our guide to the maremma
The vast territory of 5,000 km2 that makes up the Maremma includes both Mount Amiata, the highest mountain in Southern Tuscany, as well as 160 kms. of the cleanest coastline in Italy. What lies in between are fertile flatlands, marshes, wooded hills, natural thermal baths and charming towns perched on tufa ridges or ringed in walls of ancient stone. All is all, a rugged, varied, beautiful area with little pretense, but great appeal.
While stretching between the provinces of Livorno and Grosseto, the Maremma also extends over the southern Tuscan border into northern Lazio as far as Civitavecchia, from whose port ferries reach Sardegna, Italy’s 2nd largest island.
Actually the Maremma coast is the departure point for reaching several of the islands in the Tuscan Archipelago, be it from Piombino to reach the island of Elba or from Porto Santo Stefano to reach the islands of Giglio or Giannutri. Monte Argentario itself may feel like an island but is actually a peninsula connected to the mainland by 3 spits of land which form two splendid lagoons with pine tree-backed sandy beaches.
The Maremma shares its name with several animals that roam its vast area: 2 breeds of horses used by the Butteri, the Maremma cowboys, a breed of large grey longhorn cattle, a breed of white sheepdog, and a breed of small pig usually left free to roam in the woodland.
The history of the Maremma has been a series of ups and downs. Its Golden Age came early with the Etruria, the Etruscan civilization which covered much of modern Maremma from Tarquinia to Roselle to Populonia. Mining and selling minerals and gold to much of the world, it became too attractive to be ignored by the powerful Romans, whose military overtook it and made it one of the proudest corners of the Roman Empire in Tuscany.
The glory of Rome faded and the Maremma collapsed into ages of fear, religious zealotry and war. From the 10th-15th centuries a few powerful families, such as the Aldobrandeschi and Orsini, essentially divided the Maremma between them and built fortresses that dominated every city. Dante, by the late 13th C., thought of it as uncivilized and desolate, a wild landscape inhabited wild people. For a time the Spanish and the Sienese Republic tore the area apart and for centuries the land did little more than endure as the population left it for safety. Swamps and coastal marshes covered fertile land, rivers flooded the woods and vegetation and malaria became an endemic killer until the 16th C. when the Medici Grand Duchy began to fill and reshape the swampland to favor natural drainage.
This continued over the centuries, aided by hydraulic engineering, and as areas were recovered for agriculture and human settlement the Maremma once again began to thrive. Though the province of Grosseto was created in the 18th C. when Manciano, Pitigliano and Grosseto united, each small city has its own history, traditions and cuisine which only makes this a more fascinating territory to discover.
The continued land reclamation in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially during the period of Fascism, a support of an agrarian economy and the recent development of seaside resorts have imbued Maremmani with a dedication to safeguarding the quality of the area and a joyful sense of hospitality and sharing what they have rediscovered.
events in the maremma
Infiorata del Corpus Domini in Pitigliano – 23 June
On Corpus Christi, in an explosion of color, teams of Pitigliano citizens lay petals onto special designs making up a 1500 m. carpet of flowers.
Lirica in Piazza in Massa Marittima – 3, 4, 5 August 2019
In early August open-air opera performances take place against a backdrop of Massa Marittima’s marvelous cathedral.
Palio Marinaro dell’Argentario in Porto Santo Stefano – 15 August
In this colorful sailors’ race 4 boats representing the town’s districts evoke the days when fishermen rowed to get away from pirates.
Vox Mundi Festival in Principina a Mare – 2 wks, July & August
This lively ‘Voices of the World Festival‘ brings cultural education, good food and some of the best folk music to a medieval coastal town.
Vinellando Wine Festival in Magliano in Toscana – End August
Beginning with a wine tasting to select the 3 best Morellino di Scansano wines of the year, the festival continues with 3 days of fun and food.
Sovana Medievale in Sovana – weekend in late June
In this ancient walled town the Middle Ages live again with costumed processions, a banquet, sound & light shows and medieval markets.
Morellino Classica Music Festival in Scansano – Dates May-Sept.
This array of classical music concerts are set in some of the Maremma’s most beautiful locations. Check the 2019 programme here.
