Summer isn’t even a week old and I’m already going stark crazy inside my house.
Not because my air conditioner is broken. Technically I don’t even have an air conditioner. These fan-dangled Tuscan homes are built in such a way that I don’t need one to stay cool.
But that’s another story.
Summer has always had an hypnotic effect on me. I feel compelled to be outside every second of every day. Actually, maybe compelled isn’t the right word. Guilt-tripped would be better.
Summer is the seasonal equivalent of my mother-in-law. It guilt-trips me in getting outside to catch even the smallest glimmer of sunlight. And if I am, heaven forbid, too busy to comply, I feel like I’ve missed out on something fantastic. That the remaining 90 days of summer just won’t make up for that one day where the temperature was more than 24°C and I was stuck inside.
As you can imagine, it’s a terrible way to live. Don’t worry, I’m working through it with my therapist!
But for the lucky among us who are holidaying in the Tuscan Maremma this summer, there are plenty of ways to avoid the guilt trip and enjoy the gorgeous sun.
Since sightseeing is a given and I’ve written way too many posts on the subject of late, I’m going to give it a miss and focus on some of the other things you can do in the region when you’ve had your fill of medieval cities and the Terme di Saturnia hot springs.
And here they are:
1. Hike it through the Città del Tufo
The Fiora Valley’s Sovana and Sorano are connected by more than their ridiculously similar sounding names.The two cities are also connected by a sprawling archaeological park known as the Città del Tufo
Città del Tufo literally means Tufa Rock Cities, in this case, it’s a city of the dead or to be more precise a necropolis. The biggest Etruscan-era necropolis in the world.
Tucked snug among their forest surroundings are dozens of Etruscan tombs. The Tomba Ildebranda (above) is the most famous. A towering rock fortress, it was once designed to look like a temple. Twelve columns supported the roof, one for each capital of Etruria.
Centuries ago it was painted bright green, yellow, red and blue and covered in floral and animal motifs more magnificent than most modern churches.
The Citta del Tufo Archaeological Park is just outside of Sovana. To find it head for Sovana and when you get there follow the signs for the park in the direction of Santa Fiora. There’s a small car park just outside, you can’t miss it. The park is only open in summer from 10am to 7pm every day.
2. Go underwater exploring in the Costa d’Argento
You won’t believe how many people ask me about the Costa d’Argento around this time of year.
The coastline is probably the most popular holiday destination around, but rest assured, even in the height of August, you’re not going to get the sorts of crowds you get in places like the Amalfi Coast.
Not that it doesn’t deserve the admiration. The Costa d’Argento is simply magnificent. It takes its name from the grey, almost dawn-coloured sand on La Playa La Torba. Arguably Tuscany’s most beautiful beach, La Playa La Torba is just outside the town of Ansedonia.
For other beautiful beaches on the coastline, read this post.
But if you’re not afraid of deep water, like I am, forget about the beaches and go snorkeling or diving instead.
The two most popular dive sights around are off Giglio and Giannutri Island. Giglio recently made headlines as the place where the Costa Concordia cruise ship sunk, while Giannutri is a protected nature park above and below the waterline.
If you’re a novice, you can slap on a snorkeling mask, shove your head into the water and see the most amazing rainbow of sea fans, sponges, corals and fish.
But if you’re the diving sort, you can explore the wreckage of sunken Spanish ship Anna Bianca and the Turkish ship Nasim. Both are hundreds of years old.
You can even make a day of it by going on an island cruise. Depending on the operator you choose, your trip could include diving and snorkeling gear, as well as lessons and a buffet seafood lunch.
The main companies are:
- Blue Navy Crociere (Really professional with tours in heaps of languages)
- Enjoy Tuscany (Their website translation is atrocious, but the tours they organise are great)
- Break the Weekend (In Italian only, but the best value for money – €50 for a whole day tour)
3. Experience Monte Amiata’s nature reserves on four legs
I just started learning how to ride a horse.
To be honest, the experience was a little disconcerting at first. It’s not nice to know you’re at the mercy of a thousand kilo animal with a whim for galloping when scared.
But when you get into the swing of it, horse riding is actually really pleasant, especially if you’re trekking through Monte Amiata.
Monte Amiata has six nature reserve. Every inch of space not given over to mountain town is protected and absolutely magnificent. Towering oaks that transition into beech trees of every shade of green… just look at the picture!
There are a number of equestrian schools in the Monte Amiata area. Just like with diving, if you’re a seasoned explorer, you can go out immediately.
Your guide will take you to all the most beautiful hidden spots. The waterfalls and mountain tops, and if you believe the legends, Merlin’s cave, which is said to be somewhere outside of Arcidosso.
They’ll also tell you the stories of the territory, which is always my favourite part. There’s no doubt that the Maremma is beautiful, but the region becomes even more evocative when you know its history and legends.
If you’ve never ridden a horse, you’ll need to have a few lessons at the equestrian school before you go out.
The best school are:
Some agriturismi also offer horse riding lessons, so keep an eye out for when you book. Agriturismo Podere Cherzo has beautiful accommodation and a great horse riding school.
You can expect your average lesson to cost about €30 an hour. And while these websites are all in Italian, if you call, someone should be able to answer your questions in English.
I’ve enjoyed writing this post so much, I might make it a series, so stay tuned for more summer activities in the Tuscan Maremma!