Off-season pleasures in Southern Tuscany
The area of Maremma, Tuscany and its exclusive Argentario promontory are summertime favourites of the rich and famous. But personally, I love Maremma and the Argentario in the off-season, when the crowds virtually disappear, the waves get a bit higher and everything quiets down to a whisper. Even rainy days are a welcoming opportunity to enjoy fresh air, peace and quiet.
From November through April, while beach-front hotels board up for the season, places like Argentario Golf Resort & Spa are open year-round, offering excellent deals on a relaxing holiday that are both active and outdoors, yet welcoming and cosy. Picture yourself completing a challenging 18-hole golf course or going for a rigorous hike. Then enjoying a hot chocolate taking in the view while swathed in a cashmere blanket, having a warm bath in your suite, and dining on hearty, seasonal foods. If I could do this every day of the year, I think I would.
Great weather for golf – and more!
The southern coast of Tuscany attracts golf aficionados year-round thanks to its mild temperatures and sunny weather. An increasing number of golfers from northern Europe flock here to escape from their inclement winter weather in order to combine our warmer winter with the advantages of visiting Tuscany in the winter. The same temperatures attract nature lovers and hikers of all sorts.
The Argentario area and much of Maremma has its own micro-climate thanks to the mitigating presence of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Orbetello Lagoon (a WWF-managed nature reserve) and surrounding hills, making it a few degrees warmer than in Tuscany’s art cities. Although it may rain (but Argentario itself tends to get less rain than the mainland it faces), it very rarely snows, and the temperature is generally ideal for outdoor physical activity.
For the truly golf-passionate, one might try all four courses in Maremma: the aforementioned Argentario Golf Club, the inland Saturnia Golf Club near the thermal baths of the same name, Toscana Golf Club in Gavorrano, and Punta Ala Golf Club, a good local club with numerous winter challenges. These courses offer experiences for beginners and veterans alike. Although, Argentario’s focus on teaching at their Academy makes it stand out above the rest. They boast the availability of Emanuele Canonica – a past winner of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in the winter – and Australian pro, Jamie Harris in the summer. The driving range and practice putts put beginners at ease while advanced video analysis and coaching turn good players into experts.
Many travellers choose to combine a visit to the Maremma area with a stay in Florence, which also offers numerous advantages for the off-season visitor, including lack of crowds, no line-ups at the Uffizi, and lower hotel prices. Or you might travel through Rome (the closest airport to Argentario), which in the winter offers a host of concerts and temporary exhibitions aimed at locals, not to mention fewer tourists and virtually no lines at museums.
Food & Wine
Maremma is well-known for its hearty, slightly rough red wines and equally hearty peasant foods. Although, this has been changing over the past decades, with numerous boutique wineries establishing vineyards in this fertile soil and starred chefs choosing the relaxed atmosphere of the coast. Many of the vineyards are relatively new, so we’re just starting to taste the fruit of their dedication 5-10 years in. Le Mortelle by Antonori, near Castiglione della Pescaia, is a high-tech example, with its bouquet of six wines; three of which are available for export. The others you have to go there to taste!. Or the much smaller Muralia, near Roccastrada, whose six blends contain, for the most part, a dominance of Sangiovese grapes blended in a chemical-free and very manual process. Both wineries have created sophisticated blends that appeal to a range of palates, but both also include a rougher red that is more linked to the Maremman territory.
In an interesting link between wine and golf – not to be combined, but rather to be enjoyed in sequence – Argentario Golf’s 18 holes are each sponsored by a Maremma wine producer, whose products are available for tasting at the hotel’s Dama Dama Restaurant. Or come during Maremma Wine Shire, the annual golf event that combines the sport with tastings of these wines (and also some solid food) in late August – but that’s not off-season at all!
The food options are, of course, unlimited; you’re in Tuscany, in Italy, and in a down-to-earth area that truly values its prime ingredients. Along the Maremma coast in wintertime, offers some of the best fresh fish, which may be served in simple forms like grilled, in the oven, or in delicious soups, like the Caldaro fish soup. Also served in simple ways to exalt freshness is the game meat: Maremma is renowned for wild boar (cinghiale) hunting in the winter, as well as for game birds, often stewed for hours until they are buttery soft. But such simplicity does not mean homeliness: if you want to head out for a special treat, Maremma boasts no fewer than five Michelin-starred restaurants that rival anywhere in Europe for innovation and taste.
All that food and wine will balance out the hours of outdoor activity you’ll be doing in the cooler weather. So don’t worry about your figure: Maremma and Argentario in the off-season are healthy and happy destinations from which you’re bound to return relaxed and renewed.
To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, Argentario Resort Golf & Spa, Maremma