Well I’m back from my two weeks’ holiday in Maremma. Vacations are never long enough but at least I know I’ll be going back frequently. We developed a pleasant routine and found a few good spots to eat (see list below) over these two weeks of relaxing on the beach. This is my “what I did on my summer vacation” post. I promise to get serious again soon ;-).
At the beach
In the past I’ve written about how Italian beaches are often divided up into these “stabilimenti”, or bathing establishments, a civilized, groomed piece of beach with umbrellas that are too close together, but with the advantage of services like bathroom and bar. This year we booked the month of august at Pinetina Nord in Castiglione della Pescaia (around 700 euros for the month, tel 0564935454) because while we’re a fan of the “spiaggia libera” (free beaches), parking gets ridiculously difficult as the summer goes on, and this place includes parking. In order to get a parking spot, however, you must drag yourself out of bed at 8am and get there before 10am. I do recommend this beach; it’s a small establishment so the service is pretty personal and it’s not very crowded.
The restaurant on the beach is excellent as it has an internationally-trained chef. My husband suggests the “fritto di paranza”, or fried catch of the day of small fish caught with this particular net called paranza (see photo).
The highlight of the beach was the lifeguard, whose tower was right next to our ombrellone. This clueless 19 year old kid spent most of his time on his cell phone, from which we learned of the girlfriend who had left him 3 weeks before, his university choice (hadn’t decided yet, starting in September), about the new girl(s) he’d made out with, and the hours of his nightclub attendance (until 7am). He worked 10am to 3pm and you had to hope you’d never need to be saved by him. One one wavy day he boasted having “had” to execute “five saves”, but we bore witness and noticed that in most cases, the people didn’t need saving at all!
As the weather was generally hot and sunny, and hey, I was on vacation, we spent more time on the beach than visiting cultural sites, though on one overcast morning my sister-in-law and I went to the Etruscan ruins at Vetulonia, where they recently discovered a rather complete domus that I’d wanted to see. I’ll be writing about that next week on Tuscany Arts!
Where to eat in Grosseto area and Maremma
We liked Osteria del Mugnaio in Grilli (58020 Grilli (GR) – 57, VIA GROSSETANA tel: 0566 887201), half an hour inland from Grosseto in a very unpretentious setting. There is an ample garden/terrace at one side, though we were seated on the front porch which was just fine as it’s set back from the main road. Local specialties like tortelli maremmana (ricotta and spinach) with cinghiale (wild boar) sauce, steak, and for dessert don’t miss the whipped ricotta with honey and pine nuts. We spent a very reasonable 18 euros per person with ravioli, tagliata with porcini, dessert, wine, and coffee.
In Castiglione della Pescaia, Osteria Pizzeria del Viandante is always a good bet for either pizza, primi, or meats. It gets crowded on weekends so reservations are useful (Via della Liberta 19, 0564 933 726).
Don’t go to Osteria nel Buco in Castiglione della Pescaia (Via del Recinto 11); it is Slow Food, but gets my thumbs DOWN. We ate there a few years back and I was just itching to write something nasty about it. The effect has worn off but I recall that they put antipasti and a bottle of wine on the table as if they were free, but they were to in fact charged – at high price. They were not accomodating to my vegetarianism and the food was not good at all.
Locanda La Luna in the town of Tirli (0564 945854) is another one of our favourites (their annexed hotel rooms are a good value too). I like the gnocchi all’ortica while my husband likes the cinghiale in umido. The decor is upscale but the prices are reasonable. One downside may be that the menu does not get much lighter with the warmer season. I wrote about this place last December after a good meal.
If you happen to go to Grosseto you’ll find it to be a rather small town, though there’s a good archaeological museum and it’s generally pleasant for a wander in the downtown area. We found an interesting alternative bookstore called Libreria Popolare (via Ricasoli 17) with a great collection of local history books as well as sections on philosophy, psychology, eastern religions, etc. For dinner, try Vineria da Romolo, a crazy locale with both indoor and outdoor seating. Why crazy? In part for the photos that line the walls inside from the owners’ worldwide travels, in part for the printed paper placemats of amusing topics like “how to make a woman happy”. Food is pretty average but it’s a fun place; the crostone with gorgonzola and honey was a nice appetizer.