15 things to do in Maremma on a budget
As usual, I have been spending my summer holidays in Maremma. But this year I decided to take full advantage of the many activities available in the area, rather than just repeat the same, boring routine of beach, eat, sleep.
Between nature and culture, there are hundreds of things to do and see in Maremma, and many of these can be done on a budget. Assuming you’ve already got accommodation and an umbrella at a bathing establishment or are set up on a free beach, I have set out a 20€ per day activity budget.
I have already written an introduction to Maremma and the main things to do here, whereas this is a list of unusual activities excluding the regular tourist sites.
Visit wetlands on a boat / 12€
Did you know that Maremma used to be a marsh? Only a small part of the wetlands that used to dominate the plain between Grosseto and Castiglione della Pescaia has remained undrained, and is host to over 200 bird species. Amongst the most attractive are the pink flamingos, who are here year round. Boat tours of the canals are available year-round by reservation and daily in the summer, and give you the opportunity to spot tons of birds. Find info about the tours here (Italian only).
Stand up paddle board rental / 15€
This Hawaiian sport works great on the calm seas of Maremma in the morning, and requires little previous skill other than having decent balance. Basically a surf board that you stand on frontally, you paddle on either side with your knees bent. It’s relaxing and good exercise at the same time. Rental areas on the upper Maremma coast include Follonica, Rochette, Riva del Sole and Castiglione della Pescaia.
SUP yoga lesson / 20€
What else can you do on a stand up paddle or SUP board? Once you’ve mastered the basics, some people do simple yoga poses on the board! At Bagno il Faro, the first along the canal in Castiglione della Pescaia, SUP Yoga lessons are offered twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday at 9am, in collaboration with Centro Equilibrio, the Iyengar Yoga center in Grosseto. An instructor will show you the basics of SUP before going through a few simple poses. If you’re more advanced, you could proceed to all the asanas.
Archaeology under the stars / free
Archaeologia sotto le stelle is a state-wide initiative of archaeology museums and sites to offer night-time visits and special lectures during the summer. The closest archaeological area to you may have something on offer. Vetulonia is particularly active – we went to hear an interesting talk about how they determine the gender of figures buried in Etruscan tombs: this is based on the type of objects associated with the figure, but some objects previously associated with only men, like the horse and cart, are now known to have also been property of, and buried with, Etruscan women. The talk was held outside in a piazza in Vetulonia and followed by a free drink and visit to the temporary exhibit in the museum. Very nice.
Go for a hike / free
Tuscany has tons of hiking trails, all marked with the international painted sign of a red and a white horizontal stripe. You’ll see signs indicating hiking paths at the edges of most towns, as well as whole designated park and hiking areas scattered around Maremma. Wherever you’re staying, find the path nearest you and head on in. The trails are all well groomed and tend not to be overly challenging, making hiking at a slow pace an option for almost everyone. Pay attention to the total length of the trail and the destination you wish to reach and set your limits reasonably. Wear closed footwear. Hiking is free and is good exercise in the fresh air!
Forage in the woods / free
In the aforementioned hiking areas, as well as at the side of the road, you’ll spot plenty of edibles. Maremma offers porcini mushrooms, but picking these requires being absolutely sure you can identify it, not to mention a license and limits to respect (like fishing). On the other hand, you can freely and safely identify and pick capers, fennel, blackberries and chestnuts. You may also spot plums and figs in more or less wild states, or bordering peoples’ property (if it hangs over the sidewalk or road, it’s yours). Capers require a few weeks treatment under salt, chestnuts require roasting, while blackberries can be eaten immediately. There are plenty of other things to eat in the woods, though these are the ones I limit myself to.
Windsurf / 20€
If you already know how to windsurf, test the waters of the Maremma by renting a board (lessons are also available, but would not fit my 20€ per day activity budget). I tried a series of windsurfing lessons 2 years ago – in the photo, that is me in the corner, having fallen off the board. For more information about windsurfing, kitesurfing and surfing in Tuscany, read this article.
See a show at cava di Roselle / free-€8
At Roselle, a town at the south end of Grosseto, the “cave” or ex-mine has been turned into an outdoors entertainment area with a bar and restaurant. Throughout July and August, there are shows almost nightly, including music by relatively local bands (free). There are a few paid events: we went to see the election of Miss Maremma 2013, which was part junior beauty pageant, part local talent show… 100% country fun! The location is truly beautiful and the stage and acoustics are professionally executed.
Explore the supermarket / free
I don’t know about you, but I love to explore the supermarket wherever I travel. Even though I live in Florence and come to Maremma most weekends, the local Coops offer some entertainment due to the hunting section, which is great for a laugh (no, I would never hunt!). Look out for delicious local products, since the Coop always tries to buy locally, and here in Maremma there are different products than there are in Florence. Riso Maremma brand carnaroli and arborio rice is one of my favourites, a rice that is of better quality than the big name brands. There are also local cheeses and cured meats, which you can ask to get “sottovuoto” in order to bring them home (if you are in the EU).
Get medieval / free
With the spattering of medieval towns around Maremma, it’s no surprise that there are a few medieval themed evenings. Most of these include townspeople in historical costumes in a procession and flag throwers and drummers. Some towns transform the whole historic center into a medieval market in which you spend local coins to get wine and food (they do this in Castiglione della Pescaia and Suvereto). Others have a bit of town history to recount: we went to Gavorrano for the Salto della Contessa, a medieval town fair with a historical reenactment of the story of Pia de’ Tolomei, who was thrown from a window!
Eat at a town “sagra” / 10€
Every town has a sagra, or food fair, these days. It’s hard to separate the bad from the good, but if you’ve never been to one, pick one and go just for the experience. Try to pick one with a truly local and in-season product rather than something generic – ask around for recommendations. You can usually get a meal for around 10 euro.
Play tennis / €15
There’s a very attractive public tennis court at Le Rochette, with a bar/restaurant on the premises that offers a pleasant aperitivo with music (drinks around 3 euro). There’s shade and a breeze in this pine-tree forest. This was the closest court to us, but there may be others near where you are staying. Courts cost 15 euro per hour, lesson 35 euro including court.
Buy local fish and cook it at home / 9€
Along the harbour in the town of Castiglione della Pescaia, or in the main market at Follonica, the fish comes in every morning and it’s just delicious. You can get a slice of tuna or swordfish to grill, a white fish like branzino to put in the oven, or smaller fish to fry or fillet to make pasta. To save money, if you’re making pasta you might get a small size clownfish or assorted small fishes filletted for you for 15 euros per kilo rather than 25/30 euros per kilo which would be the price of the larger size of the same type of fish. We make an excellent pasta dish with either paccheri or spaghetti, baby tomatoes, and sautéed fish.
See a historic sport / free
A friend recommended Palla Eh! to me, a historic ball game that is kept alive in a few small towns in Maremma. The game is documented in the 16th century but may be even older. A cross between handball and tennis, the game is played in the town’s piazza and may last many hours. Afterwards, everyone eats a big meal together! Find out game times and read about how the game is played here.
Enjoy the attractive crops / free
Sometimes you might think that the area of Maremma purposefully plants sunflowers and leaves around attractive hay bales just so you can stop by the side of the road and photograph them! No question: sunflowers attract tourists. You will find them all over Maremma in July (at their height) and August (most of them on their way out). Note that most crops have a ditch between them and the road, so when trespassing, wear appropriate footwear! Also, make sure you stop the car where it is visibile, fully off the road and using your 4-way blinkers.