The Other Tuscany
From the Silver Coast to Siena
The Other Tuscany: From the Silver Coast to Siena offers an active week of walking and hiking through the Maremma region of Tuscany. Seven days are barely enough to learn about the past, appreciate the present and begin to unravel the mystery of this magnificent area. Unlike the rest of Tuscany, you will not find English spoken by many of the locals, and roadsigns are not in two languages! We find that refreshing, and invite you to see why.
Aptly named for the shimmering waters of the Tirrenian Sea that nearly surround this hilly promontory, the Silver Coast lies at the southernmost corner of Tuscany and offers delightful combined flavors of Tuscany and its neighboring region, Latium. Our journey begins by exploring the flavors, scents, foot paths and hospitality of seaside Maremma. While the outstanding beauty of the Silver Coast attracts hordes of Italians during July and August, we will have it to ourselves during our spring and fall trips. We will walk to a former Etruscan town and an imposing convent, visit medieval towns and fishing villages, dine on fish caught that very morning, and see how sheep’s yogurt is produced at a local farm. And we’ll sample fabulous wines with exotic names like Morellino di Scansano, Montereggio di Massa Marittima and Montecucco.
The latter part of the week finds us 40 kilometers south of Siena, in the northernmost reaches of the Maremma near a town called Montieri. Here the setting and the sensations are delightful and different. The view from our windows in the morning is one not of sparkling waves, but of mountains covered with chestnut and oak trees as far as we can see. The tastes are not sea bass and scampi, but wild boar and freshly gathered funghi. We will enjoy walks through the woods, evenings of cooking and fine wine, and time around the fireplace or at the intimate bar of our hotel. Time will have slowed down, and we think you’ll depart contemplating just how these folks in a small corner of Tuscany have gotten life so right.
Day 1 – Costa d’Argento (walk 7 km/4.5 miles)
Early afternoon transfer from the Orbetello train station to our charming hotel just outside Porto Santo Stefano. The next four days will be spent in the environs of the breathtaking “Costa d’Argento”, or “Silver Coast”.
After settling in, we will cross the island to the beginning of a serene 7km pathway, which leads us on foot through pine forests and along the Levante Lake. Our walk ends at the town of Ansedonia, whose origins date from the 3rd century B.C. Etruscans. Our welcome dinner will be at a local trattoria in Ansedonia. D
Lodging for the next four nights at Hotel Villa Domizia.
Day 2 – Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole (walk 10 km/6 miles)
This morning we’ll have time to wander the streets of the island’s main town, Porto Santo Stefano, and gather goodies for our picnic later today. Our drive along the Panoramic Road boasts stunning views that bring to mind the Amalfi Coast without the crowds and construction. A two-hour hike through forested hills to the splendid Passionisti Convent will prepare appetites for our picnic. Then hike another two hours downhill, ending in Porto Ercole. Free time to enjoy this charming town before returning to a fresh seafood dinner at our hotel. B, D
Day 3 – Pitigliano
Today we venture inland to Pitigliano, a hilltown of Etruscan origin which today is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. After a brief guided tour, we can visit the numerous artists’ and craftsmen’s studios on our own. Lunch of typical salames, cheeses and olives at a tiny trattoria overlooking the Tuscan hills. This afternoon we will tour the fascinating wine cellars of Pitigliano, found in the series of caves, vaults and cellars under the city.
Free night for dinner in Porto Ercole; perhaps an opportunity to enjoy Tuscan pizza…? B, L
Day 4 – Regional Park of the Maremma (hike 6-12 km/4-8 miles)
The pristine Regional Park of the Maremma serves as the backdrop for today’s hike. We may choose among several hiking options, and will be accompanied by a local guide who will answer questions regarding the rich flora and fauna of this untouched natural oasis. Depending on the length of our walk, lunch will be taken in the park or in the captivating nearby town of Talamone.
Time to rest in the afternoon before the short trip to Capalbio, a medieval jewel nestled on a nearby hilltop where there are plenty of photo and shopping opportunities. Dinner at a local restaurant of your choice. B, L
Day 5 – Wine Day!
