The Parco della Maremma is the territory’s biggest and most famous nature park. The splendour of Southern Tuscany with its beautiful forests, incredible wildlife and even spectacular beaches can be found condensed here.
The park is open from 9am until sunset all year round, later in the summer months. Its most charming feature is, strangely enough, its complete sense of isolation. The Parco della Maremma is still one of those gorgeous hidden treasures that define a vacation and provide fodder for boastful conversations with friends when you return home.
It all starts at the visitor’s centre (Via del Bersagliere 7/9, Alberese). This is so much more than just a place to pick up maps, book guided tours and ask questions. The visitor’s centre also provides invaluable information on the park and sells products sourced from local farmers. You can get your hands on everything from wine to olive oil and even vacuum-packed vacca Maremmana steaks. These have (albeit unwillingly) been provided by the steer that roam wild throughout the park. Unlike other cattle, the vacca Maremmana are not made for farm life. They are such a rare breed that very few producers exist outside the nature park. They forage mostly for their own food and live a very pleasant life in the park with minimal interactions with their keepers, which are known locally as butteri and are the Maremma’s version of cowboys. If you’re lucky, you can see these men on horseback keeping a close eye on the cattle. They wear traditional dress and carry a long cane known as a mazzarella.
When you’re not looking for cattle, you can relax at my favourite spot in the park, Alberese beach. When I saw this beach almost a decade ago, it was love at first sight. The Maremma has so many beautiful and even award-winning beaches, but there is something special about Alberese. It appears out of nowhere from the copse of oaks and other trees like a mirage of coarse sand and turquoise water. Especially in the winter months, it’s absolutely deserted and you can’t help but feel as if you’ve stumbled across a hidden paradise. It’s simply that beautiful. If you squint, you can see all the way to Elba Island, the famous spot where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled, not once, but twice.
On to more traditional nature park activities. The Parco della Maremma has a number official walking, hiking and cycling routes as well as some that can be travelled by canoe, horse and cart or just horse. And a few that can even be explored at sunset and later. Throughout the year, but especially in the summer months, the visitor’s centre organizes guided tours. You can also ask them about private tours run by local tour guides.
If you’re keen to soak up a bit of history while you enjoy the scenery, the best track to follow is the one that leads to the Abbazia di San Rabano and Torre Uccellina. An almost 10 kilometre hike, it’s not the easiest, but it’s the most rewarding, especially when you arrive at the ruins of the old abbey and tower. The abbey was built in the 11th century, while the tower, three centuries later. On another itinerary to the park’s various towers, you can experience a beautiful piece of folklore. In the 16th century, the Torre della Bella Marsilia was said to be home to Margherita Marsili, also known as la Rossellana for her fiery red hair. In 1543, a band of Turkish pirate ships ravaged the coast, kidnapping Margherita. She sailed first to Tunis and from there to Constantinople to join the harem of Sultan Suleiman I, where she is said to have became his favourite. It’s not every day that your nature park comes with a side of historical scandal!