One of the main sources of richness of the ancient Etruscan people was the extraction and working of the minerals in which Tyrrhenian Tuscany was plentiful, in particular iron, of which the island of Elba, already famous in ancient times for the abundance of its mineral beds, represented the main location of the working in the first centuries. And there rose the ovens that day and night melted the mineral with high flashes; the island was know all over the Hellenic world by the name "Aethalia" (meaning "spark" in Greek). It is most likely that the wood reserves necessary to feed the ovens finished, and thus the working activity was transfered there to the coast in front, giving origin to the settlement of Populonia, whose Etruscan names was Pupluna, on the gulf of Baratti. This was the only Etruscan city on the sea, a powerful center and an important crossroads for the commercial exchange both via land and via sea, known also for its excellent quality of wine which was produced here.
The great interest which Populonia, located at approximately 15 km north of Piombino, and its territory offer visitors is made up by the archaeological presence, in particular Etruscan, distributed everywhere: from the northeastern end to that the western end of the gulf of Baratti (Poggio and Piano alle Granate, Poderi di San Cerbone and Casone, Poggio al Molino or del Telegrafo, Poggio alla Porcareccia, the Grotte, la Buca delle Fate). In 1908 the Etruscan necropolises underneath Populonia were discovered, having remained hidden for years by a layer of slag from the working of the iron, and it was very well conserved. The most interesting necropolis is that of San Cerbone because you can see different types of tombs from the period from the 8th to 3rd century B.C. Only guided visits are allowed in the archaeological park.
But its is certainly worth going into the town, on high above the Baratti Gulf , which you arrive at by means of a steep street which leads to two parking areas; they are not very large (possibly better to go on weekdays).
The town is dominated by the medieval fortress and by its city wall, constructed in the first half of the 15th century, to defend from the incursions of pirates.
Other than the marvelous panorama which you can admire from the summit of the Fortress, in the central street is the Etruscan Museum, where there are numerous remains conserved which came to light during the excavations, still in progress.