealthy thanks to its control over the nearby iron mines and the Isola d’Elba, the exploitation of which soon became systematic.
Taking the road that runs along the gulf, before arriving in Baratti, you’ll come to the Populonia Archeological Park. Today, Baratti is a pleasant tourist destination with a small port, but in the Etruscan and Roman eras it was a very important centre for trade and iron production from Elba. Indeed, the town processed so much haematite that a proper industrial district was created and the amount of slag ended up covering most of the ancient necropolis! In some places, there’s even a layer as much as 20 metres thick.
At the park, you can visit the San Cerbone necropolis, the Necropolis of the Caves and Populonia’s acropolis. The Visitors’ Centre narrates the history of the region through explanatory panels and media projections. There are also educational activities at the Centre of Experimental Archaeology, located at the centre of the park.