Photo: Anders Overgaard
According to locals, the true heart of the Maremma runs along the Tyrrhenian coast, from Grosseto to Capalbio, and 30 miles inland to Mount Amiata. A hub for stylish new hotels and restaurants, it is also, I recently discovered, one of the most unspoiled regions in Tuscany, Italy, marked by pristine beaches fringed with umbrella-shaped maritime pines and cork-oak woodlands, where aristocratic families such as the Principe Corsinis still hunt for wild boar. As I explored the remote Vini Montauto wine estate, in Manciano, I found a quiver of black-and-white porcupine quills; near Orbetello, I spotted pink flamingos grazing in the lagoon; and one night my car nearly collided with a low-flying barn owl.
On the following pages, you’ll find my favorite spots, from the high-end to the reasonably priced, all of them within an easy drive of one another, and roughly a two-hour drive north of Rome.
Capalbio, Tuscany, Italy
The medieval village of Capalbio is the Maremma’s epicenter, and come summer, Italian politicians and actors fill its sidewalk trattorias and artisanal shops selling regional specialties such as piquant olive oils and house-made jams. From here, it’s a 15-minute drive southwest to the fashionable Ultima Spiaggia, the perfect spot for a beachside frittura di pesce.
Until 2010 there were few decent boutique hotels in the Maremma. Enter Locanda Rossa (11B Strada Capalbio-Pescia Fiorentina, Capalbio; 39-0564/890-462; locandarossa.com; doubles from $325), a modern, eco-conscious retreat set on a 50-acre olive farm. The Tuscan-red country house has a retro-chic feel, with its 12 beige-and-taupe rooms and four apartments accented with Allegra Hicks pillows and Taschen coffee-table books. At the osteria, the floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto a pool and rows of olive trees.
If you’re seeking to live like royalty, check in to the Tenuta Marsiliana (Località Castello, Manciano; 39-339/566-1326; tenutamarsiliana.it; from $910 per week), an estate owned by the Principe Corsini family. The five accommodations range from a seven-bedroom hunting lodge with a collection of mounted boar heads and sketches by Corsini princesses to a former game warden’s three-bedroom cottage. There’s never a dull moment: sample regional wines, visit the castle, or simply take in the views of the countryside.
Eat and Drink
Die-hard locals would be up in arms if the menu ever changed at Trattoria Da Maria (3 Piazza Carlo Giordano, Capalbio; 39-0564/896-014; dinner for two $120), where chef Fiorella Contarelli has been whipping up traditional dishes for more than 30 years. Try the house-made pappardelle with wild-hare ragù and crisp almond-flavored tozzetti biscuits dipped in sweet vin santo wine.
Owned by fashion photographer Andrea Marchionni, the see-and-be-seen Rosso e Vino alla Dogana (Località Graticciaia, Capalbio; 39-0564/890-344; dinner for two $104) draws the Maremma’s sophisticated set, who linger over light seafood lunches on the veranda beside the silver sands of La Dogana beach.
Despite its unappealing name, Bar La Polverosa—“the Dusty One” (225 Strada Regionale Maremmana, Orbetello; 39-0564/878-076; drinks for two $13)—became a popular nightspot last year when it was revamped by Camilla Novellis di Coarazze. She updated the roadside bar, which doubles as a grocery store during the day, with cream rattan chairs and monochrome murals, and hosts raucous dance parties on Friday evenings that last until dawn.
A mojito with fresh rosemary is the best way to kick off an evening in the candlelit garden at Il Frantoio (10 Via Renato Fucini, Capalbio; 39-0564/896-484; dinner for two $130). What to order? Wedges of mouthwatering beefsteak, culled from the Maremma’s native cattle and cooked on a hot stone slab.
See and Do
Inside Il Frantoio restaurant, La Bottega del Frantoio (10 Via Renato Fucini, Capalbio; 39-0564/896-484) stocks a well-curated collection of local designers and classic Italian labels. Best bet: strawberry-colored velvet coats by Milan’s Tessuti Mimma Gini.
A 40-foot mirrored tower with wheels and cogs on top; a mosaic dragon chasing a maiden; a multicolored horned devil—these are among the 22 sculptures based on tarot cards that French-born artist Niki de Saint Phalle created for Il Giardino dei Tarocchi (Località Garavicchio, Capalbio; 39-0564/895-122).
Oenophiles won’t want to miss Fattoria Le Pupille (92A Piagge del Maiano, Grosseto; 39-0564/409-517), one of the Maremma’s most prestigious vineyards. Book a tasting of Saffredi, an award-winning red, or of the special reserves.
