advertisement

Hitting the Beach 

Along the southern stretch of Tuscany's coast are several beaches and resorts. Castiglione della Pescaia is probably the best all-around resort. The beach is passable, the prices are lower than at nearby, upscale Punta Ala, and it has a touch of the genteel, faded air about it, relying on an old fishing-village atmosphere and the ancient Old Town up on the hill as attractions. Marina di Alberese is more remote, without the beach services to be found at Castiglione, but has better, pine-backed sands and views of Isola Giglio offshore in the haze.

Tuscany's most southerly point is on the resort peninsula of Monte Argentario, guarded by the tiny city of Orbetello, which sits in the middle of a saltwater lagoon. TheLaguna di Orbetello (tel. 0564-870-198; www.wwf.it/orbetello.nt) is protected by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a natural oasis, where an estimated 200 of the 450 species that call the country home live or pass through every year. Keen birdwatchers should pack binoculars. The main reason to visit Monte Argentario is for the Tuscan mainland's best beach, the Tombolo della Feniglia, a long, flat arc of sand, with a south-facing, shallow shelf, that stretches almost all the way back across the southern fringe of the lagoon. Head for Porto Ercole and park when you see the signs. There's plenty of natural shade under the parasol pines.

Horseback Riding & Hiking 

Just 15km (9 miles) southwest of Grosseto, a 15km (9-mile) stretch of hilly coastline is protected as the Parco Naturale della Maremma (www.parco-maremma.it; click through to their Facebook page for the most up-to-date information). One of Tuscany's few remaining wilderness areas incorporates the Monti dell'Uccellina, capped by crumbling medieval towers. The "Mountains of the Little Bird" are actually hills some 390m (1,279 ft.) high, covered with the almost unbroken carpet of parasol pine forest, though you'll also find ilex, oak, elms, juniper, and the occasional dwarf palm, Italy's only native-growing palm tree. Rustling around in the myrtle and juniper macchia brush are families of Italy's small native wild boar, herds of roe deer, foxes, crested porcupines, and the occasional feral cat. Larger critters include a famous pack of semiwild horses and long-horned white cattle, both of which are wrangled by the Maremma's famous but dwindling breed of cowboy, the butteri. There are wondrous stretches of sand-dune beaches, rising to a rocky cliff toward the south and petering into marshy bog land to the north. The latter is the park's best bird-watching area, where you might even spot flamingos, peregrine falcons, and osprey among the scores of migratory and water birds that spend time here.

The park visitor center is at Via del Bersagliere 7, Alberese (tel. 0564-407-098), from where an hourly shuttle bus takes you into the closed-to-traffic park and drops you at the trail heads. Trail A1 is 7.8km (4.9 miles) in its entirety and involves the most rugged, but most rewarding, hiking; it leads past the evocative ruins of the 11th-century San Rabano abbey. Trail A2 runs for 5.8km (3.6 miles) past abandoned medieval watchtowers toward the rocky coast with unforgettable vistas of the parasol pine forests along the way. Gentler Trail A3 follows 9.7km (6 miles) of sandy pine woods and visits caves once inhabited by prehistoric man. Challenging Trail A4 is 12.8km (8 miles) and takes you along wooded cliffs and down on the Cala di Forno beach. The park is open daily from 9am to dusk. Admission costs 9€ for adults, 5.50€ for children 6 to 14 and seniors 60 and over. The visitor center also offers seasonal guided visits by canoe (16€ adults, 10€ children and seniors), as well as nighttime excursions (15€ adults, 12€ children and seniors). Between June 15 and September 15, brushfire risk means that entrance to the park is by guided visit on trails A1 and A2 only (prebook by 5pm one day ahead; about 3 visits run per day, Fri afternoon tours are usually in English); prices are the same.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.