In the Maremma, there is a heck of a lot to see. I should know. I wrote an entire guidebook about it and I only scratched the surface. But very few people have a lifetime to explore the beauty of Southern Tuscany - unfortunately - so in the interest of all intrepid explorers who are visiting the Maremma on a short timeline, I've put together my must-see top 10 experiences.
Tick all of these off and you're well on your way to becoming an honourary Maremman!
1. A DIP IN SATURNIA'S HOT SPRING
It's likely the only reason why you're even considering visiting the Maremma is because you saw a picture or a post from yours truly gushing about the Saturnia hot springs. Tuscany's hottest tourist destination is a paradise of free thermal pools plus a very evocative waterfall. It's open 24/7. Bring a flashlight if you plan on an after-dinner dip.
2. MASSA MARITTIMA
The Little Sister of Pisa and Siena as she is known is ravishing. Massa Marittima is the closest thing we have to a city in the Maremma and it's a beautiful plethora of museums, churches and model palazzos. Spare plenty of time for the Duomo, which is bare, but breathtaking all the same.
3. THE VIEW OF PITIGLIANO
Photo: Jane Drumsara via Flickr
The town that looks like it grew roots and sprouted from the tufa rock cliff, Pitigliano
is a crowd favourite. Inside it has some lovely shops and the underrated Jewish ghetto, but its true charm is its facade, which can be see from the main road before it climbs towards the town.
A town that could easily pass as a movie set. With only 30 residents, Sovana
is perfectly preserved in the Middle Ages, not a flower or house number out of place. The tiny village is home to the Maremma's only pope, a man who grew up among the silk traders and poets of Sovana and who left his mark in the spectacular Duomo.
5. WILD BOAR
The Maremma has many culinary treats, but wild boar
is the one the tourists all come back for. Fans of pork won't find any similarities in its wild cousin. Wild boar is lean, gamey and a rich dark colour. It comes alive in stews that have been cooked for hours and pasta sauces with handmade tagliatelle. Naturally it's a winter dish, so don't expect to try it in mid-August, but if you're itching for some, pick up a wild boar salami from any local supermarket.
6. GROSSETO'S ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
The one stop shop for all of the Maremma's ancient history. Never heard of the Etruscans? They're the pre-Roman civilisation that shaped the Maremma and left behind plenty of relics. From intricate jewellery to massive busts, the Etruscans were lovers of fine art, music and feasting and Grosseto's museum
features the best pieces from around the province!
7. LE ROCCHETTE
Italy's most beautiful beach for 2014 and 2015 needs no explanation. It's located just outside Castiglione della Pescaia
and is a haven of soft sand and beautiful, if a little windswept, seas.
8. GIARDINO DEI TAROCCHI
Twenty-two tarot cards immortalised in towering a statue garden
. It's the life's work of Niki Saint de Phalle, who spent more than 20 years hand cutting and laying the thousands of mosaic tiles that make up each statue together with a handful of other international artists. It's all very Gaudi darling.
Wander the depths of the Maremma's best preserved Etruscan settlement in Vulci
. One of Etruria's 12 marvellous cities, it experienced its golden age in the 6th century BC. Although the Romans trampled most it, modern visitors can still see villas, tombs and the remains of a temple. Once you've seen the archeological site, you can cool off in the waterfall and spring that sit inside the nature reserve.
Photo: leticia daquer
Rounding off the list is the protected park and naturalistic paradise that is Giannutri
. This island can only be visited in the summer and in limited numbers. Ferries leave from Porto Santo Stefano and the trip is well worth the effort, if only to relax on one of the most evocative beaches in Italy.