Holidays can be crazy expensive, but luckily the Maremma has plenty of things you can do that won’t cost a dime or a euro cent, if you’re keeping things local. If you’re a little skint from all the aperitivos and wild boar dinners, check out my guide to the best free activities in the Maremma.
1. Take a dip in the hot springs, Saturnia
You’re probably in the Maremma because of these hot springs. They’re located just outside of Saturnia and are open 24/7. They’re also 100 per cent free. There are some whispers that they might not stay that way, but for now you can take the most luxurious bath in 37°C (98°F) water anytime you like day or night. Just don’t get them confused with the Terme di Saturnia spa down the road. You have to pay to get in there.
2. Visit a prehistory museum, Manciano
This one is a little close to the heart. My husband designed and renovated this museum while he was tourism assessor in our tiny little town. The museum actually boasts some of the oldest relics in Tuscany, including mammoth tusks found in nearby digs, as well as relics from the Etruscan and Ancient Roman civilisation. It’s really interactive and great fun for the kids.
3. Explore Vitozza
The Maremma’s hermit town in another of those incredible finds that should cost something to visit, but doesn’t. These homes carved into the rocks date back to the Middle Ages and were inhabited by locals until the last residents were forced out in the 1960s. Think of it as a mini Matera. There are kitchens, bedrooms and even special rooms where the residents raised doves, one of the main sources of income for the town.
4. See the Duomo, Massa Marittima
Most of the Maremma’s churches are free to visit, but few of them are as spectacular as Massa Marittima’s Duomo or Cathedral. This towering place of worship is decorated with pagan symbols in the Romanesque style. The interior is unadorned with spectacular carved columns and a gorgeous baptismal font.
5. Walk the parapet, Capalbio
Walk along Capalbio’s outer walls and admire the very limits of Tuscany. As the Maremma’s southern-most town, Capalbio sits on the border between Tuscany and Lazio. From it’s city walls, you can glimpse across the countryside to the sea and channel your inner Renaissance Sienese soldier – they were the ones to build it after all.
6. Climb to the top of Monte Amiata, Amiata
At the very peak of Monte Amiata is a 22-metre iron cross built at the turn of the last century. It was lugged up there by some very unlucky workers and mules to celebrate the Jubilee of 1900. The former volcano is almost 1,800 metres tall and luckily you don’t have to walk all the way up it to admire this cross. There’s a car park very close to the peak and the trek up from there is short and easy. Just don’t visit in winter, when snow makes it impossible to get up to the peak and admire the incredible view.
7. Channel your inner zen, Arcidosso
Just outside Arcidosso is Merigar, a buddhist gar academy that is brightly coloured and really stands out in the Tuscan landscape. It was founded in the ’80s and has two gompas, one inaugurated by the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. You can explore the academy and take part in sessions and lessons.
8. Butteri watch, Parco della Maremma
The Parco della Maremma is home to the area’s traditional Butteri, Italian cowboys, and their constant companions, the Vacche Maremmane, a local breed of cow with majestically long horns. It mightn’t seem like fun, looking at cows and cowboys, but both strike quite a figure in the Maremman countryside. And both are dying breeds in their traditional costumes, so you might not get a chance to watch them work much longer.
9. Beach hop, Strada Panoramica
The Strada Panoramica runs between Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano and it has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Maremma. Sure not all of them are free, but you can always find a slice of sand or, more usually, rocks to relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
10. Visit Le Rocchette, Castiglione della Pescaia
While we’re on the topic of beaches, you can’t miss out on Le Rocchette, which has been crowded Italy’s most beautiful beach in the past. You’d think the country’s winning Miss Spiaggia (Miss Beach) would have a hefty entrance fee, but it doesn’t, so grab a towel and secure your spot.
11. Wax romantic at La Peschiera, Santa Fiora
Have you ever wondered where the local noblemen fished in the mountains? Ok, probably not, but Santa Fiora’s La Peschiera is still a really beautiful private garden. It was once the Aldobrandeschi’s private trout farm and you can still see the pools where they fished, pretty easily, for trout brought in especially for them. Pop your head into the church next door to see the river running underneath the pews. It’s where the water from the trout farm flows out.
12. Climb to the Cassero Sienese, Roccalbegna
Roccalbegna’s Cassero Sienese is one of the most beautiful free castles in Tuscany. You can climb up from town to admire the ruins, mostly guardrooms and watchtowers, and cast your gaze longingly across to the Castello La Pietra, which is also free, but really hard to get to.
13. Explore the forest along the Vie Cave, Pitigliano
The Maremma is covered in these highways hidden in the forests. They were built by the Etruscans, who carved them by hand deep into the tufa rock that surrounds Pitigliano. They were super convenient routes that connected the various settlements and were used right up until the last century by local farmers. Some are more than 6-metres tall and have eerie pagan symbols carved into their walls.
14. Peek through the Porta Romana, Saturnia
One the topic of highways, if you’re curious to see a section of the Via Cassia, the historic Ancient Roman road that connected Rome with Siena, head to Saturnia. The original archway is still intact, albeit with some later structural additions and you can see it wind its way all the way to the capital.
15. Be blown away at Le Biancane, Monterotondo Marittimo
Channel your inner geologists and head to Monterotondo Marittimo’s geyser fields, where you can see the earth shatter and erupt into gusts of boiling hot vapours. Just try not to touch them or breathe too deeply. All that sulphur in the air makes things smell like rotten eggs.