25 Jul 2010

An itinerary for a scenic drive in the inland areas of the Maremma, perfect also for walks, bike tours and horseback rides.

Off-the-beaten-path Tuscany: A Slow Drive in Tuscany

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Driving in the countryside is like a therapy against stress for me, especially on perfect summer days like today.

Even when we go somewhere on holiday, driving around is a big part of our vacation. It is not about getting from point a to point b: it’s our way of enjoying beautiful landscapes, stopping along the road to enjoy the views and take pictures, and taking it slow. The drive, for us, is often not just a necessary part of a day-trip: it’s the whole point of a day-trip. We like road trips very much.

I am always a bit surprised when I hear our guests worry about driving in Italy or on winding country roads: that’s the best part of a vacation in Tuscany! Our recommendation is always to take it slow, stop when you feel you need to, and ignore those behind you: do your own thing as you feel comfortable, the world will adjust to your rhythm!

Country lanes are generally a good place for slow drives because there is very little traffic. This morning, on my slow drive through our corner of Tuscany, I only met two other cars.

I left Civitella Marittima and drove towards Grosseto along the E78-SS223. I turned left on a road that I really like, called La Cerreta, which connects the main highway E78 to the road to Monte Amiata (SP64). It’s a road that cuts through the woods and the countryside.

I got on the main road to Monte Amiata and almost immediately turned left passing under an old railway bridge to get onto the Strada Provinciale di Petriolo and followed towards Monte Antico.

The road to Monte Antico is a beautiful drive. It takes you through the prettiest landscapes of Tuscany, with old bridges, fields dotted with hay bales, olive groves, vineyards and sunflower fields. Monte Antico itself is a little hamlet home to less than 100 people, but they can be very proud of their local restaurant, La Taverna di Campagna. They serve both traditional food and excellent pizza, and the owners are the proud producers of one of the best Montecucco D.O.C. wines in the area, Begnardi.

To many, Monte Antico is probably just a group of houses, but I find it fascinating, with its yellow church, and the little train station, which is one of the main stops on the old Grosseto-Siena  railway line. The steam engine train called Treno Natura always stops here. It is one of those places which still bear traces of the old times, when lots of people lived here or in the many farmhouses around this group of houses.

From Monte Antico a picture perfect cypress tree-lined road climbs up to the top of a hill, where the ancient Castle of Monte Antico is located. The castle looks like a fortress from the outside, and it is now a beautiful hotel. It has a lovely courtyard with a well, and breathtaking views over the valley of the river Ombrone.

Driving up to the castle you can enjoy very beautiful views over the hills where our village, Civitella Marittima, is located, and over the surrounding vineyards, nestled among the cypress trees. It’s really pretty. Coming closer to the castle, the old church of San Tommaso, now a theatre, welcomes you to this fabulous corner of the inland hills of the Maremma.

That’s right. Most people don’t have this image of the Maremma in their head. They believe it’s a flat area by the coast. Not at all. The inland areas are quintessentially Tuscan, with rolling hills, vineyards giving way to olive groves, giving way to woods and fields. It’s Tuscany at its best.

I really like the short stretch of road that from the Castle of Monte Antico takes you back to the old Leopoldina road. The road is one of my favourite places near here. I wrote a post for the Velvet Escape Travel Blog about it. The views area amazing!

I drove as far as Fattoria Nuova Pievanella, one of the most beautiful countryside villas in Tuscany. It’s a holiday farm with rooms and apartments, a tennis court, swimming pool, gym, paths through their grounds and a restaurant. But most importantly it is in a stunning location. It’s the perfect romantic retreat in the Tuscan countryside.

I turned around and drove back down to Monte Antico, along the road that runs below the castle. There are a few spots where one can stop and enjoy the view over the hills towards Civitella. The fields have just been harvested and the hay bales are still there: so pretty!

I got back to the old Strada di Petriolo, also known as the “ancient salt road”, because it was the old road that led from Siena to the sea and ensured the salt supply to the city. There are plenty of spots to stop here, and I did stop quite a bit, and took some really cool photos of some hay bales on the top of a hill!

The road is wider than the other one so it’s an easier drive. It is also busier but I still only met two other cars. Most of the fields have been transformed into vineyards over the last few years, since the creation of the Montecucco DOC wine region.It’s very beautiful, especially the part which overlooks the Castle of Casenovole and Monte Amiata.

I then turned left to take the road that goes down to the ancient Ardengheschi Abbey and finally leads back to the village passing by the old village fountains.

A perfect way to spend a Sunday morning in Tuscany!

Here is a photogallery with 62 photos I took this morning. To see them in a larger size, please click on the box with an arrow symbol in the bottom right corner of the gallery. Thank you. They are also available on Flickr.

This itinerary (avoiding the highway) is also perfect for expert cyclists and for horseback rides and walkers.

Comments

  1. What a beautiful drive. I’ll have to print off the directions. We’ll have a GPS with us this time so we’ll be able to wander more during our drives and not have to worry about getting lost. Well, we might get lost but we can always go back the exact way we came.

  2. Hi Cindy! Not sure if GPS works on the small country lanes but I’d be happy to leave you directions! In October it will be fabulous!

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