Italy’s Caribbean 


The beaches of the Gulf of Follonica are among the most beautiful and visited in Italy by holiday-makers.  The water is blue, clear, and delightful.  It was just a 30 minute drive from Campiglia Marittima to find ourselves on the beach, under an umbrella.

We were in or near a beach called Torre Mozza, and we didn’t realize it at the time,but we must have happened onto an area that was owned by a resort which was right across the road.Most umbrellas were part of the rental for families who were staying at the resort, but the guy in charge found us TWO umbrellas not reserved and charged us for only one.  20 Euros, free parking, better than the other day.

It was the perfect place to be with our lunch snacks that we had procured at the local Conad supermarket.  We ate,snoozed, read, people-watched, and played in the water.  The perfect beach day!

Don decided it was time to look Italian, so he bargained with one of the many Somalian vendors on the beach for a hat.  And somehow we each got leather bracelets, too.  

Now we must do something about replacing those crotch-rocket sunglasses!  But he DOES look Italian!

Enroute home we stopped by Baratti, just to check out their beach.  It’s in a beautiful park area, beach is totally free, but you’d need your own umbrella and chairs.  I also noticed the sand was sparkling with little bits of quartz(?) and seemed hotter than “our” beach.

We made the best choice for us for today.

Came home and fell into another DEEP SLEEP NAP!  

Facciamo un pisolino!

Campiglia Marittima


So our home for the next 3 days is just about 45 minutes away from Massa Marittima.  This is our SLOW TRAVEL trip of exploring and enjoying tiny villages, not on any tourist destination.  We are more likely to see farm machinery than tourist buses, of which we have seen none!  Actually, the roads and hairpin turns simply would not be able to accommodate anything larger than a van.

Along the way we stopped at La Novella for a bite to eat.  Once again, I had read about it in the Maremma Guide, and this was our second trip here: once to investigate, and now to eat.  Sunday brought out lots of families sharing huge platters of meats and cheeses.  For me, the melon (called “popone” in Maremma) and prosciutto was just right.

I’m curious about her inscription of “Perché no” which in Italian means, “Why not?” She was standing outside the shop, so perhaps it’s “Why not. . .stop here/eat here/shop here.” Chissà–who knows!?

Yes, Telma, these IS a plastic cup with wine. I will admit to being shocked. But the wine was good!

Upon reaching Campiglia Marittima we were faced with the dilemma we always face when arriving in a new town.  1)Parking. . .2) finding our Air BnB contact, 3) getting suitcases TO the apartment FROM the car.  And remember, these are HILL TOWNS!!

(More in a future blog about the insights reached regarding these dilemmas.)

We found Chiara, our Air BnB owner, at her delightful gelato stand at the arranged time.  I’ve truly never tasted such wonderful concoctions. . .peach tea for me and yogurt honey for Don.

Then began the trek to find the car, retrieve the luggage, and get to the apartment. 

When I say this is a hill town, I’m not exaggerating.  It rivals the best of them with steep climbs.  

We were hot, tired, sweat pouring off of us, AND all of this with Chiara carrying the heaviest bag!!  Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so we laughed!  And we had no idea how we’d ever find our way back.  Breadcrumbs??  But there WAS a rose bush which left petals right up to our doorway!

Finally, we were IN!  The apartment is charming!

Don is THRILLED to have a remote to click on the AC!! The cupboard on the right hides a sweet small kitchen unit, fridge, two-burner stove.

This little place has become our afternoon haven from the heat and sun.  We arrive “home,” click on the AC, close the shutters, take a shower, and settle ourselves down for 1) an afternoon nap, 2) a glass of wine, 3)blog-writing or all three.

So. . . Air BnB–my rating 9.5/10

Cost–about $100/night

Our new town is filled with medieval nooks, crannies, and arches, and you never know what unexpected surprise awaits around each corner.  It’s delightful!

We have become Italian. We hang out our clothes, undies included, on the line outside our apartment. We have no shame!

Since I am actually writing this blog on our third day here (I’ll catch up with our other two days soon) I’ll close with two shots of the town clock, which we see from the small piazza where we go for aperitivi and then dinner.  

8 pm is about when we eat dinner, after enjoying an Aperol spritz and snacks at one of the two bars in town.

And then we finish around 10.  Swallows screech and circle overhead, the air has finally become fresh and cool.  We head up, up the hills, find our home, and drop into deep sleep. 

