Spring has officially sprung in the Maremma, even if this vicious weather would have you think otherwise.
But rather than get bogged down in the weather blues, I thought I would put together my definitive guide to the Maremma now that the days are looking brighter!
Skip the museums. Pack an umbrella and maybe a prosciutto sandwich or two and see these incredible attractions in all their spring glory:
- The Terme di Saturnia: the Maremma’s number one attraction is open and more beautiful than ever. Now that you can take a dip without freezing to bits, I suggest you take advantage of the mid-season and visit before the tourist hordes arrive. For €22, you can spend the day relaxing in the spa complex. For €0, you can chill in the same waters a little further down stream at the Cascate del Mulino
- Parco Archeologico Città del Tufo: When you’re travelling in winter, you try to spend as much time indoors as you can, but with the weather looking up, you’ll want to visit this incredible outdoor museum. It has dozens of beautifully preserved Etruscan-era tombs, statues and monuments scattered throughout the forest. Nothing is behind glass or closed doors, so you can get up close and really admire these thousands-of-year-old monuments.
- Parco Faunistico del Monte Amiata: Monte Amiata never gets enough press on this website. This amazing corner of the Maremma is the undiscovered of the undiscovered. A vast area of beautiful nature parks and reserves. This one is the best. Admire wild grey wolves, donkeys and deer or pull on those hiking boots and take the hour-long trail to see Davide Lazzaretti (a.k.a the second coming of Jesus)’s abandoned utopia complete with mountain-top church.
Maremman festivals aren’t as big, bold or exciting in spring as they are in summer, but that’s okay with us. Why? Because it means you can experience true festivals organised by locals, for locals, like these ones:
- Ottava Rima (last week in April): A real local event in Rocchette di Fazio. Ottava Rima is a Maremman tradition where stories, jokes and sometimes profanities are woven into impromptu songs and poems. Sort of like a poetry rap battle.
- Festa di San Giorgio (23 April): Join the medieval fun on this feast day and watch Montemerano be transported back to the Middle Ages with costumes, music and games. The best bit? The annual dragon competition when two unlucky locals dress up as a horse and cart the young knights around the town as they try to ‘slay’ the dragon.
- Festa del Girifalco (4th Sunday in May): Probably the Maremma’s best known festival. Another Medieval event, but this time you get the see the region’s best sportsmen compete in Massa Marittima in an ancient archery competition that is as tense as the bow strings they use!
No trip to the Maremma is complete without trying the local fare. Spring means new ingredients, new seasonal menus and new products to taste, try and take home. Here are my favourites:
- Wild asparagus: I eagerly count down the months to March each year so that I can drag my unwilling husband to the side of the road to pick asparagus. He whines about how embarrassing it is. Supposedly hip young Maremmans wouldn’t be caught dead picking vegetables in the fields, but I love it. These gorgeous, skinny and bright green sticks can be eaten raw or flash pan-fried with some onions in a risotto that will make you forget those woody trunks you buy at the supermarket.
- Scampi: Sure you can buy seafood all year round, but it tastes better in spring. As game and porcini mushrooms slowly disappear from local menus, you’ll be seeing more and more of Mr.Scampi, who I always like to describe as the delicious offspring of a prawn and a lobster. Sure you can cook them, but try them raw with a drizzle of lemon juice and you will never go back.
- Lamb: You might eat it all year round, but we only get it in spring. If you see agnello on the menu in any form, order it. Most restaurants only buy local and do amazing things with lamb like crumbing and frying it schnitzel-style or cooking it with all its innards in an incredibly flavourful stew called buglione.
- Rose: As far as I’m concerned, red is for winter, white is for summer, and spring is as good an excuse as any to drink rose. For a real local taste, you can’t go past a Rosato made from our DOCG wine, the Morellino di Scansano. The Cantina Morellino di Scansano makes a cracker.