Castiglione della Pescaia (“Castiglioni” for locals) is a pittoresque coastal village located in a very strategic position: on a hilltop, near the estuary of Bruna river, that has been transformed into an harbour. So people who lived there were safe from the diseases of the surrounding wetlands (an area has been preserved after reclamation and is now the “Diaccia Botrona” natural reserve) and could safely trade in goods.
Its name comes from the word “castello” (castle) that is still there, on the very hill top. The castle is easy to recognize, as its walls are huge. The bell tower of San Giovanni Battista‘s Church has been built upon one of the castle’s towers.
Around the castle there are several stone alleys. Here every house is well maintained and decorated, which makes this village a popular destination specially during summertime.
Crystal water beaches nearby are sandy and easy to reach, surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation and pine trees.
Characteristic village + stunning beaches may sound like the perfect mix, but keep in mind that this area can get very crowded during summertime!
Another land art site that is definetely worth a visit while exploring southern Tuscany is Giardino Viaggio di Ritorno (“Return trip garden”) by the italian artist Rodolfo Lacquaniti.
Walking through this olive grove the return trip to your childhood is assurated, just like happens while visiting Tarot Garden but Lacquaniti’s garden is completely different: not colorfull as Niki de Saint Phalle’s one, because his sculptures are made with 100% recycled materials (iron, glass, sheet metal, wood…) deteriorated by time and weather. Each piece of the sculptures tell a story and Lacquaniti is able to tell you exacltly where he got that piece from (all within 100 kilometres). Yes, because I visited this garden with Lacquaniti in person!
Born in Calabria, southern Italy, he moved to Florence first, where he was an “ordinary” architect, and then to southern Tuscany in 2002, after buying this piece of land and an old farm house he renewed following his inspiration according to sustainable architecture canons.
The environment theme is central in Lacquaniti’s work: his sculptures are a critique to the materialist consumerism as it interferes with the connection between men and nature.
In his garden, the pieces of an industrial world that seem inappropriate and even obsolete in a rural context like that, are used for restoring peace between men and nature.
You can visit the Garden with the artist during springtime weekends. Reaching the park is quite easy, but there are not many signs on the road. Anyway, Rodolfo is at your disposal for giving you directions at the phone! Ticket costs 15€.
My garden is a metaphysical and meditative place, a place far from the crowds and the pressing of time, where it is possible to taste its many beauties and the esoteric meanings of the sculptures. A place that makes your eyes and hearts rejoice.
I believe no words can describe the Tarot Garden better than those written by its creator, the french artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
She was inspired by Gaudì’s Park Guell while visiting Barcellona, then she found the perfect place where her artistic project could be realized: the hills near Capalbio, in the very south of Tuscany.
She bought a piece of land and gave birth to a magnificent example of land art by building 22 sculptures representing the major arcana of tarot divination.
Some sculpture is human size big, some is as big as a house: in fact, the Empress is actually a house where Niki and her husband (who was also an artist) used to live during the creation of the Garden, and as all the sculptures in the Garden, it’s entirely covered with glass and ceramic mosaic pieces (even inside!).
I think this simbol-filled garden represents the essence of southern Tuscany: it’s a place that can bring happiness and joy with its colors and light, but at the same time it’s a quiet path that helps you exploring your inner side trought meditation.
The Garden is open every day from april first to october 15th (2:30 pm – 7:30 pm). Entrance ticket costs 12€. During wintertime it opens the first saturday of every month (9 am – 1 pm) FREE ENTRANCE!
I think it’s time to talk about my home village, Montiano. Just like Montepescali, Montiano is placed on the top of an hill and has a stunning 360° view. The main, one way road encircles the downtown village, so you can see what’s all around from every point. In the south side, there is a belvedere facing the other hills and the sea: Argentario mountain and Orbetello lagoon.
Formerly, Montiano was placed on a different knoll, but after senesi invaded it, people moved to the current site. There was a castle also, but sadly nothing but few ruins is left of the ancient Montiano village.
The stone walls encircle the village center, were there is a main square, Piazza Plebiscito, where you can see the curch dedicated to St. John (San GiovanniBattista) and the clock tower. Both the bell tower of the church and the clock tower are visible kilometers away.
On the other side of downtown Montiano here is a second church, littler and recently renovated: St. Joseph. That’s my favourite one.
From Montiano it takes only 15 minutes by car to reach the sea and 20 minutes by car to reach Grosseto town. So it was less hard for me to move there from Rome because that’s the same time I needed when I had to go from a neighborhood to another neighborhood! I don’t feel isolated at all here.
In southern Tuscany we know how to unwind, and we like it even more if it’s for free!
One of the things that makes me happiest during autumn or wintertime, is definetely a trip to Bagni di San Filippo, my favourite natural wellness center.
