The snow has finally melted! Hurrah, or as my adorable father-in-law says, ‘Urra’ (Italians are hopelessly useless when it comes to pronouncing ‘h’).
It’s still early days, but you can feel Spring or La Primavera in the air. Now do you get the very clever title of this post? Okay, so it’s not that clever, but I’d like to think it’s a little bit witty.
Spring is actually the best time to see the Maremma. Most tourists naturally gravitate towards summer when they plan their dream vacations in Tuscany, but that’s not always the best idea.
If you’re travelling with children or elderly relatives, or just have a low tolerance for heat then you want to give a Maremman summer wide berth.
I know you mightn’t believe it now, what with all the snow, but the Maremma can get quite nasty in summer. A lot of the bigger cities like Grosseto and Massa Marittima average weeks of stiflingly hot and humid days each year – enough to ruin your vacation if you don’t like the heat.
But in March, April and May, the weather is predictably mild. The fields are bursting with the vivid orange glow of thousands upon thousands of sunflowers and you can explore all of the region’s incredible outdoor attractions without worrying about heatstroke.
And so, to formally say benvenuto to Spring, here are 5 of my favourite activities to ring in the new season!
1. Visit the Terme di Saturnia Spa Complex
In January and February, Saturnia is eerily quiet. The spa complex is closed and the Cascate del Mulino are too damn cold. Soon everyone is reeling from thermal-spring-withdrawal symptoms – a terrible affliction that attacks both locals and tourists until they are utterly unable to do anything but feverishly count the days until the spa complex opens once more.
Well, lucky the Terme di Saturnia Spa Complex has just opened for 2012 and there’s no better way to break in spring than with a dip in its heavenly warm waters!
The Terme di Saturnia Spa Complex is just before Saturnia on the Strada Provinciale Follonata or SP10. Entry tickets are €22 for adults for the entire day. €14 if you only want to swim in the afternoon.
2. See Vulci
The Maremma was once the centre of Etruria, the pre-Roman empire of the extremely civilized and cultured Etruscans. That means, you can take your pick from literally handfuls of incredible archaeological sites. My pick is Vulci. While not technically in the Maremma, it’s 20 minutes from Manciano and was once one of Etruria’s most magnificent cities.
Vulci is open every day from 9am-5pm in March and 10am-6pm in April and May. The entry price is €8 for adults.
3. Take a Strada del Vino
Live the Tuscan dream – rent a car and drive down one of the three Strade del Vino or wine trails that snake their way through the region.
If the Italian cuisine could be a season, it would be spring. The crops are just starting to recover from the winter chill and the Maremmans are savouring some of their best loved vegetables like fagioli (broad beans) and zucchini. So frolic among the farms, taste what the Tuscan earth has to offer, and, above all, try the incredible Maremman wines straight from the vineyard.
You can pick up a map for your chosen wine trail at most tourist information centres. The map will have details of all the participating farms and vineyards. All you have to do is call up and book a visit.
4. Learn to ride a horse… or bike
No I’m not joking. The Maremma is best experienced on horseback. That is how the ancient butteri or local cowboys did it when this region was still a magnificently wild place, and that is how I did it extremely recently when I had my first experience riding my four legged friend Red.
A lot of the Maremma’s most spectacular natural beauty is still off the beaten track. There are plenty of equestrian schools in the area that take tourists of all experience levels out for an afternoon, day or even a weekend trip. Try for Pietriccio Rosso English speaking tours.
Otherwise, you could rent a mountain bike and explore the Maremma on wheels instead of hooves!
5. Scuba dive the depths of the Tyrrhenian Sea
Sure the water’s cold, but it’s always going to be cold, so you might as well take advantage of the low springtime tourist deals and get out there and see the beauty of the… sea! But seriously, the splendor and allure of the Maremman countryside is only matched by the bounty the sits off its shores in the Argentario Coast.