That’s right. The Maremma – Italy’s “Wild” West! Forget all the old Spaghetti Western clichés. You CAN still find real cowboys… in Italy!
The Maremma is part of western Tuscany bordering the region of Lazio to the south and Umbria to the east. While the rest of Tuscany has to some degree been over explored and over commercialized, the Maremma remains little known to many tourists and is often not even covered in many of the popular guidebooks. Because of this it is less crowded, more natural and less expensive to visit than many other parts of Tuscany and Italy in general. If you are looking to have a travel experience that is a true slice of Italian life and history, this is your place. The Maremma in the past has been primarily a mosquito infested swamp isolated from the rest of Italy. Yet in ancient times, the Etruscans were able to drain the swamps and create bountiful farmland which provided much of the wheat, grapes and olives to other parts of Italy. When the Etruscans mysteriously disappeared, the Maremma reverted to its wild roots. It was not until Mussolini drained the swamps again, that the Maremma came back to life. Today it is home to some of Tuscany’s and Italy’s most wonderful beaches, a Natural Park that is teeming with game and lush vegetation, natural healing springs and some of Tuscany’s more intriguing hilltop towns. Whether you are a history buff, a slow food aficionado or an outdoors person, there is something for you here in Maremma
Are you looking for Farmhouses in Maremma (Agriturismi in Maremma)
Now, back to the cowboys. The modern day butteri is the proud descendant of an ancient breed of men who have tended these unique Maremman cattle for centuries. To understand the butteri, you must understand the maremman bull. Unlike the Val di Chiana used for bistecca or the charolais, the maremman bull bears the proud and noble stamp of an ancient and wild animal. The relationship between a buterro and his mount is also very different from our American cowboy. They treat their horses with a very fine hand; using only the tiniest of spurs and a special bite that will not hurt their teeth. The horses themselves are a unique race; quite robust and extremely reliable in any situation. The saddle used by the butteri is typically a “scafardo” built on a wooden saddlebow. And his most important tool is “l’uncino” a stick with a small hook on the end that is used for everything from opening a latched gate to picking up a hat off the ground. Today the main role of these rugged men in their vests and fedoras is to preserve the heritage and traditions of the buterri. They put on shows for the public and even conduct an annual “transhumance” moving the herd from one exhausted pasture to a better one across the Tuscan countryside. And YOU can become a buterro yourself joining them for two exciting days!
Just because we have been talking about the wild side of the Maremma, doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in a little luxury. After all, with all the riding and herding, a person could probably use a good soak in warm, mineral waters and a massage, right? That’s the amazing thing about Maremma, it has all of that too. It is home to some of the oldest, most healing natural springs in all of Italy. The Italians are very proud of their thermal spa traditions and take the “waters” whenever they can. The mineral laden waters are actually heated by the depths of nearby volcano Monte Amiata. A visit to the thermal spas of Saturnia will surely cure whatever is ailing you.
The food and wine of the Maremma is unique as well. Wild boar, pheasant and other types of wild game as well as fresh seafood are area specialties served in every home and restaurant depending on the season. Mushrooms and chestnuts are abundant as well – in the Fall there are festivals devoted to each. Wines have been made here since Etruscan times. One red in particular from the village of Scansano, Morellino di Scansano is gaining in popularity. It is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape and is a cousin to the more well known Brunello and Super Tuscans from nearby in Tuscany. If you enjoy good food prepared in it’s most simple and traditional way with ingredients fresh from the land, this is reason enough to fall in love with Maremma.
And the beaches are some of the finest in all of Italy; favored by Italians and European travelers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland in particular. Here you can find secluded white sand coves and black sand beaches that seem to stretch on past the horizon. The emerald and turquoise waters of the Mar Tirenno – Tyrrhenian Sea – form a spectacular coastline. A sunset picnic on the beach is an experience that will live in your memory forever. Paradiso! I could go on and on about all the treasures of travel to this most unique part of Tuscany but I think I will leave some of it for you to discover on your own.