Buona notte!

Sunday in Italy


Domenica. . .Sunday. . . And that always means that somewhere on Sunday there is something going on.   In this case, it was our final morning in Massa Marittima, and Don, being the sleuth hound that he is, discovered a poster advertising a car rally that was supposed to arrive in our piazza at 9 am.  So we were up, packed to leave, and out into the piazza shortly after 9 to enjoy a cappuccino for me and a spremuta d’arancia (fresh squeezed orange juice) for Don, each with a cornetto (sweet roll).

We dawdled.  We waited. We finished. We waited some more. We sat on the steps of the Duomo.  I went inside when I heard the organ starting mass.  We checked out of Palazzo Malfatti.  We sat on the steps.

One stray car came into the piazza.

Don quickly sprinted down the steps and talked to the guy, who fortunately spoke English.  He was looking for the car rally, and Don told him he was “numero uno!”  He drove off.

We waited some more.  Another stray car.

We were bummed.  The guy who previously had set up signposts and directional arrows was gone.  All we could imagine was that the route had been changed and the cars wouldn’t be coming. 

Then in the distance. . .a familiar roar. . . 

Yes, the cars from the Massa Marittima run were arriving.

Here is our Rosina’s older sister. . . 

Don was having his “pig in mud” moments, talking to guys, showing pictures of Pearl and Rosina.  Despite the language barrier, they all spoke the same–CAR!

Marty, this one’s for YOU!!

We noticed that each car had its “panty” underneath for drips!

So they arrived two hours late.  So, it’s Italy, and that’s the way it is.  But the cars were here and so were we, so it was all good!

We chose our favorite, and decided we truly could enjoy it from afar without owning it.  Maybe.

She’s French.  Ooh, la, la.   Would she like an Italian and a British sister??!!

Castiglione della Pescaia


When its hot and you’re near the sea, well, there’s really only one thing to do and that’s GO!  We set off early because Saturday is market day in Pescaia, and our plan was to 1) buy some fruit and snacks, 2) find a cool, sleeveless dress for me in the market, and 3)plop ourselves on the sand under an umbrella and cool off in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The market turned out to be HUGE, probably one of the largest we’ve seen and sold absolutely everything imaginable.  But we were focused and in short time came away with fruit and a sleeveless dress which I will wear EVERY DAY for the remainder of this trip.  Honestly, I could just leave behind the summer clothes I brought–even though I didn’t bring much– and opt for cool and cotton.  And dresses.

Then, the beach.  When I say that there were NO parking spaces in this town, let me assure you that there were NO parking spaces to be found.  This is a mega-tourist town, it was Saturday, and it was jammed.  I think I even saw a poster for a seafood festival that was taking place this weekend.  People, kids, bicycles. . .it was like an out of control Ocean City, NJ.

 After a few narrow backing-up escapades we honestly were about to give up and head to another town but in heading out of town, the LAST BEACH offered parking and umbrellas.  7 Euros for parking, 35 Euros for an umbrella and two chairs. . .not cheap, but sometimes you just have to fork over some dough!  But the place had a decent restaurant, bathroom facilities, and we were set!

We enjoyed a few lovely hours of “la dolce far niente”–the sweetness of doing nothing–had a nice seafood lunch, a snooze (in which I’m told I snored and drooled!!), a walk down the beach, and a romp in the waves, even Don.

We had a hard time remembering the last time we actually went to the beach.  It was fun to watch families playing, boyfriends trying to kiss girlfriends, and groups of friends hanging out.  Typical.  

We all know that people are the same wherever you go.  . . . Ebony and Ivory, , ,Paul McCartney

Rocca di Frassinello


Just a few short weeks ago I discovered a wine produced in Maremma, and when researching further learned that the vineyard was in Massa Marittima.  At least, that’s where I thought it was, and turns out it’s actually about 30 minutes away.  I made a reservation for a tour and tasting, so off we went.

The wine is a joint Italian-French venture, creating a Bordeaux blend using Sangiovese, Cab Sav, Petit Verdot, Syrah.  The vineyards are vast, covering 180 hectares,  so this is not a small boutique winery!  They produce about 350,000 bottles a year.

In addition to very fine wine, the cantina itself is an architectural gem, created by Renzo Piano.  Absolutely every element has been thought out in terms of creating the exact right environment for the wine.

