P.JOHNSON'S GUIDE TO MAREMMA
The Maremma is a rugged coastal region of Tuscany that is rich in tradition and culture. Its stunning scenery, ancient villages set back in the hills, fresh fruit, natural springs, small restaurants and plenty of gelato make it a fantastic place to pass time. Looking out to the Tyrrhenian sea, the coast is made up of peaceful beaches and dramatic landscapes. Head inland to visit beautiful wine estates and stone-pine forests that provide Italy with much of the country’s pine nuts. Though it’s far from the wild, bandit country it once was, the Maremma is still less frequented by tourists, making it a perfect place to rent a villa and relax. Patrick enjoyed a quiet week with friends here recently, and shares his favourite spots in the area.
Ex Convento di San Francesco
Via S. Francesco, 33, 01030 Gallese VT, Italy
This stunning villa just outside the town of Pitigliano was once the Convent of San Francesco, and has recently been carefully restored by mother-daughter design team Holly Lueders and Venetia Sacret Young. Surrounded by wild, picturesque gardens, the building is part of a 16th century compound designed by Antonio San Gallo the Younger for the Orsini family, whose crest is still visible on the old stone well. It’s an incredibly charming and idyllic spot to spend time cooking, eating, swimming, reading and drinking wine with friends.
58017, Province of Grosseto
The beautiful town of Pitigliano sits high up on an ancient plateau, appearing from a distance as if it were carved straight from the rock. The walls were built on Etruscan foundations, and Etruscan tombs can still be seen throughout the surrounding hills. Pitigliano is particularly beautiful in the setting sun when the walls turn golden brown, and at night when it’s illuminated by spotlights. Local shops sell meats, cheese, wines and hand crafted wares.
58043, Province of Grosseto
Casa Antica di Becagli Alessandro, Piazza Municipio 27, 58010 Sorano
The small medieval village of Sorano is worth a visit to wander through its dark lanes and browse the antique shops filled with art, furniture and ceramics. Casa Antica di Becagli Alessandro is one not to miss.
Località Rentica, 01023 Bolsena (VT)
Not far from Pitigliano, this farmhouse estate produces incredible 100 per cent organic extra virgin olive oil; unfiltered, single-origin and brilliant green in colour. Try it raw to get the most of the wonderful flavour.
Cascate del Mulino Hot Springs
Via della Follonata, 58014 Saturnia
These natural, picturesque open air thermal pools are fed by 37.5 degrees celsius water that cascades down the hills in a series of basins and waterfalls. Beautiful in the daytime but even more enjoyable in the cooler evenings. Access to the springs is public and free throughout the year.
Etruscan Vie Cave
Via di Montorio, 16, 58010 Sorano
The Vie Cave (or excavated roads) is a fascinating ancient road network dug into the tufa rock hills, dating back to Etruscan times. Today, visitors can hike through the paths and trenches, which in places are twenty metres deep. Near Sorano, the Vie Cave begins at the Porta dei Merli, and descends into the valley of the river Lente.
58010, Province of Grosseto
A picturesque medieval village that’s worth a visit to see the ruins of the Aldobrandeschi Castle, the beautiful piazzas, and the Tomb of the Sirena behind the imposing Romanesque-Gothic Sovana Cathedral.
Gardens of Bomarzo
Località Giardino, 01020 Bomarzo
Known to the locals as Parco dei Mostri, (Park of Monsters) this strange, overgrown 16th-century garden in the town of Bomarzo sits in a wooded valley beneath the castle of Orsini. Enormous grotesque sculptures are strewn throughout the park, including a monstrous fish-head, a war elephant, two giants in battle, and huge heads with cavernous mouths. Beside one such sculpture, the inscription reads “all reason departs”. Commissioned by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, it’s believed the gardens were designed to help the prince cope with his grief after the death of his wife.
Agriturismo Aia del Tufo
Località Poggio la Mezzadria, 8, 58010 San Valentino GR
An organic farmhouse stay near Sorano, spread over 25 hectares. It has a farm-to-table restaurant serving delicious traditional food like handmade pasta from ancient grain flour and naturally leavened bread, cooked in a wood-fired oven.
Cantina L’Ottava Rima
Via del Borgo, 25 - 58010 Sorano GR
A lovely little restaurant that offers the best of local seasonal food and wine in a traditional, rustic setting. The food is full of flavour and the staff will be happy to point you in the direction of great local wines and explain where all of the produce is sourced.
Trattoria Il Nibbio
Via del bivio, 25 - Montemerano GR
A great spot for traditional Italian food. We recommend the tagliata (sliced steak).
The Maremma houses the prestigious Bolgheri DOC wine region. The appellation rules determine that in Bolgheri Rosso: Sangiovese may be utilised only to a degree of 70%, and in excess of this a wine must be classified ‘IGT’. Cabernet Sauvignon from 10 to 80%, Merlot, up to 80% and other local red varieties, up to 30%. Rosso must be aged for 24 months.
The notable wines from this area are all those made by the Antinori family and all it’s extensions and controversial partnerships (eg Mondavi, Frescobaldi etc). They’re perhaps some of the most esteemed wines of Tuscany, if not the world, and have been labelled ‘super-Tuscan’ wines. They include the likes of Tiganello, Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Solaia and Massetto. These are ‘Bordeaux style’ blends largely or Bordelaise blends with some Sangiovese and in the case of Masseto predominantly Merlot.
Others worth trying are Angelo Gaja’s (the coveted Piedmontese powerhouse) wine ‘Ca’Marcanda’, Grattamacco’s Bolgheri Rosso and Frescobaldi/Mondavi JV ‘Luce’ and ‘Lucente’.
The wines are typically enormously robust, powerful, dark and tannic with great length and a more angular and rustic tannin and higher acidity and alcohol if compared to their Bordeaux counterparts form central west France.
If you can’t make it to the Maremma in person, try these fantastic local wines that will send you there in spirit:
Tenuta San Guido 'Le Difese' 2016
Tenuta San Guido 'Guildalberto' 2016
Antinopri 'Guado Al Tasso' 2007