Rodeo of the Rose in Alberese – 15 August
The Maremma cowboys, the Butteri, meet to challenge each other’s riding ability and pluck red or yellow roses from their opponents.
Festa delle Torri in Porto Santo Stefano – June
A sunset celebration of the ancient defensive watchtowers constructed on Monte Argentario show smoke signals can still communicate.
Amiata Piano Festival in Cinigiano – 27-30 June, 25-28 July & 29 Aug.
Only a few kilometers from Monte Amiata the keyboards and strings bring classical music to the mountain. Check the 2019 programme here.
Le Notti dei Pirati in Porto Ercole – 3, 4 & 5 May 2019
Porto Ercole is fun for the whole family when the harbor and local streets become a pirates’ den. Duels, dress-up and treasure hunt, Matey
Wild Boar Festival in Capalbio – 2nd week of September
In a town known as ‘Little Athens’ for its Renaissance importance, the wild boar is the star of this yearly food festival, but not the only attraction.
things to do in the maremma
Let you inner child delight in the Tarot Garden of Nike de Saint Phalle near Capalbio. Huge ceramic and glass mosaic sculptures tucked into a woodland with delight the whole family.
Relax in Nature’s spa in the hot springs of Saturnia where people splash in the cascading waters all year round, and a full-service spa is near by. Take a few tips on visiting from an insider.
Throw a towel on any of the Maremma’s Blue Flag beaches: The Marinas of Grosseto or Alberese, Baratti, Castiglione della Pescaia or the sandy beaches around Orbetello’s lagoon.
Sample wine in the Renzo Piano-designed winery near Gavorrano. Rocca di Frassinello is a stunning winery with a surprising cellar where fine wine ages in style.
Discover Monte Amiata by traveling over and into it. Whether skiing, hiking, cycling, spelunking or horse riding, Mount Amiata is the place to venture for all who love sport.
towns & sites
The capital of a province and the heart of the Tuscan Maremma, Grosseto’s modern sprawl has at its centre a charming hexagonal walled nucleus dating from 1138. From Piazza Dante outward its streets are perfect for strolling, shopping and discovery.
In inland Maremma Pitigliano is one of the most breathtakingly positioned cities you will find. Stretched along a tufa ridge, it is a wonderful ancient maze of cobbled streets, once home to Tuscany’s only Jewish Ghetto and still a fascinating place to visit.
Castiglione della Pescaia
As a producer of one of Italy’s premier wines, Morellino di Scansano, this town is on many a wine tour. An Aldobrandeschi fortress in the 13th century, it has gently settled into the modern age with ease. Its Teatro Castagnoli is a much appreciated music venue throughout the summer.
A charming seaside village on the Tyrrhenian coast, Castiglione is a summer 2nd home for many Sienese. Deservedly so, for its delicious seafood, lively harbor, crystalline waters and long stretches of sandy pine tree-lined beaches make it a mecca for anyone yearning for the sea.
Magliano in Toscana
Encircled by monumental intact walls dating to the mid-15th C, the charming Magliano in Toscana has restaurants, wine bars and summer festivals that keep it lively. In its setting of timeless oaks and Mediterranean shrubs, one has feet in both the past and present.
Sorano & Sovana
The highest mountain in southern Tuscany, Monte Amiata is a long dormant volcano dome whose gentle slopes are known for its chestnuts, grapevines, olive trees and fascinating towns home to miners, artists, religious zealots and those who love the great outdoors.
Isola del Giglio
Known as the ‘Noble daughter’ of Pisa and Siena, this powerful medieval city was valued for the mineral hills that surround it as well as its architectural beauty. Massa Marittima is an elegant city which views its setting from on high and happily shares its festivities with all visitors.
Though the Island of Giglio is easily reached from Porto Santo Stefano on Monte Argentario, in many senses it is a self-sufficient island. With 28 kms. of coastline and a landscape that is 90% unspoiled, this is a refreshing retreat to the best Nature has to offer.
Food & wine
Mare e monti, or ‘Surf ‘n Turf’ is the order of Maremma cooking, for this territory offers the best of both meat and seafood dishes. Depending on where you find yourself, a menu might include these favourite Maremma dishes:
Appetizers– Coldcuts featuring sausage of cinghiale (wild boar) or finocchiona, fennel-flavoured.; Maremma pecorino with amber Marruca honey from Maremma shrubland; Anguilla affumicata, smoked or marianated eel from the lagoons of Orbetello.
