Undiscovered Italy: Maremma Tuscany and Maremma Lazio. A large part of Tuscany and the northern province of Rome that very few people outside of Italy know exists, but which is loved with a deep passion by Italians who live here and those who make the journeys from Firenze, Siena and Rome to be here each weekend and during the long Italian summer holidays.
Discover amongst these pages with me this special land that captured my heart many years ago and which still, today, brings a huge smile to my face with the surprises it presents as I turn a corner in a street or along a road.
It has me catching my breath each day in awe of its beauty.
Everyday life here in La Maremma is a very special experience.
That isn't to say that it isn't without its hardships and difficulties, because they exist here too.
Indeed, it is still considered to be the poor man's Tuscany, a legacy of its history up until the end of the Second World War as a hard and unforgiving land largely infested with malaria.
You only have to listen to the soulful cries, let alone the poignant words, in the song Maremma Amara to appreciate the cruel existence to be had for those who tried to make a living here.
One of Maremma's "hidden treasures": the stunning Etruscan necropolis at Populonia.
But it is this very history of a scarcely populated land to which Maremma owes its current day natural beauty. Yes, its mineral rich hills have been mined since prehistoric times until the late 1980's and the scars and mountainside quarries are evidence of this that no prose can hide.
What was once a highly populated, rich and prosperous land maintained under Etruscan rule, gradually changed into a barren and inhospitable place. Infamous even up until very recent history as a land where life spans were very short (we are talking a maximum of 20 and 30 years of age) and as a hideout and refuge for bandits. First with that civilisations progressive decline by Roman over-rule and absorption. And then, throughout the middle ages, through lack of maintenance and expansion of large tracts of undrained marshlands.
Maremma Tuscany: Photo by Tommaso Zannerini
The drainage and anti-malaria de-infestation programme started under the Grand Duke of Tuscany was finished with the aid of a large number of Venetian families who came here in the 1950's. Land that was once boggy marshland in the sweeping Maremma river plains and alongside its extensive coastline were planted with pine woods, cereal crops and became home to Maremman cattle and horses. And then olive groves and vineyards. Today's large number of internationally known wineries and vineyards are relatively very recent introductions to Maremma, built upon small family plots of vines that originally provided for an individual families needs for the year.
Then in the 1960's many of the second homes and holiday accommodations backing the beaches were built along the sea. And, apart from the growing number of new apartments that are infilling land as it becomes available, this is how you will find Maremma today. Rolling wooded foot hills of the volcanic Monte Amiata, mineral rich hills home to now closed mines and quarries, sweeping river plains, olive groves, vineyards, medieval walled hill top towns and villages crowned with forts and castles, and a pineta backed coastline of wide sandy beaches and intimate coves.
Maremma Tuscany: sunset at Puntone di Scarlino: a time to just stop and stare
And, uniquely, nearly all of Maremma is a natural park or international reserve, World Wildlife Fund or UNESCO protected site, with true wildernesses and large tracts of wooded hills still largely untouched by man. I did say special somewhere already didn't I?
Maremma Tuscany: the beautiful wooded "colline di metallifere" - Maremma's metalliferous hills
My greatest concern is that the greed of man and his short sightedness in search of quick money doesn't destroy Maremma. A well planned and managed expansion of tourism to Maremma could provide for the much needed employment for local people. But a new fast coastal road through a unique marsh environment here, and a large apartment condominium on a wild hillside there... and the destruction of what is Maremma will have irreversibly begun.
I want my children's children to be able to take a walk in the early evening and spot a family of wild boar rooting for food alongside the woodlands edge... to be able to watch hares boxing in the fields... to experience the simple pleasure of foraging for wild asparagus in the spring and making lunch from them when they get home... to fish along the shore and play for hours in the sands with no concrete jungle in sight... All this and much more is possible now. I so wish that it remains so.
Tuscany without tourists: a taster of what you will find if you venture out of the pages of your guide book into Maremma... Tuscany off the beaten path.
Maremma Tuscany: the white Torre Civette and the golden sandy beach of Capanna Civinini on a New Years day afternoon
Maremma is an ancient land the boundaries of which existed long before those of Toscana and Lazio were carved out between the Pope and the Duchy of Tuscany.
Today Maremma in its entirety is made up of three parts: Maremma Livornese to the north, Maremma Grossetana in the centre, and Maremma Laziale to the south. But you won't find a map with these areas neatly laid out. Indeed, the delineation of each border is not a precise thing and nor is it considered necessary to be!
The shortest answer to "where is Maremma?", is that it is the length of the Tuscany coast south of Pisa all the way south into Lazio and the province of Roma - indeed Rome was once controlled from within Maremma - to the city port of Civitavecchia. Stand with your back to the sea, and Maremma's inland hills will take you to the borders with those cities and those of Firenze and Siena.
Find out more about Maremma Tuscany and Maremma in Lazio below. Plus a link to my Maremma Maps section to help you find your way around.
The City of Livorno rules deep into the wooded hills behind the Gulf of Follonica - I cross the border from Maremma Grossetana, ruled by the City of Grosseto, almost daily - and it is from such control that this part of Maremma takes its name. Locally better known as Maremma Alta ("alta" means "high"), what neither names tell you are that this where you will find the beautiful Costa degli Etruschi (the Etruscan Coast) with its sparkling turquoise waters which will have you hard pressed keeping your eyes on the road ahead as you drive the superstrada through Maremma, the home of Super Tuscan wines, and much more... Maremma Livornese.
The heart of Maremma with its glorious coastline overlooking the Isola d'Elba and the Tuscan archipelago, and internal metalliferous hills with their potent volcanic thermal energy, Maremma Grossetana is a place to explore when you have seen the Tuscan sights of Pisa, Firenze, San Gimignano and Siena and crave some slow time off the beaten track. It is my home and its beauty simply takes my breath away.
A land of Etruscan tombs, buried Roman cities and black sand beaches, little explored and without the coffee table book fame of Tuscany overshadowed as it is by its principal city, The Eternal City of Rome. But then what place wouldn't be?
Yet, if you can pull yourself away from the attractions of Roma and take the drive north in Maremma Laziale you will be rewarded with an experience that has you following legends and clues to unsolved mysteries as you explore its towns and the ruins. Take a walk in the countryside with the most beautiful view in Europe and you will in all probability be walking over hidden Roman cities or come across a deserted medieval town: a place for the Indiana Jones detectives of all ages amongst you!
The rest is coming! but for now...
Find out about Maremma Tuscany and Lazio - things you probably wouldn't know even if you visited here - from these 23 facts from her wonderfully rich Etruscan, Roman, medieval, Spanish and pirate past - fact on Italy.
Experience Maremma without traveling: take a walk along a beach, or two or three... watch wild boar on a Saturday night out in a wetland, go underground with potholers, and explore Tuscan hill towns and villages that no one else will tell you about. The latest Maremma videos.
International news stories about Maremma are rare and most are - deservedly so - about our wines. The remaining ones are reserved for when a travel correspondent writes an article for a weekend edition of a newspaper about Tuscany and mentions one or two of the most expensive and famous places to stay along the coast in Maremma, or if a movie star happens to holiday here or pass through!
But then in an agricultural land where daily life is dominated by the work required to tend to the soil, plant the seeds, prune the vines and olive trees, and bring in the harvests... there isn't much to tell that would excite the international press.
But the local news that does surface beyond the conversations at the bar can be found here - in both English and Italian - the news from Italy.
Explore some more...