The appropriately named C’era una Volta a Capalbio (14 Via Torino, Capalbio; 39-0564/890-662), which translates to “Once upon a time in Capalbio,” makes and sells artisanal treats—porcini-mushroom pâté; apricot-and-almond jam—using recipes that date back more than a century.
Riding with Cowboys
Ready to get in the saddle? Join the traditional butteri (Maremmani cowboys) as they herd semi-wild cattle and horses at the 11,366-acre Azienda Regionale Agricola di Alberese (Località Spergolaia, Grosseto; 39-0564/407-180; alberese.com; horseback rides from $65), a publicly owned coastal ranch in the protected Ente Parco Regionale della Maremma. For the less adventurous, there are guided tours of the farm that end with samplings of pecorino cheese, salt-free Tuscan bread, and red Morellino di Scansano wine.
L’Argentario, Tuscany, Italy
A thickly wooded, 23-square-mile promontory linked to the mainland by three causeways, L’Argentario has long been a vacation spot for wealthy Romans. Its main towns are Porto Santo Stefano, a flashy harbor for yachts, and the colorful Porto Ercole, where the Baroque painter Caravaggio died of malaria in 1610. There’s also the lively fishing port of Orbetello nearby, with its blue-tinged lagoon.
Down a narrow, winding road on the promontory’s southeastern tip stands the cliffside Il Pellicano Hotel (Località Sbarcatello, Porto Ercole; 39-06/9435-7357; pellicanohotel.com; doubles from $819), a sheltered hideaway that attracts a high-flying clientele (yes, that’s Bono by the pool). Most of the 50 rooms—spread out between the main, Pompeii-red house and six freestanding villas—were recently refreshed by owners Roberto Sciò and his daughter Marie-Louise, who just published a book to celebrate 33 years of ownership. The country-cottage-style rooms (exposed-beam ceilings; terra-cotta floors) are done up with quirky accessories including pineapple-shaped ceramic lamps and sun mirrors. But the hotel’s ace in the hole is its waterfront location.
Eat and Drink
Contrasting ingredients such as slow-cooked egg with vanilla and white truffle or duck with pink grapefruit are the hallmarks of the elaborate platters prepared by chef Antonio Guida atRistorante Il Pellicano (Località Sbarcatello, Porto Ercole; 39-0564/858-275; dinner for two $260), which garnered two Michelin stars in 2010. The best tables are on the stone terrace overlooking the Tyrrhenian.
Fishermen from Orbetello catch and then prepare the seafood at I Pescatori (14 Via Giacomo Leopardi, Orbetello; 39-0564/860-611; dinner for two $83), a buzzy, no-airs restaurant in a brick-vaulted former stable run by the town’s fisheries cooperative. In summer, steaming portions of smoked Orbetello lagoon eel and spaghetti alla chitarra with shavings of bottarga (dried fish roe) are served on plastic plates to large outdoor tables of boisterous Italians.
See and Do
Buy organic oranges, lemons, and grapefruits from the lush orchard at Azienda Agraria Fratelli Osio (136 Via Panoramica, Porto Santo Stefano; 39-339/703-1065). The estate also sells bottles of extra-virgin olive oil and dry wines from the surrounding vineyards that stretch to the shore.
Golf fanatics will love Argentario Resort Golf & Spa (Via Acquedotto Leopoldino, Porto Ercole; 39-0564/810-292; argentariogolfresortspa.it; greens fees from $91), an ecologically certified 18-hole, par-71 course with native cork-oak woodlands and lakes filled with moorhen and wild ducks.
The Maremma’s Volcanic Rock Villages
A drive through the Etruscan villages of Pitigliano, Sovana, and Sorano makes a pleasant road trip. From Saturnia, head 30 minutes west to Sovana. Walk down the cobblestoned main street, then visit the 12th-century St. Peter’s Cathedral (3 Via del Duomo; 39-0564/616-532). Next, drive 15 minutes south to Pitigliano to tour the Jewish Museum (Vicolo Marghera; 39-0564/614-230), in the former ghetto. Then swing by La Pietra Stregonia (76 Via Zuccarelli; 39-339/231-8479), where Alessandra Fonzo creates intricate jewelry from vintage stones. The nearbyHostaria del Ceccottino (64 Piazza San Gregorio VII; 39-0564/614-273; lunch for two $65)serves a great lunch of acquacotta, a country soup with vegetables, bread, and eggs. Drive another 15 minutes northwest to Sorano and hike the labyrinth of narrow streets to the Orsini Fort, followed by a glass of organic Sovana Rosso wine at L’Ottava Rima (25 Via del Borgo; 39-349/802-4196).
Public transportation is scarce in the Maremma, so consider renting a car at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport, in Fiumicino, or Pisa’s Galileo Galilei International Airport (80 miles and 130 miles from Capalbio, respectively). Once you arrive, try Taxi Renato (39-366/392-2147) or, in Saturnia/Manciano, contact driver Andrea Tramontana (39-339/528-4918).