First courses– Acquacotta, literaly ‘cooked water’, is a hearty vegetable soup topped with eggs; Ravioli Maremmani are the generous pillows of pasta filled with ricotta and lathered with ragù or dressed with butter, sage and parmesan; Cacciucco or fish stew; Spaghetti allo scoglio, featuring clams, mussels and shrimp; Zuppe di cozze, mussels with tomato sauce over bread; Penne all’astrice, short pasta with lobster; Spaghetti alla Bottarga, pasta with shavings of salted/dried mullet roe.
Main courses– Scottiglia, a mixed stew of veal, pork, chick, turkey rabbit & lamb; Buglione di agnello, lamb stew from Pitigliano; Palamita, a fish in the tuna/mackerel family often served as a slice on fennel and orange salad dressed with wild fennel sauce; Frittura di mare, freshly fried shrimp and squid rings; Various fish, including: Branzino (Sea bass), Orata (Sea bream), Pesce spade (swordfish), Dentice (Red snapper)
Desserts– Ciaffagnone, a crepe especially popular in Manciano served with powdered sugar;Castagnaccio, flat cake of chestnut flour from Mt. Amiata; Panficato, a traditional Giglio Island loaf of wine-soaked figs, nuts, and chocolate; Sfratto, the cigar-shaped biscuit from Pitigliano’s Jewish bakeries with unleavened dough, around a filling of chopped walnuts, honey, orange peel and nutmeg.
Wines: Viticulture has gained more importance in this area as people realize the potential of the favorable climate and rich soils that produce good-quality wine. In 2011 the Maremma Toscana DOC was created and most recently there are two ‘wine roads’ or itineraries one could follow: TheMontecucco or Colli di Maremma itineraries.
The Montecucco DOC wines include reds, whites, pre-dinner Vermentino and Rossato wines, as well as Vin Santo and Occhio di Pernice dessert wines. In the Colli di Maremma or Maremma hills, you come across REDS such as Morellino di Scansano, Sovana DOC, Capalbio DOC, Parrina DOC in the Orbetello area, whereas WHITES include Bianco Pitigliano, Capalbio White and Vin Santo, Parrina White and Vin Santo, Ansonia DOC from the Argentario coast.
MONDAYS -Porto Ercole, Capalbio Scalo, Massa Marittima
TUESDAYS – Albarese, Capalbio, Porto S. Stefano, Sorano
WEDNESDAYS – Pitigliano, Magliano in Toscana, Fonteblanda, Civitella Paganico
THURSDAYS – Grosseto, Isola del Giglio, Talamone
FRIDAYS – Albinia, Scansano, Isola del Giglio, Vetulonia
SATURDAYS – Castiglione della Pescaia, Orbetello, Paganico, Manciano
- Locanda nel Cassero – Civitella Marittima, Tel: +39 0564 900680
- Aurora – Magliano in Toscana, Tel: +39 0564 592030
- Da Caino– Montemerano, Manciano, Tel: +39 0564 602817 or 327 3594882
- Osteria Sapori di Maremma– Castiglione della Pescaia, Tel: +39 0564 933629 or 340 2643541
- Gambero Rosso – Porto Ercole, Tel: +39 0564 832650
- Trattoria Il Moletto– Porto S, Stefano, Tel: +39 0564 813636
- La Tavernetta– Campiglia Marittima, Tel: +39 0565 838853
- La Porta – Capalbio, Tel:+39 0564 896311
- Antica Fattoria La Parrina – Parrina, Orbetello, Tel: +39 0564 862626
- I Pescatori, Orbetello, Tel: +39 0564 860611
- Trattoria Il Grillo– Pitigliano, Tel: +39 0564 615202
- La Locanda de’ Medici– Grosseto, Tel: +39 0564 410744
- La Vecchia Pergola– Isola del Giglio, Tel: +39 0564 809080
- Rifrullo– Scansano, Tel: +39 0564 507183
- Cantina L’Ottava Rima– Sorano, Tel: +39 349 8024196
- Caffe Sant’Angelo–S,ant’Angelo Scalo, Tel: +39 340 8305269