Tuscany, a place where time has built upon time, epoch upon epoch.
Probably the most loved region of Italy, Tuscany is certainly the most famous and the most visited with its magnificent renaissance capital of Florence. Florence is where you will find Michelangelo’s famous statue of David and many famous frescoes from ancient times, among many other artistic wonders. And still today the countryside of soft hills, olive groves and cypress trees, dotted with splendid medieval palaces and villas, would make Michelangelo, Dante and Leonardo da Vinci feel right at home.
Highways, winding roads and country lanes lead through the countryside to cities and towns such as Siena, Pienza, Pisa, San Gimignano, Grosseto and Montalcino (where the famous Brunello grapes grow). Especially delightful are the small, picturesque hilltop villages and beautiful stone farmhouses.
Toscana: the very name is magic. Said a European friend about the region: “Best described with a picture: An open landscape with maybe some hills. A wild garden with a big table in the shadow- and a big, big family clan sitting around eating and drinking together. Loudly speaking and lots of laughter – Grandpa sits there, and the son coming from the City, some beautiful glowing-eyed woman, lots of kids and “Mamma” – all sharing the joy of the meal, wine and being together open-air. This celebrating runs through all Italian life – like a red thread – and the wine to it is earthy, serene, mostly in a warm glowing red.
“Soft light, smooth hills which are clad with olive groves and vineyards, tall and elegant cypresses leading to medieval hill towns, often bathed in an amber light – a landscape giving space — you arrived. Your soul and spirits get in balance.”
Southeast of Florence and Chianti, between the Chianti Senense and the Tyrrhenian Sea, lies a vast golden sea of wheat called the Maremma. Drive through these waves of grain and you’ll see cowboys in fedoras riding sturdy maremmano horses, herding long-horned maremmano bulls. These cowboys are called “butteri”, a name taken to denote the pride they earned when they beat Buffalo Bill and his crew in a contest in Rome in 1911. Rodeos and shows are held throughout the summer at Gavarone and Albarese. (Photo courtesy All About Travel and More)
Says the Web site Invitation to Tuscany” about Maremma: “Today, the Maremma presents some of the most beautiful countryside imaginable and is one of the most rewarding travel destinations around. Even in July and August there is a lush feel to the countryside. The many streams and rivers attracted settlements here even before the Etruscans arrived in the seventh century b.c. There are numerous unspoiled hill villages, often still very little more than medieval castles and their surrounding strongholds, built on the underlying rock and stone. Marked paths through the forested hills help the visitor explore the countryside with its castles, evocative Etruscan remains and beautiful waterfalls, while excellent local restaurants provide meals to impress even the most jaded palate.”
The main city of the Maremma, an informal capital, is Grosseto, a beautifully restored 16th-century walled town just a few miles inland from the sea. Grosseto is a lively medium-sized city, situated on the edge of the province… It has “an old historical center, enclosed by a protective fort wall, outside of which the modern city lies: the areas of Barbanella, Gorarella and Verde Maremma. Undoubtedly among the most important monuments is the cathedral or Duomo, constructed in 1200, with its characteristic white and rose colored marble facade, important masterpieces within as the fountain for baptism, the altar by the architect Ghini, and a table portraying the Virgin Mary by Matteo Giovannini.”
Farther inland are the warm sulphurous waters of Saturnia, which legend claims was built by the mother of the god Saturn– said to be the first town ever built in Italy. There are many Etruscan tombs in this area, centered in the woods around the nearly-deserted town of Sovana. Also well worth visiting are Massa Marittima, Follonica, Magliano (and the nearby ruins of the romanesque monastery of San Bruzio), the seaside village of Capalbio and the Etruscan ruins of Vetulonia.
And just in case you simply can’t call a vacation a vacation without golf, be advised that there are plenty of golf courses dotting the entire region of Tuscany, and several within the Maremma itself.
A wonderful lodging choice set right in the region’s heart is the Residence Castel Porrona, an RCI-affiliated resort so unique and so little known that staying there is like discovering a whole new world. Set in a 12th century medieval village bearing the same name, this hilltop resort embodies the magic of Toscana and the Maremma.
Surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, the view of the rolling hills below this hilltop village is astounding. Here the works of man blend with the works of nature in a symbiosis rarely found, and you will delight in it all. There are a mere 22 apts in two completely reconstructed buildings, and though you will feel that you have stepped back in time a few hundred years, rest assured that these apartments and this resort come equipped with every modern convenience to make your stay a comfortable one.
In addition to a modern kitchen, central heating, bathroom, colour TV, video-recorder and telephone in each unit, the resort offers a riding track, tennis court, swimming pool, fitness center and health center, where you can relax with a sauna, a Turkish bath, a hydro massage, or a personal massage. There is a Club House for curling up with a good book, playing snooker, or cards, or chatting with new friends. And if you don’t feel like cooking in your fully equipped kitchen, you can experience authentic (and divine) Tuscany-style cuisine at the resort’s restaurant, the ‘Osteria del Chiostro’.
Within the tiny village attached to the resort, and in larger Cinigiano just a few kilometers away, you can stroll the labyrinth of the little streets, among artisan’s shops, small “cafes” and places selling typical local produce such as the famous wine Brunello, honey and locally-made biscuits called “dead bones”. Or you can go further in your explorations, driving yourself or arranging various tours throughout the region. You should make a point of visiting Sienna and Grosseto though Firenze (Florence) is a place that needs longer to explore– you’ll have to come back again and again and again…
Whether it’s a walk through an old village, a flight in a hot air balloon over the roofs and chimneys, an outing on horseback to discover a medieval castle or a dinner with good people, good wine and laughter– you will find yourself made welcome wherever you go.
Some say, and it may be true, that it’s the people that make this place a paradise.
Some Web sites you might want to visit for more information:
- http://www.discovertuscany.com/ – A great guide to Tuscany
- http://www.tuscany.net/ -Tuscany tourist info and accommodations
- http://www.tuscanypictures.com/ – Photo albums of Tuscany
- http://www.castellitoscani.com/ -The castles of Tuscany
- http://www.ballooningintuscany.com/ -Hot air balloon rides, hiking, wine tasting, excursions, accommodations in Tuscany
- http://www.maremmaguide.com/ -Insider’s guide to Maremma
- http://www.tuttomaremma.com/en/ -Another guide to Maremma
--by InsideTheGate.com staff