[MAREMMA, TUSCANY] — Maremma is the southern edge of Tuscany and goes from the hilly and ferrous inland to the varyingly wild-horse-roaming, swampy and rocky coast.

After four days in Bologna — two and half of them in bed with a violent flu — I was ready to come here and just sit in the sun by the pool at Il Pellicano and just eat my way back to health. But after a couple days of restoration, I couldn’t help but explore the famous area in and around Monte Argentario. I only had time for a daytrip inland to root around southern Maremma, these are the cools things I found to do in wild and woolly southern Maremma.

A lot of English and American people only go to the very crowded in eastern Tuscany — what Conde Nast Traveller humorously dubbed “Chiantishire” — and don’t know much about this “Hidden Tuscany”, the underdeveloped and handsomely rugged western side.

I’ve dreamed about Maremma for years after seeing articles on the ancient Tuscan cowboys, the good beef, the rugged coast and the dramatic mountain towns in this very under-touristed part of over-touristed Tuscany. So this quick trip was just a scouting expedition to get a lay of the land for future visits

Saturnia Thermal Springs

Saturnia was the main reason why I came to this area of Maremma. I’d seen crazy pictures of it before and always wondered “where the hell is that??” It looks quite like those salty, calcified pools in Turkey you see all over Instagram. So when I was nearby, I knew I had to come here.

Saturnia thermal spa people under waterfall
Saturnia thermal spa bathers

Saturnia really just looks like a great gash in the ground, bubbling out in some farmer’s fields (see photos below). But what’s crazy is this has been gashing like this since before Roman times, in fact it’s named after the Roman god Saturnus. The legend is that he got tired of all the warring peoples and threw a lightening bolt to earth, splitting it open to bleed water… since Romans were so fond of baths. But actually this place of legend goes back before the Etruscans and even the Greeks, a Greek philosopher was raving about it in 60BC!

Imagine the water bill, as my dad would say.

Saturnia thermal spa location

This place is really a gassy gash. It’s smelly sulphurous water runs at a constant warm 37℃ and is good for the bones. But it’s crazy that it’s pretty much unattended, you just look for all the cars, pull off the side of the road and walk right up to it. No gate. No entry fee.

There’s an old mill and a barely-there bar where they scowl if you want to pee, so you’ll need to bring all your own stuff, including towels. If that’s too rustic, there is a modern day spa around the corner…”modern day” in Italian means it was started at the end of the 19th century.

bathers at Saturnia thermal springs
I can die now.

If you follow the waterfall and bushwhack up the hill, you can follow the hot spring to its source. A fast-moving stream weaves it’s way between the reeds, in wide spots people float down the creek until they can’t.

source for Saturnia hot springs
When I first saw this spring and the reeds, the first thing that came to mind was the “The Ten Commandments” movie where some faux made-up Egyptians pushed that baby in a basket into the water reeds. I swear they filmed that here.


Pitigliano cliff view

Right on the border between Tuscany and Lazio regions, Pitigliano is a very old town on an ancient Maremma hill, carved out of the local tufa before Etruscan times.

This hidden gem is considered one of the most beautiful Italian hill towns and I agree. People have been carving their life out of tufa here since the Bronze Age (2300 BC !).

Like most historic towns in Tuscany, you pull into a carpark outside of this quiet town and its mostly car-free Centro Historico. Some great old churches, ancient alleyways, perched houses and Etruscan diggings. Had a wonderful lunch off the main piazza.

I swear, every time I see the name “Pitigliano” I hear Porky Pig stuttering-ly trying to say it. “Pi-ti-Pi-ti…Pitigliano”

view from Pitigliano
These are the homes across the canyon from Pitigliano. Can you just imagine having that view out your window every day?

The old quarter is famously nicknamed “Little Jerusalem” for the Jewish diaspora fleeing Rome in the 1600s as it turned to Christianity and the warlord popes ran everyone else out of town. Jews thrived here for hundreds of years until fleeing with the help of their Christian friends during WWII. Most of the Jewish community has left, but their history remains. There are lots of tours you can book to explore this Jewish history, just google it. Here is a lovingly-written post about Pitigliano’s “Little Jerusalem” past from Italy Segreta. Gorgeous love and writing in this. And here’s a great overview from the Discover Tuscany website.


Tiny Sovana is like a sister tufa town to Pitigliano, so it’s great to pair them up on visits. It’s super quiet — when I was there in mid-October, I barely saw any residents, let alone tourists. Some cats. A couple of small cafes. You can walk ’round and make a few stops in an hour or so. It’s cute.

Sovana main piazza

It’s also very very old and started as an Etruscan stronghold. It’s mostly frozen in time.

Sovana man sitting
Sovana main street

Monte Argentario

The name Argentario come from Argentarii which was the name for money changers in ancient Rome. Since then, and because of it’s paradise-nearby location, Rome and Italy’s famous families have been coming here for generations. So many famous last names have holed up on this island over the millennia: Orsini, Agnelli, Caravaggio, Feltrinelli, Luongo.

The sparsely populated western edge of the island hides these estates, tucked behind unassuming gates that open up to their own private lands. You’ll feel like you have the island to yourself when you drive around.

Monte Argentario coastal view

There are the most amazing villas and grounds tucked away all over the island, owned by prominent Roman and Florentine families for generations. A quiet respite from the cacophonous density of other coasts of Italy.

Private and secluded estates cling to the hillsides, easy to spot by the pine trees lined up like soldiers, saluting the sea.

Some call Monte Argentario the Capri of Tuscany, but I think it is more of its own special thing, much much mellower, less crowded and more treed. Long the weekend get away for wealthy Romans (and Etruscans waaay before), this is where you want to get away from the thronging glitzy crowds of Portofino and Capri, but still keep your toe in it.

A lot of people might know this area because of the infamous island of Giglio. That’s the tiny little island where the coke- and bikini-loving Italian captain slammed a ginormous cruise ship Costa Concordia onto a shoal whilst waving to friends and fireworks, then ran it ashore and it tipped on its side. When I was there in 2012, you could see it from Monte Argentario, lumbering over that cute little island, like the passed out giant bear in “The Revenant“. I still can’t believe how huge it was and that they were able to move it in one big piece.

Porto Santo Stefano

I didn’t get a chance to explore Porto Santo Stefano I just drove though its pretty little port, but I have friends who have stayed here and loved it. Lot’s or Rome’s elite that have houses nearby come to the cafes and to enjoy a nice meal in this cool little town.

Porto Santo Stefano
Porto Santo Stefano

Il Pellicano Hotel

Il Pellicano trees and pool

This hotel is such a dream. I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s another post I made about my stay there.

Romantic Il Pellicano

Last Visited October 2012, Updated Post June 2024

More Information About Maremma

Here’s a great article from on the 10 best towns in Southern Maremma. Here’s a great article on undiscovered Maremma from Conde Nast Traveller UK. And an article on Porto Santo Stefano from the US

Here’s another great article I used on the coastal beach towns of Tuscany in the US Conde Nast Traveler. And another on Tuscan Hill Towns in Maremma.


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