Pack your bags because today we depart the Silver Coast and head north along the local wine roads. Morning visit to La Parrina farm, a wonderful producer of homemade cheeses, yogurts, wines and jams. A brief morning cooking lesson will focus on the famous Tuscan bruschette as well as a La Parrina specialty called gnudis. Lunch al fresco follows, accompanied by La Parrina’s wonderful wines.
Our final stop is truly a “curious souls” find! Morisfarms is an undiscovered small winery whose “super Tuscan” red wine continues to receive top ratings and is a bargain, even with the weak dollar. A Moris family member guides us first through the winery, then through a tasting of these quality products.
Arrival in time for a delicious welcome dinner at La Meridiana, an intimate, family-run auberge in the mountains south of Siena.
Lodging for the next three nights at La Meridiana. B, L, D
Day 6 – Montieri and the San Galgano Abbey (hike 8 km /5 miles)
La Meridiana greets us each morning with a fresh farm breakfast featuring homemade cakes, biscotti and marmelades of all types (lime, cherry, mulberry, even green tomato!) Our morning hike wanders through forested hills to the unique roofless San Galgano Abbey and its hermitage. We will savor a picnic lunch of specialties packed by our hotel while listening to the legend of Galgano’s conversion by Archangel Michael from a noble knight to a monk. Return to the hotel in the afternoon, with free time to enjoy the pool and the rich library of our hosts.
This evening we will participate in a hands-on cooking lesson with our hostess, Palmirella. One shouldn’t visit Italy without at least trying to make pasta by hand, and this is our chance! We will also learn how to make a local dessert. Dinner includes a tasting of several homemade pastas and soups (think: sauteed tortelli with ricotta and eggplant; garbanzo and shrimp soup), plus a variety of local sweets (chocolate ravioli with hints of almond; white chocolate and coconut spiral. . . ). B, L, D
Day 7 – Populonia, Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci
Early departure for Populonia, a medieval village situated on the Mediterranean Sea. We will visit the only existent Etruscan necropolis located on the water. After lunch on our own, we travel through some of the haunts of the 19th century poet and statesman, Giosue’ Carducci, including the lovely hilltown Castagnato Carducci. Our afternoon ends with a stroll along the Via Bolgherese, which crosses the San Guido estate vineyards. This is where Sassicaia, arguably Italy’s best Bordeaux-style cabernet blend, is born. The quaint hamlet of Bolgheri awaits at the end of the cypress-lined road.
Before dinner we will have a brief cooking lesson focused on the Cinta Sinese, a local breed of pork that is being revived after near extinction. The beautiful dark meat has musky, spicy flavors, utterly delicious and incomparable to anything you”ve ever tried. Our tasting dinner will feature this amazing meat used as an antipasto, as a sauce for tagliatelle and finally grilled and accompanied by a chutney made from limes and ginger. Unforgettable! B, D
Day 8 – Departure for Siena
After breakfast we transfer to the town of Siena, a fascinating city where we encourage you to spend additional time!
*B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner provided
The San Galgano Abbey and Hermitage is one of Italy’s most visited sites, even though it sits in splendid isolation. The Hermitage mausoleum was built for the 12th century Saint Galgano. His remains are found in a rotunda made of white stone alternated with red brick that was completely revolutionary for its time and clearly brings Rome’s Pantheon to mind. An interior chapel contains notable 14th century frescoes by Lorenzetti.
The monumental Abbey church was added to the complex in the 13th century to house the growing community of monks and pilgrims. The Abbey quickly obtained primacy in northern Italy. However, by the 16th century the buildings were under constant threat of destruction by warring nobles, one of whom sold off the lead roofing of the Abbey. The entire roof soon collapsed as a result, leaving the building ethereally open to the heavens. The roof has never been replaced. Experts consider the abbey’s ruins to be among Italy’s finest examples of Gothic architecture.