Pull on those comfortable shoes, pray for good weather and see some of Southern Tuscany’s (and Lazio’s) most spectacular natural sites at the Explore Maremma Walking Festival this September 20–28. There’s no denying it has been a rubbish summer in Tuscany. The bathhouses in Viareggio are tearing their hair out in frustration and the rest of us can never manage to bring in our washing before it has been drenched in yet another surprise summer shower.
But here in Florence’s country cousin of a province, aka the Maremma, we are quietly confident that three months of truly wretched weather can only mean the warm days are still to come. And they had better because we have a bunch of festivals we would like to celebrate without getting bronchitis.
One of the highlights of the season is the Explore Maremma Walking Festival. It stands out primarily because it is the only festival to give Bacchus the cold shoulder and not celebrate the vendemmia (wine harvest). But it is also a very rare example of an event that crosses municipal, provincial and even regional borders.
The base of operations is the Comune di Manciano, home to, among other things, the newest borgo più bello dell’Italia (Italy’s most beautiful village), Montemerano, and international celebrity Saturnia hot springs. Over the course of the festival, visitors can take their pick from 25 guided walking tours that go beyond Manciano, across the rest of the Tuscan Maremma and into Lazio. All the tours are free and led by certified tour guides. Happily, most have been designed for those of us who don’t have hiking boots or Nordic walking poles.
On September 20 and 27, you can explore the Etruscan Tombe delle Pantere, dei Tori and del Barone in Tarquinia. These UNESCO World Heritage tombs were frescoed in the seventh century BCE and are normally closed to the public. Otherwise you can spend the day traipsing through the ancient Roman city of Cosa on the Argentario Coast or take the hot springs equivalent of a pub-crawl through Poggio Murella and Saturnia on September 21.
Retrace the steps of the Tibetan monks over Monte Labbro on September 25 or discover the hidden village of Vitozza, where the locals lived in Etruscan-built caves until well into the seventeenth century, on September 24. Take a coast-to-coast tour of the best beaches on the Argentario Coast, go bird watching in the Orbetello Lagoon, visit the Parco della Maremma and see the hermitage of Poggio Conte deep in the forests around Viterbo. Or truly appreciate the beauty of Central Italy’s most important Etruscan archaeological site, Vulci, with someone who knows their stuff.
Regardless of which tour or tours you choose, you are in for a treat. It is not often that you get to explore Tuscany and Lazio off-the-beaten track without having to part with a single euro.
To book your spot on any of the tours, head to the Comune di Manciano website (www.mancianopromozione.com) (in Italian, with options for English and German) for a full list of tours, dates, duration, difficulty and meeting points. Although the tours are free, spots must be booked.