Perched high on the rock cliff, virtually cut off from anyone else, the locals of Castell'Azzara are part of an extremely tight knit community, but you'd be hard pressed to find a more accommodating or hospitable bunch anywhere else in the Maremma.
Here life is simple. Still not used to the tourists that visit their beautiful town, Castell'Azzara's residents continue to go about their day much like their parents and grandparents did.
Morning stops at the nearby bar to catch up on town gossip are a must. Then, if the weather's nice, there's always time for a walk through the mountain forests, keeping to the many well-marked walking tracks that zig-zag around Castell'Azzara and all over the surrounding mountain region.
Finally for lunch, a visit to the town's beloved Ristorante La Tana del Orso - where the resident chef and owner may change his menu daily ( it depends a lot on his mood!), but he never sways from homemade local favourites. The fare here is cheap and always delicious.
But Castell'Azzara is much more than a poster child for the Maremma of old. It too is surrounded by incredible beauty, both naturally sourced and man-made.
Driving up the winding roads to reach the town is experience enough. A mass of rickety rooftops surging upwards at different heights, Castell'Azzara is part of the cliff it sits on and the town's fragile-looking brown walls suggest it has seen its fair share of centuries.
And so it has. Castell'Azzara's existence was first recorded in 1216 as part of the Aldobrandeschi family's vast bounty.
Local legends tell a story of three Aldobrandeschi brothers, Ildebrandino, Bonifacio and Guglielmo, who each wanted the glorious job of commissioning an impressive castle for this beautiful town. Unable to come to an agreement, the three played a game and the winner not only built his castle, but embellished it with three towers - one for each brother. Today, Castell'Azzara honours this legend with their coat of arms - a castle with three towers, each with a sharp white die on top.
Photo: Stefano F via Flickr.
Photos from left to right: Stefano F and Bruno Tardioli via Flickr.