Tuscany day 1: spring holiday in Maremma

Looking out from Vetulonia

La Maremma – rolling hills, incredible views, clean beaches, and of course, excellent food and wine. This area of southwestern Tuscany was, at one time, a marshland haven for mosquitos. These days it’s a destination for beachgoers and nature lovers, a place to escape big cities like Firenze and Siena in a couple hours’ drive. Our destination lay in Vetulonia, a speck of a hilltop village (pop. under 300) located halfway between Follonica and Grosseto. From Vetulonia, the Tyrrhenian Sea can be seen out on the horizon.

Michelin calculated a little over 5 hours and just under 300 miles to get there – not an overly long drive – but we were up and awake by 5 in the morning and on the road an hour later. I’m not an early riser, but this gave us plenty of time for rest stops and a detour for a proper lunch at Osteria l’Ciocio, a Slow Food restaurant in Suvereto. We had no reservations but as you can see, there was a lot of available seating.

Osteria l'Ciocio

Artichokes and fava beans feature prolifically on spring menus at this time of year. When I’m able to find them up north, they look like they’ve traveled a long way. But here in central Italy, they look and taste as if they had been just harvested.

Zuppa ai 10 pesci

MotH ordered zuppa ai 10 pesci – an aromatic soup made with 10 types of raw seafood and tiny diced vegetables. A hot fish broth was poured tableside over the ingredients, and the remaining broth set aside in a small stylish pot for us to add more as we liked. I could identify tiny shrimp, mussels, and some of the white fish, but one spoonful was all it took to realize the number of components that went into it.

Spaghetti carciofi, cacio e pepe

I ordered the spaghetti carciofi, cacio e pepe. Thinly slivered artichokes, cheese, and ground pepper in strands of pasta boiled perfectly al dente. We skipped the second main course to keep the meal light, but continued with a platter of pecorino and salumi, artichoke and fava bean salad, and a side dish of steamed fennel and spinach (not shown).

Pecorino e salumi tipici

Artichokes and fava bean salad

Listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy, Suvereto is also part of the Città del Vino (wine city) association. We came across some curiously-named wine bars like Enoteca dei Difficili (the difficult ones) and Enoteca delle Carceri (the prisons), and very photo-friendly cats roaming the medieval streets.

Curious-sounding wine bars in Suvereto...
Wine bars in Suvereto.

Suvereto local scene
Not many people on this Friday afternoon visit, but the cats were everywhere.

And if the wine bars weren’t enough to prove that Suvereto was a place for imbibing, I picked up this leaflet for a team competition at the end of April. Sounds like a big wine barrel of fun!

Next: what Julia Roberts discovered in Eat, Pray, Love – dolce far niente and La Dolce Vita.


15 thoughts on “Tuscany day 1: spring holiday in Maremma

  1. Nonna T

    Everything looks fantastic, and it looks like you were blessed with good weather too. I have a food question. The shaved artichoke salad looks like something similar to what our friends from Torino made for us with the exception of the fava beans. It was the first time I ever had articholkes raw. Was it dressed with lemon and olive oil?


    1. Rowena Post author

      We were extremely lucky with the weather, because on the day we left, the forecast was the return of cooler temps and rain!

      Regarding the artichokes – yes, dressed with lemon and olive oil. I first learned about it being served that way when buying sardinian artichokes several years back. So light and refreshing!


    1. Rowena Post author

      A shame that Maremma never made it on our destination list before but the towns of inland Tuscany kept hogging all the attention. Our loss.
      Thanks for stopping by!


    1. Rowena Post author

      I had heard of the Maremma but never gave it a thought until now, but then Italy is special like that, with hidden wonders off the beaten track.



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