Seen from afar, the buildings recreates the medieval village with fortress walls, a tower, and the terra cotta coloring of the area. But these are not simply decorative elements; each one has its purpose.  Closer up we stood on the “piazza” inside the walls, to which the grapes are brought at harvest time (hand-picked),  gently laid on the Tuscan stone floor, and shielded from the weather with moveable “sails” (Renzo Piano also created the waterfront at Genoa), and by force of gravity the grapes find their way into the stainless steel vats below.

Perhaps the crowning achievement and the photo most recognized is the 40×40 square meter cantina, not supported by any columns, which maintains a constant temperature at 20 meters below the surface.  

Giuglio, our guide, explained that the interior floor can be flooded with water to maintain humidity.  Today some of the barrels were being steam cleaned.

The biggest surprise awaited us as we walked through a door into a. . . .museum!!  The site of the vineyard and cantina was also used by Etruscans for wine production, and the evidence remained in the remnants found in this “stamnos” with depictions of Dionysian handmaidens on the outside.   Many centuries before Christ this area was recognized as a place of perfect terroir for wine.

The museum itself was small and beautifully conceived.  Giuglio explained that in ancient times the wine was actually more like our vinegar, and additions of flowers, herbs, spices or cheese improved the flavor.  Cheese??  Yes. . .and now we use malolactic fermentation, not cheese.  But those Etruscans were on to something with that cheese!

But this, THIS was the piece that caught my attention, not the gold earrings, not the excavated jewelry , but this magnificent wine “punch bowl,”  recreated by a local potter.  I wont be bringing one home to 1270, but it gives me the shivers just writing about it.  Magnificent!

And finally, the tasting. . . 

What you WILL find in my cantina is the Rocca di Frassinello 2013, a top vintage.  I have the name of the US importer, although I was a jump ahead and had already ordered (and tasted) before our trip.

Wine, archaeology, architecture, all in one day, all in one trip.  

Now to be Italian. . .sleep during the hot afternoon!

Massa Marittima and Palazzo Malfatti


Home for the next 3 days is a 13th century palace, built as a home for two lovers.  I will borrow from the Maremma Guide once again: 

 Because, whilst researching and writing pages for this guide, I came across the story of Margherita Aldobrandeschi, the last noble lady to rule Maremma. In fact, the only woman to have ruled Maremma. I learnt that the love of her life, Lord Pannocchieschi – the one she had to wait the duration of five marriages to be with – had built the palace for her. Palazzo Pannocchieschi.

And that it was whilst they were living here in Palazzo Pannocchieschi, when they had everything they had waited for for so long – to be together – that their young son (who Margherita had given birth to out of wedlock when they had been together before she had had to marry another and whom was subsequently taken from her) died. Drowned in the well within the city walls. By all accounts murdered at the hands of a rival noble family.
A heartbreak so devastating that it destroyed their love forever.

And so, that is where we are.  The palazzo has five apartments and we have one of them.  We live right on the thorofare of tourists, dilly-dallying about eating gelatos, watching the world go by with a coffee, and up above we can watch this all unfold from our palace windows.

The apartment itself is quite comfortable, although do you notice Don when he realizes there is no AC in a 13th century palace!!

Since I said I would, here are the booking details and cost. . .about $90 a night, my score: 9 out of 10 (AC would make it a 10), comfy bed, excellent location although finding the place and PARKING is always a challenge!

So here we are in beautiful Massa Marittima, becoming more Italian by the day as we get up and have our adventures when there’s at least a HINT of coolness, home after lunch for sleep, then out again around 7 for a pizza and passiegata (a walk).

I’ll end today with the saga of finding the palazzo which, of course, the GPS did not recognize.  So after asking a woman, a bus driver, and a man, we walked down these steps, which IS our street, found Palazzo Malfatti, then had to walk back UP all 154 steps at 2 p.m. HEAT to find the car, punch in a new location which the GPS did recognize, park, and haul our suitcases up a different hill.

And then we napped.  With TWO ventilatore (fans) trained right on the bed.  

Farewell Montemerano


Jacopo’s mamma and I hugged and kissed good-bye and Jacopo offered a friendly hug before we loaded our suitcases and DON into the back of the Ape and rode down the hill to our car.  Montemerano is truly one of the prettiest villages in Italy and we would not hesitate to return or send our best friends there.  

Arriverderci, Montemerano!!