Locted halfway between Orvieto and Siena, in the stunning Val d’Orcia, this place is not hard to reach, because it’s close to the provincial road. In the village of San Filippo there’s the spa named Terme di San Fillippo, but not far from there, in the woods, there is a place called Fosso Bianco: many white rocks made of sulfur and calcium created natural pools filled with thermal warm water. You can access this area for free! The biggest of those rocks is called Balena Bianca, white whale. During wintertime, you can see the steam on its surface.
After relaxig in this stunning place, don’t forget you’re only 15 minutes from San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza: both those towns are worth a visit!
Montepescali village is very easy to reach, because it is located close to the State road (SS1) exit, not far from Grosseto.
It’s an hilltop village, that means that you can admire a stunning panorama from there, especially at the lookout that faces south.
The village has medieval origins and it’s built almost completely in stone and bricks. Here we can find the typical elements of the medieval village, an heritage of the Roman camp: high walls all around, two doors and the cassero, a gatehouse-tower built with bricks close to one door. From castrum comes the word cassero first, and castello (castle) then.
This stunning abbey, halfway between Grosseto and Siena, is in Gothic style and it was the first gothic style abbey to be built in Tuscany.
Its peculiar, as you can easily see, is that the ceiling is missing. It was built between 1218 and 1288 by the Cistercian monks.
It took almost a century to be finished!
But how comes the ceiling is missing? In 1786 a lightning struck the bell tower which collapsed onto the roof. The abbey is now deconsacrated.
Entrance ticket costs 3,50€ per person and it allows you to visit the abbey, the museum and the Eremo di Montesiepi (5 minutesby foot) where you can admire the famous sword in the stone left by Galgano Guidotti.
There’s a Paradise between Florence and Rome. In this post I tell you why.
Southern Tuscany is a wild region. There are so many natural parks and protected areas! That’s because less than 500.000 people live here. There are only two cities (Siena and Grosseto) and many lilttle villages. As you leave a village, there are woods and fields as far as the eye can see, so isn’t hard to see wild animals while hiking or driving.
I know it’s almost impossible not to eat tasty food in Italy, but food in the south of Tuscany is really good! Every recipe comes from the rural tradition. This means that each ingredient is local and genuine. Handmade pasta and homemade sweets, local meat and fish. Pizza, of course. And cheeses, lot of cheeses!
Southern Tuscany wines are famous worldwide. Wine is produced in this area since ancient times. From Ciliegiolo vine is produced the homonymous red wine. From San Giovese vine come red wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti Classico and Morellino di Scansano. White wines are Ansonica, Vernaccia and Vermentino.
There are so many beaches in Southern Tuscany, both sandy and rocky. You can choose between a beach with services (umbrellas, showers, bar) or a totally wild beach. At Maremma Natural Park I saw a fox on the beach! Sea water is tourquoise everywhere and warm until late october.
Relax is the regional sport in southern Tuscany 🙂 That’s why so many people move to this area when they retire. Little cities means no traffic. People are never in a hurry and always have a smile on their face. Being happy and relaxed it’s easy when you can freely acces a stunning beach or a natural pool filled with sulphureous water!
Sporty people would never get bored in southern Tuscany. Here you can practice almost every outdoor sport: hiking, climbing, biking, horse riding, archery, golf, sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, surfing, and during winter time, skiing and snowboarding!
Little villages are the pearls of southern Tuscany. Most of the time, only few hundred people live in each village. Stone made streets and stone buildings are so charming! The central square (where you find the church and its belltower) is the place where most of things happen. Southern Tuscany is a hilly territory and villages are always on the top of the hill: that means stunning 360 degrees views!
8. Archeological areas
People live in the southest part of Tuscany since ancient times. Before Romans, Etruscan lived here. The name Tuscany comes from them. So isn’t hard to find streets, ruins of buildings, temples and aqueducts built more than 2500 years ago!
Many artists have been inspired by the south of Tuscany, and many of them decided to move here. Local artisans are artists too! Handcrafts they make are made with such a passion that I would define it as pieces of art. Their workshops always deserve a visit.
They may be the last of my list, but southern Tuscany people are special. They are so welcoming and would do anything to help you as you were one member of their family. But remember to never ever say or do something that could offend them! They are quite touchy… their frankness may seem a bit rude sometimes, but once you learn how to relate to them, it ain’t a problem anymore.
Maybe you’re asking yourself why am I writing in english only. Simple: italian people already know about Southern Tuscany.
I decided I’d start blogging after hosting some foreign tourists in my house. I noticed they weren’t informated enough about this wonderful area. Moreover, they were planning short stays in southern Tuscany, most of the time, before or after visiting a big city such as Florence or Rome.
Southern Tuscany is so much more than a destination where to relax! For sure it is perfect for that purpose but I think it is the perfect area where to practice lots of sports too. And it’s so full of history and art you won’t get bored of!