Southern Tuscany is a pretty dreamy place. Isolated from the hustle and bustle of the region’s tourist hubs, the countryside is visually stunning, while the atmosphere is purposefully slow and relaxed. With gorgeous hot springs, bespoke villages and plenty of picnic spots, the Maremma is perfect for a three-day getaway where romance is the order of the day.
Saturnia is the perfect base for your lovers’ tour of the Maremma. Its streets and picturesque piazzas are littered with Roman columns, walls and arches, so there’s plenty to see on your pre-dinner stroll. But you’re not in Saturnia for her Roman ruins, as beautiful as they are. You’re here for the hot springs.
Among the world’s best, Saturnia’s hot springs are paradise on earth. There is no better place to unwind after a stressful workweek (or wedding) than the 37°C turquoise waters of the Cascate del Mulino. These incredible hot springs are fed by a natural waterfall that flows into travertine pools below. The sight alone is breathtaking and that’s before you’ve dipped in a toe or two.
And we haven’t even mentioned the best part yet. These hot springs are open 24/7 and 100 per cent free. Head to the local supermarket for picnic supplies (and a bottle of bubbly) and spend the first day of your long weekend soaking in the hot springs.
The next day, feast on coffee and cornetti (Italian croissants) and hop in the car bright and early for a trip ‘entroterra’ (inland).
First stop, Sovana. Boasting less than 500 permanent residents, Sovana is so small, its supermarket is a little van that putters into town once a week. But Sovana is also the birthplace of Pope Gregory VII (1010-1085) and its streets are filled with amazing medieval palazzos and perfectly preserved homes carved from the iconic rock that is their namesake: tufa. This porous brown stone was also used to build the hauntingly beautiful Duomo (entry with a donation). Keep an eye out for the columns inside. They’re carved with mythical creatures and scenes from the Bible.
Back on the road, we’re headed for nearby Sorano. Much bigger than Sovana, it’s the perfect place for lunch and a stroll through its streets, peeking into the artisan workshops and boutiques. This part of Tuscany is famous for its ceramics, in particular, the black Bucchero pottery that was used by the area’s first inhabitants, the pre-Roman civilization known as the Etruscans.
Make a beeline for Sorano’s fortress. Guided tours are available at the tourist office most days and will take you underground to explore the labyrinth of tunnels. This is one of Italy’s finest examples of Renaissance military architecture and was never conquered.
Your last stop is Pitigliano. Time your visit with sunset and you will be rewarded with the most romantic view of the weekend. Pitigliano’s buildings are carved from the same tufa rock as the cliff that supports it. In the waning sunlight, the lines between manmade and natural blur and the town looks as if it’s suspended in air.
The last stop on your three-day romantic weekend is Capalbio. Climb the steps of its medieval wall and wander all the way around the parapet for an almost 360° of the Tuscan countryside and seaside. Inside the walls, sip on ancient liquors, a favourite pastime in Capalbio and pick up a bottle or two for the trip home.
In the afternoon, a difficult decision must be made. You can relax on the soft shores of Ultima Spiaggia, one of Southern Tuscany’s best kept secrets or hop back in the car towards the Giardino dei Tarocchi. This incredible outdoor garden features 22 giant mosaic statues depicting the various tarot cards. Each one was designed, decorated and constructed by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle and her team of artists. Built between 1976 and 1993, it’s a little slice of Gaudi in the Tuscan Maremma.