Editor’s note: In the premier issue of The Tuscan Times, an exciting new supplement to The Florentine (read more about it here), our contributors shared their insider knowledge of their home bases with us. Writers Emiko Davies and Elisa Scarton Detti are two of our top sources in the Maremma, and we had to pick their brains on the best of everything in the area–this summer and beyond.
1/ Best bar in your area for an aperitivo?
Emiko Davies: Il Baretto, Porto Ercole, for a glass of wine and a traditional aperitivo of nibbles like nuts, olives and crisps Elisa Scarton Detti: Affinity Bar, Grosseto: everyone is obsessed with mojitos at the moment and this is where the best mojitos are served
2/ Favorite restaurant for Tuscan food with a twist
ED: : Il Gusto Etrusco, San Vincenzo: where the eccentric chef-owner creates the most amazing ‘salumi’ with local seafood—things like the so-called ‘porketta di tonno’ and prosciutto di palamita (bonito) ESD: Da Caino, Montemurano: To see classics like snails served with bergamot tea and Maremman beef mixed with a burrata and strawberry ice cream, it’s like Heston Blumenthal coming to town!
3/ Best weekend getaway near your base
ED: Porto Ercole. It’s a picturesque little port and a great base to explore the rest of Argentario ESD: Giannutri and Giglio. The former is a nature park, while the later is a fantastic place to soak up a completely different style of living. Giglio has some amazing beaches and restaurants, but doesn’t feel overly touristy
4/ Best traditional dish in your area
ED: Spaghetti alla bottarga di Orbetello, of course ESD: I can and have eaten my weight in tortelli maremmani—supersized ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach. We don’t just eat them with a meat sauce, but also topped with sugar, butter and cinnamon for a strange sweet-savoury combination that you’d never expect from Italian cooking
5/ Best place to beat the heat
ED: Having a cool, refreshing dip in the crystal clear water around Argentario
6/ Best place to people-watch
ED: Lungomare. Just take your cue from the row of nonni taking up all the shady bench space for hours each evening, without fail ESD: Montemerano. The locals can spot a tourist the moment they step into the town. There are some gorgeous flower-filled piazzas where you can sit with the locals who have known each other for generations
7/ One shop every English speaker should know about
ESD: Alta Luna in Pitigliano. The artist there makes these whimsical little sculptures and works of art inspired by Italian and English fairy tales
8/ The best Tuscan-ism you’ve got up your sleeve
ED: Mi garba. It’s something my two-year-old picked up instantly and uses with more Tuscan confidence than I could ever have! ESD: Buonanotte al secchio (goodnight, bucket). I think it’s only meant to be used when you have a problem or are unable to finish something, but I use it for everything. It’s my go-to phrase when I want to finish a point with a flourish!
9/ The event everyone’s talking about
ESD: Vox Mundi, which is being held this year in Follonica in July and August. It’s a world music festival that is so wrong, it’s right. You would never think to travel to country Tuscany to listen to reggae or mariachi bands, but it just works
10/ Quirkiest summer sagra in your area
ED: Frog festival in Paganico, near Grosseto. At the end of August and beginning of September. Aside from being able to sample traditional (and nearly forgotten) dishes, the grand finale is a historic Palio where contrade race around with wooden wheelbarrows containing three frogs—the winner is the first over the line with a cart full of healthy, live frogs! ESD: Poggio Murella’s Sagra della Lumaca Riganella, not for the faint hearted, serving up plump and juicy snails in a tomato sauce. At first, I was grossed out, but now I love it. I even dip my French fries in the snail juices—it beats ketchup!
11/ Essential experience in your area
ED: The beach of Acquadolce (reached by a short hike) next to the stunning Pellicano resort is a beauty, or if you have kids, then the beach of Feniglia is one of the loveliest I’ve seen in Tuscany—long, sandy and shallow ESD: Sitting on a bench in Manciano with the locals taking in the simplicity of country Tuscan life. Most of us are always rushing around, but my locals have an enviable ability to spend hours gossiping contentedly
12/ Weirdest Tuscan summer ritual
ED: Not having fly screens on the windows, especially near Orbetello’s lagoons where mosquitoes have always been a problem ESD: Is the vacation everyone takes in August a ritual? You cannot get a tradesman to come anywhere near your house from about mid-July to mid-September!
13/ A place that inspires you
ED: Crossing the raised road that connects Argentario with the town of Orbetello. It’s built right over the lagoon, which shines like a mirror on either side—in many ways it reminds me of arriving in Venice across the sea
ESD: Capalbio’s Giardino dei Tarocchi
14/ Best place to watch a Tuscan summer sunset
ED: Anywhere along the Tuscan coast—you watch the sun turn into a deep red ball and sink into the sea. I’ve watched many, many of these sunsets from Marina di Cecina where my husband’s family has a house right in front of the sea
ESD: The strada panoramica on the Argentario Coast. I watched the sunset there on my first date with my now husband and it was unforgettably romantic
15/ One mistake visitors should avoid
ED: Attempting to visit Porto Ercole just after lunch. You’ll find everything closed and the locals indoors until 4:30pm, or even 5. Then the shops start re-opening and people begin emerging from the cool of their homes. It’s a proper siesta time
ESD: Not living the Maremma. The Maremma is about experiencing a place and a way of life that is completely off-the-beaten-tourist-track. Immerse yourself in the local hospitality and revel in the fact that you have discovered a destination so many other tourists are completely in the dark about