...beautiful hill towns!
After 4 weeks of hilltowns and switchbacks, I was ready for a change of scenery. I had mentioned before in the blog, that Bob and I would be going to Naples and Capri. Those plans changed. We decided that adding a Naples run to the itinerary would be too much, so we took a couple of days and just hung out in and around Paciano and planned a day trip to the Mediterranean.
Before the trip we made a semi-plan (a la Dan)
Get up and out fairly early.
Drive to Maremma via Lago Bolsena http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Lake_Bolsena
Visit Maremma, a huge National Park/Wildlife Refuge for a bus tour and/or walk :
Reprinted from the 'Net:
Parco Naturale della Maremma. Also called the Parco dell’Uccellina, it extends along the Maremma coast for the entire length of the mountains of the same name. The park's appeal lies precisely in the diversity of its environments: the swamp area to the north that preserves the typical appearance of the Grosseto plain before its reclamation radically changed the landscape; further south, there is the Alberese pine forest and the Monti dell’Uccellina covered with a luxuriant Mediterranean thatch and the wild sand dunes of the coast. It is easy to find herds of Maremma horses and cattle grazing in the park or to see wild board, deer and roebucks. The Trappola swamp is populated by scores of migratory species and are famous for the opportunities it provides for bird watching. The area also contains evidence of a human presence, such as the fascinating ruins of the 11th-century Abbey of San Rabano, in a splendid panoramic position dominating the coast.
Visiting the Maremma always means visiting nature. The Maremma is bathed by a clear sea that, for 160 km, laps its varied coast of sandy beaches protected by thick pine forests, steep cliffs overlooking the Tyrrhenian and islands of rare beauty. The waters of the Maremma seashore are among the cleanest in Italy and its beaches have been winning the recognition of the Blue Flag for years. The seaside resorts of the Maremma are equipped for sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and canoeing and divers will find diving centers in the Argentario and the Isola del Giglio.
We would not be kitesurfing...
Go to the beach at Maremma.
Visit Santa Argentario, Porto Santo Stephano, Porto Ercole and Orbetello.
Reprinted from the 'Net:
Monte Argentario is one of the most famous spots in the Maremma and Tuscany. The promontory, which was originally an island, is characterized by a high, rocky coastline covered by a thick Mediterranean thatch, interrupted by olive groves and vineyards. It is now connected to the land by the Feniglia and Giannella sand bars, two strips of uninterrupted sandy beach and thick maritime pine. The sandy isthmuses are separated by the Laguna di Orbetello, an area protected by the WWF because it sits on one of the most important migratory routes and is one of the principal wintering sites for birds that nest in Europe. The serene tranquility of this lagoon contrasts with the high jagged Monte Argentario coast that hides small inlets in rocks that are inaccessible from the land.
Porto Santo Stefano is the largest town on Mount Argentario, and connections leave from here for the islands of Giglio and Giannutri. The town descends on large steps along the slopes of the promontory to a picturesque bay. Today, thanks to its splendid sea and beautiful landscapes, is it a famous resort with two ports, Porto Nuovo and Porto Vecchio. Every 15 August, they play the Palio Marinaro, preceded by a historical procession in Spanish costumes. In Porto Santo Stefano, you will also find the Acquario Mediterraneo dell’Argentario, with panoramic tanks that reproduce the typical ecosystems of the Costa d'Argento.A scenic road connects Porto Santo Stefano to Porto Ercole with breath-taking views. Porto Ercole is located on the eastern coast of the Argentario; it is a charming seaside village that overlooks a bay protected by a small promontory. It is a maze of lanes and staircases that descend tortuously from the fortress to the port. The principal works to visit in Porto Ercole are its fortifications that date from the period of Spanish domination in the 16th century: Forte San Filippo, Forte Santa Caterina, Forte Stella and the Rocca. But, most of all, Porto Ercole is a center of cosmopolitan life frequented by many tourists, with a wealth of stores and fashionable, always lively nightspots.
We would not be visiting the lively nightspots.
We did get up and out fairly early and we did drive to Maremma via Lago Bolsena. Bolsena is a breathtakingly beautiful lake and the homes around it are upscale. We took a nice drive along a lakeside road and agreed that it would make a grand overnight roadtrip were we to be in Umbria again next year.
When we got to the Maremma, it was a day that the touring bus was not running. The size of the Parco Naturale is overwhelming and we had not prepared for hiking (It may take me several months to prepare for hiking...) so we decided that Maremma would also be a destination for another trip. It had said in the guidebook (thank heaven for guidebooks) that there were kilometers of beach in the parco, so we decided to visit the beach instead. We were so glad that we did!
The beach there is unlike most other Mediterranean beaches that I've visited in Italy. Often, they are rocky and they have rarely stretched for miles. Like the other beaches I've visited though, the water was a spectacular blue, as was the sky.
The area adjacent to the beach was a beautiful cedar forest. There were clearings for parking and picnicking and relaxing in the shade. Grass-tufted dunes separated the wooded area and the strand. The beach was not stone, but soft,white sand and it was littered with driftwood, that beach goers collected and used to construct shade huts.
We took a long, leisurely walk along the water (Bob walked along the water. I walked in the water.) and had a picinc in the shade with some nice wine from Naples before leaving for our next destination, Santa Argentario, Porto Santo Stephano, Porto Ercole and Orbetello.