|A short guide to the area|
The most convenient shopping area is Paganico. This 12th century walled enclave was the harbor of the Republic of Siena, on the Ombrone river.
Here you find everything you need on a daily basis. Post Office, Banks, Small shops for, fresh take-away pasta, fresh fruits and vegetables, butcher, bakery, car repair center, etc. Just outside the village you have the Coop Supermarket and a brand new little Shopping Mall with again: fresh pasta, shoe store, pizza place, car wash, etc.
Eating and dining
Down the valley, you can spot it from the house, is the Taverna di Campagna, in Monte Antico Scalo close to the Monte Antico Castle.
Two brothers run the restaurant. It is a truly local, Maremma traditional food place, with home made Tortelli alla Maremmana with the thinnest pasta of all, Pici which are home made thick spaghetti, and a great variety of meat dishes. A family favorite, also because it has a pizza wood oven masterfully operated by the two brothers. Good for either lunch or dinner with a well selected wine list.
Visit the Medieval village of Pari to the North.
There across from the lovely Romanic Church square you find the most wonderfully homy restaurant, Il Cacciatore.
Yes, it is on the first floor, very simple but the best fresh pasta with the “goraiola” vegetable sauce, and wild boar or fried hare. It was their converted apartment. Wife cooks, husband (once the village ironmonger) is in the dining room and serves local noncommercial wine. All for very, very, very reasonable price.
Go there at night and enjoy the after dinner stroll around the well-lit village narrow streets.
Also go to Civitella, the Hill Medieval Town you see to the West of the Vezzo. There you have the Locanda del Cassero. The restaurant lodged in the top Medieval tower is very cozy with a separate bar area, for a relaxed evening either inside or on the lovely terrace outside, overlooking the village and a particular cypress tree forest next to the village. The cooking is more cuisine oriented than other places around and with a good wine list.
Santo Stefano Farm, on the banks of the Ombrone is probably the best food around and the peace you breath there is overwhelming. You should somehow ‘submit’, if you will, to the choices made for you by the Lady who owns and runs the Restaurant, but the satisfaction is very rewarding. The choices are all a wonderful and rare combination of refined cooking and local traditional flavor. All the vegetables come from her father’s garden and all deserts are home made. Make reservations.
There is a library in the house, open to the public with a small indoors symbolic fountain!
‘Malù’ in Paganico is for fish lovers; from simple an delicious ‘Spaghetti alle vongole’ to ‘lobster’ or fresh fish like grilled or baked, ‘spigola’ and a wide variety of local fish bought at the Grosseto market daily. Quality is constantly high.
There are obviously many more restaurants to chose from.
At the Vezzo you will find, prepared for you, a list of places where you will be able to buy, off the farm, olive oil, wine, cheese, honey and other wonderful local products. You will get a feel of how deep into the country one is just by driving through the farm leading to the Vezzo, with their white Chianine cattle and free ranging pigs, olive trees and vineyards.
Four main directions you can take, plus the Monte Amiata area.
click on links to find out more about locations.
|map courtesy of Fodors|
1. To the Norh
Which, being already so well documented that other contributions, commentaries are not necessary except that, there is one restaurant it is well worth being aware of: ‘Le Logge’ of Gianni and Laura Brunelli, just off Piazza del Campo to the north of Palazzo Comunale. They produce their own Brunello di Montalcino, so be prepared in case you get carried away!
When you get close to Siena take direction ‘Firenze’, get off at the ‘Porta San Marco’ exit, follow for the ‘Centro’ and the ‘P/Parking/Parcheggio’ signs and walk 5 minutes to Piazza del Campo.
These famous sulfuric baths are in the open air, in the Farma river, but also at the Thermal Establishment next door. Just a 15 minute drive from home.
On your way to Siena you can turn off from route 223 towards Monticiano. You can have a lovely lunch there, at “Da Vestro” and then visit the San Galgano Cistercensian Cathedral.
An extraordinary visit. This 13th century church stands with all of its walls but, one of Napoleon’s armies in need of wood during their Italian campaign helped themselves to the roof beams, so the church is in perfect condition but open to the sky.
On top of the hill next-door is the location of Saint Galgano’s miracle of the sword in the rock. A small shrine, worth the visit.
2. To the East
Montalcino the Medieval/Renaissance town, Home of the Famous Brunello di Montalcino wine.
Sant Antimo, Medieval church and Monastery, renowned for their Sunday Choir services.
Bagno Vignoni, with its Roman, open air pool.
Pienza, Renaissance jewel with Cathedral, Palazzo and views over the Orcia Valley.
3. To the North West
Massa Marittima is a medieval town with Roman-Gothic Cathedral. Both the church and the Piazza are of extraordinary beauty, and the old town is worth the trip. Go there in the late afternoon and avoid the middle of the day heat, you can do that either after a swim in the sea or before a nice dinner at Nadia’s or Vincenzo’s in Rocca Tederighi on your way back.
4. Grosseto, the Uccellina Natural Preserve, the Beaches and the Sites
GROSSETO, a half-hour ride away, is a medium size provincial town and like many ancient Italian cities, has impressive Walls beautiful Piazzas and a lovely Cathedral. Buried, though, in a modern expanding slew of commercial and residential developments is not worth a special trip.
But, there are movie theaters there, and... Blockbuster. And what you are not able to find in Paganico you are likely to find in Grosseto.
Also important: all the major trains to Rome stop in Grosseto. If you want to make a visit to the Eternal City, train is the way to go; and, if you scout the little streets around the station you can even find free parking there.
The UCCELLINA Natural Preserve
This is an enchanting area bordering the sea, with hills of forests, beaches, stone towers of various ages, varied wild life and a great number of trails; both short one,up to two hours, and all day ones; you can walk on your own or join guided tours if that is the format you prefer.
If you take Grosseto as geographical reference, to the South you have Marina di Alberese, Talamone and Monte Argentario, and to the North, Marina di Grosseto, the Pineta di Tombolo beaches, Castiglione della Pescaia and Punta Ala.
The best beaches and most accessible to the Vezzo are the Marina di Tombolo ones, just north of Marina di Grosseto and all the way to Castiglione della Pescaia.
If you are willing to drive a little longer, also very beautiful is the Marina di Alberese beach that you access on your way to the Uccellina Preserve.
The major SITES:
Vetulonia: an etruscan town on a high hill overlooking the entire Grosseto valley and Castiglione della Pescaia area
Roselle: is an Etruscan and then Roman site. Off the main highway between Grosseto and Paganico, it is an extremely interesting archeological visit. But even if that is not your specific interest, it makes for en enchanting walk with views over the Grosseto valley, once a sea harbor, on the opposite side from Vetulonia.
Also this visit is best made in the late afternoon.
Monte Argentario, is the most fashionable beach area for the Romans, with two long sandy beaches on both sides of the isthmus that leads to it, two main towns, Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano, many rocky beaches (difficult to access, though) and the lovely Ansedonia residential area just to the South.
5. Monte Amiata
Monte Amiata, the mountain sacred to the Etruscans, is a vast area.
Many towns and villages developed during the medieval age as stops for the pilgrims on the way to Rome ar to join the crusades. So you find Towers, Castles and Fortifications, but also artist Sculpture Parks, like Dan Spoeri’s one, monasteries like the Tibetan Dzogchen Community Merigar in Arcidosso, and many walks, churches with lovely Renaissance sculptures like the one in Sant Fiora.