An introduction to the rich-filled heritage and nature of the Maremma
Think of Tuscany and I bet most of us would come up with the same regular places: Florence, Pisa, Siena, Cortona and Montalcino, etc. Northern Tuscany seems to get all the attention, but what about the Southern part? When I discovered The Maremma, I found it an equally magical and captivating – ideal for the curious traveller to experience.
Not the sheep dog
Not to be confused with an Italian sheep dog, which takes the same name, the Maremma is a vast area covering southern Tuscany and North Lazio. With its picturesque coastal line, vividly coloured natural landscape, the characteristics are somewhat similar to its neighbour of northern Tuscany. The only difference is that the film “Under the Tuscan Sun” wasn’t filmed there. This is why Maremma is perfectly ideal for the traveller who prefers to experience the less touristic parts of Tuscany, yet still wants to sense the pleasure of “la dolce vita” of Italy.
Like with many kingdoms of Italy, the Maremma also had its fair share of rulers, including the Spanish, who had conquered the Argentario coastal areas during the 15th and 16th centuries. The land in those days pretty much consisted of wet marshes, which made the living conditions for its inhabitants very harsh, with Malaria being a major cause of mortality. Fortunately, what is seen today of the past no more exists, but what has remained is its rich heritage of historic towns and villages, some perched on hilltops that offer the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
I thought that the best way to explore the Maremma would be to start bottom-up, with the most southern part called Argentario. Whilst driving along the a long spaghetti strip of land, (or technically sand bar) to reach what seemed a remote mountainous island, I was amazed to see such an intensity of pine forests and lush green everywhere. This was October time, so there were not so many people around. But I could definitely see that this was an area very popular with the Italian holiday makers, with camping sites, hotels, bars and restaurants, mostly closed for the Winter season.
All around the Argentario, the extreme contrasts the of natural landscapes are simply breathtaking. The succession of beautiful beaches, cliffs, ravines, caves are integrated with ancient watchtowers and imposing fortresses built by the Spanish, which served to protect the port from the constant attack of pirates and foreign invaders. Likewise, along the coast, next to the sunny stretches of fine beaches, the intensely thick pine forests interspersed with wetlands act as a refuge to a multitude of species of migratory birds and plants – a protected wildlife area that is called The Maremma Natural Park.
The Port towns of Argentario
The port towns of Ercole and Santo Stefano on Monte Argentario are beautiful towns to relax. Either just to gaze at the gentle rocking of boats moored in the ports, or to indulge in the wonderful restaurants well-known for its fish specialities, there something very meditative walking through a quintessential Italian port town. Otherwise, those interested to get some historical insights, the spanish fortresses that surround both towns are equally interesting to visit. Art lovers, especially of the baroque artist Caravaggio, might or might not know that Porto Ercole was where he died at the age of 38. The cause for his death were never conclusive, though there are strongly-held opinions that he died of malaria.
Argentario Resort Golf & Spa
During my stay at The Maremma, I stayed in a hotel that presented to me another exciting contrast. Argentario Resort Golf & Spa defines the perfect example of how architecture doesn’t have be traditional to blend well with history and nature. Although situated close to Porto Ercole, the winding small roads, which seem to endlessly go round in circles, feel as if you’re miles away from everything. Yet as I finally saw what resembled an entrance sign, I realised I had found myself inside the epi-centre of Monte Argentario. surrounded by mountainous green forests and the distant view of the turquoise sea.
The description of a “resort”, definitely doesn’t define “Boutique”. But surprisingly with only 73 rooms, the resort in fact refers to the grand-scale wellness and relaxation facilities created for its guests . Think of any type of wellness activity you can do, and you will find it here. Ranging from a world-renowned golf course, 3 tennis courts, 2 jogging paths and 1 football pitch, to a 2700 m2 wellness centre, there is an abundance of activities to energize or equally relax you.
The style in which the resort has been built has a very contemporary feel inside and out. And even if the perception of “why modern in Tuscany?” would naturally be asked, Augusto Orsini, owner of the resort, had a different vision in mind. To create something new and fresh representing the region’s most progressive side, is what Orsini wanted to achieve. Yet still offering the Tuscan experience through the natural beauty of the Maremma, the exquisitely delicious cuisine at the Dama Dama Restaurant, and of course offering an intimate and warm-natured style of service.
To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, Argentario Resort Golf & Spa, Maremma