Tuscany is much more than fields of sunflowers, rolling hills, medievel hilltowns and the crowded "must see" sights in Florence or Pisa. Clustered along the Tyrrhenian coastline near the town of Grosetto, Voyagers to Tuscany will find some of the most natural and heavenly sand beaches in all of Northern Italy. Their individual names are Follonica, Castiglione della Pescaia, Marina di Grosseto, Principina di Grosseto, Marina di Alberese and Monte Argentario, but their known collectively as simply the Maremma. Some, like Marina di Alberese can be very busy in the high season but are great for families, while other gems like Cala Violina are a bit more relaxed, perhaps due to the 10-15 minute walk from the forested parking area in order to reach the sandy beach. (Many beaches in the area have parking lots well away from the actual beach and require a short, but pleasant walk). Going to the beach here is a more spartan experience at times... flip-flops, sun-block, a towel, and perhaps a backpack with drinks and picnic snacks are all that's needed.
In the month of August, Italians rent small cottages or bring their camping caravans and spend their yearly, month-long holiday at these beaches. At other times of the year, many foreigners are also enjoying the unparalleled and highly colonized beach resorts forested with organized rows of beach chairs and colored umbrellas. They also visit the area for its spiagge libere (free beaches), vast expanses of sandy beaches, woodland hiking trails and the reefs that dot the shoreline. So, whatever your tastes... nature lover, pool-side sun-worshiper, hiker, birdwatcher, or reef snorkeler, you won't be disappointed with the Maremma.
The National Park
Undoubtedly, the best part of the Maremma is that it's actually a preserved area of nature, with some of the best wooded hiking trails in the country. Il Parco Regionale della Maremma has trails that go up and through the Monte Argentario peninsula for incredible vistas and panoramas. You can see clear to the island of Elba, Giglio and Montecristo. Hiking in the Maremma requires signing in at a ranger station, but that's for your protection. The trails are well marked and well worth the effort. Some are easy, a few difficult, but all offer a chance to see flora and fauna alike: migrating birds, raptors, horses, wild boars, turtles, lizards, stands of natural lollypop pines and ancient olive groves. And be careful of the apparently tame foxes. They'll come right up to you looking for a handout. Hike A2 - Le Torri, is especially well suited for families with small children. The part of the trail heading down to the beach is paved and well suited even for strollers.
The Maremma park is also famous for its Butteri, the Tuscan cowboy--and their long horned cattle. Dressed in high boots, long velvet jackets and wide brimmed hat, they lead their cattle with traditional mazzarella, a hooked wooden staff. There are even opportunities to go on trail rides if you love spending time in the saddle. If you want to experience riding with the Butteri up close and personal, check out Azienda Regionale Agricola di Alberese, located a short distance from Grosseto.
And don't forget about the beef itself... Vacche Maremmane (as they call their beasts)--a true delicacy. It is said that the beef they produce rivals the Wagyu steaks of Japan. So don't forget while in the area to feast on a Bistecca Fiorentina, a thick, flavorful steak drizzled with extra virgin olive oil--just don't ask for it "well done"!
In the town of Alberese you can rent bicycles for about 8 Euros a day and ride the Maremma's well kept cycling trails. Besides the stunning views, you will come across horses, long-horned cattle and other wildlife, like wild boars and deer.
But once you hike down to the shoreline you'll realize the main reason you came here... the absolutely pristine beaches. People collect shells and often use the abundant driftwood to build ramshackle beach huts. There is also loads of history here, such as the Renaissance towers built by the Medici to protect against pirate invasions and the San Rabano medieval abbey.
All in all, you will fall in love with the beaches and nature of the Maremma. If you are the gregarious type, book a stay at one of the large resort beaches, play some golf, show off your newest speedo or bikini and sip your Bellini... or, if your more of a nature lover, hike down to a desolate beach and build your own hut from driftwood and have some cheese and wine with your companion, Friday.
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