Activity holidays took off in Italy about 45 years ago. In 1971, Hotel Rifugio Prategiano became one of the first hotels in Tuscany to offer walking, biking and horse riding holidays in Tuscany on site. The appeal of exploring the breathtaking countryside of Maremma Tuscany on foot, by bike or on horseback is obvious. An inviting network of trails delve into hidden parts of the Tuscan landscape.
Bright sunshine was twinkling through the tree tops, and three cuckoos were creating a triple echo as we snaked up a little rocky path. Over my right shoulder I could see the medieval village of Montieri across the valley. Its higgledy-piggledy clutch of terracotta-wash houses had probably looked no different for centuries.
The same spine-tingling brush with enduring history hit us again later that day, when we hitched up at the derelict, but still awe-inspiring, Cistercian abbey of San Galgano , and the neighboring medieval Monte Siepi chapel, where in the 12th-century a young knight miraculously plunged his sword into a boulder to mark his new life as a religious hermit. We stood there solemnly and gazed at Galgano’s sword, still embedded in its original block of stone, in the tiny chapel. Time seemed suspended. The world of cars, phones and traffic jams seemed a million miles away. Over supper, we all agreed we’d felt oddly linked to the past that day as we followed the same Antica Strada delle Maremma pack road which Sienese traders had used for centuries.
I got the same shiver of timelessness wandering through the alleyways of Siena the next morning. The flag of the “Goose” contrada, marking one of the 17 quarters, or contradas of the city, was fluttering in the breeze, with a tiny pink ribbon tied to the top. It announced the overnight birth of a new baby girl, just as thousands more pink ribbons would have done over the last 600 years. Sipping prosecco at one bar in the Campo, where the historic horse race is held in July and August, I watched a school party wave their contrada flags. On palio day, the campo would be awash which them, as 40000 excited Senesi cram into the scallop-shaped piazza. Pausing at a pasticceria to buy some biscuits, I vowed to return to Tuscany one day to wave a flag myself and continue to discover this remote area of Italy. Information about the Maremma Tuscany: The territory of the Grossetana Alta Maremma is defined by the Colline Metallifere, an vast anti Apennine strip of land that in Cornate di Gerfalco has its maximum height of 1060 meters, by an inside strip on the very coast better known as Maremma Grossetana and the vast Golf of Follonica. Rich fauna, particular vegetation but above all the view of the long horned buffaloes in their natural environment and of the horses of the Maremma area tamed by skilled cowboys, simple make this vast area which stretches luxuriantly from maritime dunes towards the high ground, particularly interesting from a naturalistic point of view. The Maremma area, which has been described by Dante, is an integral part of the literature and folklore of the Tuscans. It has inspired Carchcci’s most beautiful poetic verses, Fucini’s most colourful stories and Corrado Alvoro’s most charming descriptions, in our collective imagination it remains one of the most mysterious, fascinating and beautiful places of the entire region.
Tourism, especially in Folloncia and more recently on the coast of Scarlino, has a long standing tradition, which began at the beginning of the century, but which had already developed enormously by the 1950s, long before other maritime towns. It was therefore recognized that summer holidays should also involve a series of other proposals that could enrich the traditional beach holiday. As a result a series of sporting infrastructures were created, from golf to horseback riding, from sailing to underwater sports. A series of cultural and musical events were rediscovered and promoted and together with other towns, folkloristic events, feasts and town festivals were brought back to life and finally particular attention was given to the wine-gastronomic tradition with the search for typical dishes based on fish and game, all accompanied by excellent wines.
Folloncia started out as a village factory, its name come from the Fulloni, the bellows of the foundries. Its population began to increase around the first decade of the XIX century. By then, with the pirate raids definitely over, the small town situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea also began to grow demographically thanks to the general relaunch of the manufacturing economy and to the improvement of the countryside of the Maremma area. In this period the district of Senzuno, little more than an aggregate of fisherman and seafaring men, became the basis of present day Follonica. In the 1950’s it experienced an economic boom due chiefly to the first tourist industry that turned the ancient village of fishermen and workers involved in the iron industry into one of the most important and famous holiday locations during the period after the first world war.