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Montemerano I love. A Tuscan hilltown in the heart of the Maremma. The road from the gate spirals up – a gorgeous walk – through the archways and to the alleys. These towns are multi-levelled structures so be warned that walk is up and down.
On the way you pass through more architectural wizardry, and renaissance design: upper stories, recessed into the corners of buildings, with railings round the balconies and flower boxes, and the inevitable washing on lines, and wall plants, and pots; and intricate stone.
I pass another stone cottage. The door is open, I sneak a peek inside: who lives there I wonder? I wish it could be me. One does get wistful in South Tuscany.
I wonder, when my boy’s grown, and I’m too old to travel, where will the wife and I grow old? How to decide, from all the places we’ve been, where to settle? I’d settle with people who are young at heart, on a farm by a Tuscan hill town. Maria needs shops, marketplaces, piazze and conversation... lots of conversation. Like anywhere in Italy all of that is available here in Southern Tuscany.
… where I’d walk most often though the Piazza dei Castello. So quiet. The atmosphere in the center is fairylike, and hardly busy.
How the chef at Poggio di Teo achieves such flavors and textures, I don’t know. Gnocchi is taken to new levels, effortlessly. It’s in the wrist, they say. The menu features traditional dishes, and the ingredients are all sourced locally, or "kilometer zero." When I visit towns in Italy, that is always important to me because I feel you only really understand a place fully once you've sat down and eaten some of the local dishes.
In Tuscany, one can argue about a lot of things but never with the food, and at Poggio di Teo that is most certainly the case. Here, slow food comes at regular intervals, alongside peace and quiet, a bathroom, Wi Fi, and comfy beds. The location is a rustic idyll, surrounded by the rolling hills of Tuscany and only a short drive from Montemerano. You will need a car though; you can book that here.
If you can't get a booking at Poggio di Teo, which is often the case as some regulars book a year in advance, then try the Hotel Poggio Bertino which is a farmhouse that has been converted into an unpretentious hotel in the countryside just outside of Montemerano. It's simple at first, but as you stay, it grows on you. The rooms are elegant, open, and spacious enough, and the amenities are adequate.
Try the hand-made gnudi at Caco e vino, with one of their house wines; and the 'Pappardelle Cinghiale' at La Cascia: a boar ragout that that sticks to bones. Yum.
My go to red is Sangiovese
The Chiesa San Giorio sports the Madonna of the Cats: famous art in an artful town, attributed to the anonymous Master of Mermerano.
Mermerano is a garden, a museum and a gallery, where history is seen before it is read about. Must sees are the sculptures of Vecchietta and the altar by Sano di Pietro… and the fresco in Chiesa di Giovanni Battista.
This is again Etruscan ground: an historical wonderland.
Out in the fresh air
I’m inspired to ride my bike from town to town. I did once. It was tough going for a codger like me, but is perfect for the sporty romantic and I still love cycling around here although my horizons are not quite so distant now and the stops for lunch have become longer than the actual cycling part.
Perhaps Maria is right, and we should settle here. In Montemerano, one must always move on too soon… but time is spent slowly, nonetheless. Nothing like a lazy day in the sun surrounded by friends in Italy. Memories made here tend to be of the lifetime sort.
I share my idyllic experiences. There are times I travel when the rooms are too small and the taps don’t work… but the Kodak moments DO happen, often. Such is life in Southern Tuscany.
It is best to have your own car: AutoEurope has a good choice of car models and some excellent advice about driving in Italy on their site.
The closest train station is Albinia. From there buses come to Montemerano, as well as to Saturnia, home of The Maremma’s famous hot springs.