With summer finally getting closer, it’s time to start thinking of discovering new places. Join E&M author Antonia Frank on her trip through Maremma to discover new amazing destinations.
Ever since I was a child, my family has been going to the same part of Italy in the summer: the Maremma. Toady, going to this southern part of Tuscany feels a lot like coming home. But why do we keep going back? Well, there is the obvious: wonderful food, beautiful mountain villages, gorgeous beaches, rich culture and history, and so on. However, there are also some hidden gems that make the Maremma so special to me.
Palio dei Ciuchi – Donkey Race
For example: Siena might have its Palio, the famous cutthroat horserace, but the Maremma has the Palio dei Ciuchi, a donkey race. In Siena, ten jockeys representing different districts (contrade) of the city ride an intense bareback horse race around the town square. The spectacle surrounding this race attracts visitors from all over the world. Meanwhile, the small mountain village of Roccatederighi holds their own mock version of the Palio, every year on the night of the 14th of August. It also includes a spectacular parade and it is even more fun to watch because instead of horses, the competitors ride on donkeys.
Roccatederighi – Best Food
Since it has one of the best restaurants in the region, Roccatederighi is definitely worth a trip any other time of the year too. At the “Trattoria da Nada” you can have typical dishes like tortelli Maremmani – homemade pasta filled with spinach and ricotta cheese, in a sauce of butter and sage – and all variations of cinghiale – wild boar meat – which sounds unusual at first, but tastes amazing, when it is as masterfully prepared as at the Trattoria da Nada. Many wild boars live in the woods surrounding the villages – beware when you take a walk – and therefore they also play a big role in the local cuisine.
Sticciano– Views and Cats
The best view for dinner is found two mountains over, in Sticciano. There is only one restaurant in the whole village, but nothing could compete with the perfect combination of the sundown view over the valley and great pizza anyway. Much to the displeasure of the locals and the delight of the tourists, the population of cats stays constantly high every year. So if you decide to go for a walk after dinner here, you will most likely encounter some stray kittens to play with or cuddle. If you want to ensure a cat encounter, bring some cat food with you. Be warned though, it will only make you popular with the local cats not the local people.
Butteri – The Cowboys of the Maremma
Unlike cats, other animals have a long tradition of purposeful breeding in the Maremma. The region has its own Maremmani cattle, horse, and dog breeds, all of which play an important role in the culture of the Butteri, the cowboys of the Maremma. Nowadays, the Butteri have become a tourist attraction and perform regularly in front of audiences. They show off their skills on horseback, in fun games and practical demonstrations with the cattle.
A lot of effort has gone into keeping their traditions alive and keeping the number of cows constant.
However, they still work to take care of the big Maremmani cattle herds in a nature reserve by the sea, il Parco Naturale della Maremma. A lot of effort has gone into keeping their traditions alive and keeping the number of cows constant.
The Beach of Marina di Alberese
The beach in the nature park, Marina di Alberese is open for tourists. A limited number of cars is admitted everyday, against a fee that goes to support the park. If you arrive early enough in the morning, you can also catch a horse-drawn carriage that goes through the pineta, the pine woods, to the beach. The beach itself is completely natural, so you have to come prepared with your own umbrellas and blankets. Nevertheless, the untouched nature, clear blue water and laid-back atmosphere is worth the effort.
Historical Sights – Etruscans and the Middle Ages
It is important to mention that the history of the Maremma goes back to the Etruscans, who populated the area long before the Roman Empire came into existence. Many historical excavation sights can be visited, for example in Roselle, and archaeologists are making new discoveries to this day. However, more impressive to most are the historical remnants from the middle ages. One example would be the crypt of a monastery from the 11th century, la cripta dell’Abazzia di San Salvatore di Giugnano. It is hidden below ground and still fairly intact. When you enter it, the temperature drops ten degrees, and everything suddenly becomes quieter and calmer. Another one of my favourite spots is the Castello di Sassoforte, the ruins of a fort hidden in the woods on a mountain plateau. You can reach the ruins either on foot or by horse, if you want to try riding one of the famous Maremmano horses.
Whether you like action and exploring new things or slow beach days and good food, or connecting with animals and nature, the Maremma has something to offer for everyone. And even after all these years, I still keep discovering new things and I am excited to go back this summer.