Saturnia, Tuscany, Italy
This pink-stone village, part of the larger town of Manciano, dates back to Roman times, when nobles would “take the cure” at its sulfurous hot springs. Today, visitors can still soak up the benefits at the Cascate del Gorello, a public waterfall that cascades down natural limestone. Those seeking a more intimate experience check in to the exclusive Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort, where the same restorative waters gush into a private thermal pool. Thanks to the much-lauded Caino restaurant, Saturnia is also a popular detour for gastronomes.
The biggest draw at Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort (Strada Provinciale Follonata, Manciano; 39-0564/600-111; termedisaturnia.it; doubles from $299) is, naturally, the thermal pool—the temperature reaches a sweltering 100 degrees (don’t be put off by the egg-scented air, which comes from the water’s high sulfur content). Also on site: a 54,000-square-foot beauty center, specializing in anti-aging treatments, and 140 spacious rooms outfitted with pine floors, travertine bathrooms, and private stone balconies.
“If you see fruit hanging from a tree, pick it,” says Fabrizio D’Ascenzi, whose family owns Relais Villa Acquaviva (Strada Provinciale Scansanese, Manciano; 39-0564/602-890;relaisvillaacquaviva.com; doubles from $153), a country hotel in a manicured garden dotted with plum and strawberry trees. The 25 rustic rooms incorporate thoughtful details such as hand-spun Sardinian bedspreads and complimentary bottles of Acquaviva’s wine.
Eat and Drink
An amuse-bouche of sweet and salty ice cream made from yellow tomatoes is enough to satisfy even the most refined palates at Trattoria Verdiana (Località Ponticello, Manciano; 39-0564/602-576; dinner for two $104). Chef Annarita Fontecchi and her husband grow a variety of vegetables and fruits in the restaurant’s 2 1/2-acre garden to use for her comfort dishes (tortelli stuffed with wood pigeon).
Though two inscribed Roman stones decreeing annual orgies stand outside I Due Cippi (26 Piazza Vittorio Veneto, Manciano; 39-0564/601-074; dinner for two $117), the historic restaurant is known only for gastronomic indulgences. Tables spill out onto Saturnia’s postcard-perfect main square, while inside, chefs cook quail, steak, and cockerel over a wood-fired grill. Not a meat lover? The lengthy menu also includes fresh pastas.
The hilltop village of Montemerano is home to the Maremma’s most acclaimed restaurant, the nine-table Caino (3 Via Canonica, Manciano; 39-0564/460-2817; dinner for two $175). In the warm, wood-and-ocher dining room, guests sample experimental Tuscan delicacies by chef Valeria Piccini—salt cod with black truffles; vegetable minestrone with seasonal sorbets. This is food to be savored, so expect to be there at least three hours.
See and Do
Pick up handmade burnt-orange or green hunting jackets in fustian, waxed cotton, velvet, or wool at Antica Sartoria di Maremma (Via del Colle, Pancole, Scansano; 39-0564/50309), a traditional tailor in nearby Pancole.
Manciano-born Riccardo Lepri is widely regarded as the region’s most promising new winemaker, supplying the Maremma’s best restaurants, including Ristorante Il Pellicano. Below, he shares his top spots.
The herbalist Officinali di Montauto makes essential oils and cosmetics from Tuscan herbs. “The men’s organic face cream, containing oak and olive extract, is fabulous for weather-beaten skin,” Lepri says. Km 10.3, Strada Provinciale Campigliola, Manciano; 39-329/959-5694.
Lepri suggests visiting his farm, Vini Montauto, close to the town of Manciano, to sample wines such as the citrusy white Enos I and the rich, red Tiburzio, “our Super-Tuscan.” You can also book riding lessons at Pietriccio Rosso di Montauto, the school run by his wife, Ilaria Aldi. Km 10, Strada Provinciale Campigliola, Manciano; 39-338/383-3928; montauto.org.
A neighborhood favorite, La Filanda is a quirky wine bar and restaurant in a former wool-spinning workshop where Lepri goes on Monday evenings. He loves the innovative dishes such as crispy pastry filled with sweet pear and tangy sheep’s-milk cheese, followed by squab cooked three ways (stuffed with foie gras; browned with port; broiled). 8 Via Marsala, Manciano; 39-0564/625-156; dinner for two $120.
To view the best sunsets in the Maremma, stop at the Hotel Torre di Cala Piccola, on the western coast of the Argentario promontory. “Order an aperitif at an outdoor table along the cliff’s edge,” Lepri says. Località Cala Piccola, Porto Santo Stefano; 39-0564/825-111; drinks for two $20.