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Podere Santa Pia, garden view over the Maremma hills (April)

 

Surroundings
       
   

The Maremma, the area of Tuscany which was once the heartland of the Etruscans

 

   
   
The Maremma, the area of Tuscany which was once the heartland of the Etruscans stretches along the Southern Tuscan coast and inland to the hills of the Alta Maremma and the Tufo Area.
After the Etruscan era, the coastal areas deteriorated into marshland and swamp, infested with malarial mosquito and inhabited only by charcoal burners, shepherds and cowboys, the "butteri". It was not until 1950 that the malarial mosquito was eliminated. As a result, this is one of the last unspoilt stretches of coastline in Italy.
Traveling south from Grosseto you reach the Parco Naturale della Maremma. The Monte dell Uccelli, a long whale backed series of hills, form the backbone of the park. Old Spanish watchtowers dot these beautiful wooded hills, which, as their name suggests, are home to many resident, migrating and nesting birds. The forest-covered hills give way to grasslands, where the "butteri" tend their half-feral horses and white cattle, and to beautiful beaches. There is no public road to the park, which is reached by bus or canoe, on foot, bike or horseback from Alberese.
Just outside the park you come to the ancient fishing village of Talamone, once an Etruscan town. The Sienese planned to make this sheltered harbor into a port that would rival that of Pisa, but clogging weed foiled the attempt.
Leaving behind the Ucellini Park, the Via Aurelia Etrusca leads to the mouth of the Albegna River and to the Tombolo di Giannella, a sand spit which joins Monte Argentario, once an island, to the mainland. Another sandpit, or "tombolo", was also built up by the sea currents, to the south thus forming a lagoon, the Laguna di Ortobello, between the "island" and the mainland. The Romans constructed a causeway between the mainland and Ortobello on Argentario which divided the lagoon. The sheltered lagoons, only one metre in depth, draw hundreds of birds here, including rare species, and offer amazing bird watching opportunities.

The scenery of the mountainous Monte Argentario, which reaches 635 metres at its highest point, Il Telegrapho, is dramatic, with headlands, bays and shingle beaches. Much of the area is still uninhabited and superb walking country. The main tourist centres are the ancient ports of San Stefano and Ercole. Three 16th century castles, remnants of the Spanish fortification of the Argentario, look down upon the yacht-filled harbor of the attractive little town of Porto Ercole.


   
   
Podere Santa Pia, situated in a particularly scenic valley,
which overlooks on the hills around Scansano, up to the Maremma seashore and Monte Christo
 
   


Tuscan farmhouses | Podere Santa Pia
 
         

Once upon a time, Tuscany's Mount Argentario was an island. Now this rock is joined to the coast by way of three thin strips of land. Two of these, the Tombolo della Feniglia and the Tombolo della Giannella have formed naturally over the centuries, the other, the Orbetello lagoon dam (an artificial embankment serving as bridge) was constructed by man in 1840. Orbetello is a pleasant town of Tuscan Maremma, home to a number of noteworthy historic buildings. One of these is the Polveriera Guzman, edifice which now houses the town's Archaeological Museum. Then there is the renaissance style Palazzo del Podestà, the Gothic cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, built on the ruins of an ancient Etruscan-Roman temple, and the Ciclopiche walls, erected in the 5th century B.C by the Etruscans.

The main attraction of Orbetello is the unique ecosystem created by those three tongues of sand which link the town with Mount Argentario. In the two coastal lagoons that have formed on either side of Orbetello, dozens of fish and bird species have found their natural habitat, including great colonies of pink flamingoes.
Close by, between the slopes of Mount Argentario and the Tyrrhenian coast, lie the famous bathing resorts of Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole. The islands of Giglio and Giannutri are just a short boat ride away. Ideal place where to practice a whole variety of watersports, with its fabulous panoramic coastal pathways the Argentario is also perfect walking and mountain biking terrain, extremely popular with fitness fans and lovers of the great outdoors.

The Maremma is outstanding for its many protected natural areas that offer the chance to appreciate its wide variety of animals, insects and birds, trees, shrubs and flowers and to enjoy its special light and scenic beauty.The Nature Reserves aren't separate from the rest of the territory, but are symbolic of an integral whole. The Maremma affirms a way of life in harmony with nature and the rhythm of the seasons.
The Parco Naturale della Maremma encompasses the Monti dell'Uccellina, running parallel to the coastline from Principina a Mare to Talamone and was one of the first protected areas instituted in Italy.
Today the Province of Grosseto can boast of 13 Nature Reserves, an additional 8 which include Reserves for Repopulation, Biogenetics, Protection and Comprehensive Protection, plus the various oasis of the WWF. In all, there are almost 40,000 hectares of nature reserves stretching from north to south. They provide a complex and detailed vision of the wealth of the Maremma's natural heritage in all of its diversity from coast to inland, wet zones and mountain crests.
The numerous routes indicated within the parks enable the visitor to perceive the vastness of the preservation project and the botanical, zoological and geological wealth, differentiation, and beauty offered.

Maremma's natural heritage | www.parco-maremma.it

The Maremma coast has many facets: the mystical atmosphere of the Orbetello Lagoon and the golden, groomed beaches of the Feniglia and the Giannella not far from the Capalbio coast with lunar sand and wild, untouched dunes making it unique. The Islands of Giglio and Giannutri are rare jewels with rocky cliffs plummeting to the crystal-clear, emerald green sea and the scent of the Mediterranean scrub and aromatic herbs filling the air.

Fully equipped tourist ports such as Punta Ala, the fishing villages of Talamone, Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole on the slopes of the Argentario, reveal panoramic views over the coast and the islands and offer unforgetable sunsets spread across the sky.
Fortresses, citadels and towers clinging to the rocks create a vision of the time when these ancient ports, like those of Orbetello and Castiglione della Pescaia, were fortified. Today they offer a unique backdrop for those who "take to the sea" along a Mediterranean course.

The most beautiful regions in Tuscany | Parco Naturale della Maremma