Southern Tuscany remains a relatively undiscovered part of the region, despite its beauty. This area, known as the Maremma, is more wild and less populated than other parts of Tuscany, with a serene countryside and a long coastline of unspoilt beaches. It is dotted with picturesque ‘tufa towns’ whose beauty casts a spell on all who visit – and Etruscan sites still untouched by mass tourism.
Southern Tuscany is the perfect destination for those looking for something authentic, and less branded by tourism. An area with a relaxed pace of life, it has both idyllic countryside and some enchanting coastal towns and unspoilt beaches. This is a destination for the more curious travellers.
⇒ It encompasses the province of Grosseto, and Grosseto itself is the main town, though not the tourist highlight.
Best towns in Southern Tuscany – From Massa Marittima to Pitigliano
For those looking for some cultural sightseeing, the best place to start is Massa Marittima. It’s a delightfully preserved Medieval hilltop town that is in many ways the equal of the renowned San Gimignano. Here you’ll find an outstanding Romanesque cathedral, a couple of museums and lots of lovely shops and restaurants.
Driving inland towards to southernmost part of Tuscany you can discover the magical Città del Tufo, or “tufa towns”: the otherworldly Pitigliano and Sorano, and ultra-picturesque Sovana. Etruscans made their home here many centuries ago, in a land made distinctive and unique by the malleable tufa rock. This whole landscape shows many signs of this ancient presence, with Etruscan necroplises and sunken roads known as the vie cave, that are captivating for the modern explorer.
Maremma has no shortage of picturesque villages, small outcrops of stones and narrow streets where time literally stands still. The walled village of Capalbio should definitely be on your bucket list. But if you drive around the peaceful countryside you’ll discover other quaint spots like Roccateridighi, Manciano, or Montemerano.
⇒ See our 4-day Driving itinerary in Southern Tuscany.
Exploring the Southern Tuscany Coast
In Southern Tuscany you’ll find the best beaches of the region. White unspoilt sandy expanses from the gulf of Follonica to Marina di Alberese and the fishing port of Talamone. Here you find free beaches as well as catered bathing spots or “bagni“, which are not as tightly packed as in the Versilia (in northern Tuscany). Follonica is a family friendly resort, lively if not pretty but full of summer-related fun. Nearby Populonia offers amazing views from its tower and Etruscan remains.
Castiglione della Pescaia is the loveliest coastal town in the Maremma with its ancient fortress perched atop the town, a pretty historic centre and a modern part that offers all sorts of entertainment. The green Mount Argentario and the Uccellina Nature Reserve offer unforgettable views over the sea and pine-scented hiking opportunities.
Searching for the Etruscans in Southern Tuscany
For ancient history buffs, the Maremma may well feel like heaven. Here you can explore vast necropolises, with some crumbling ancient tombs and underground tunnels full of mystery. The Baratti and Populonia Archeological Park and the Sovana necropolis are a wonder to behold.
These cities of the dead were built between the 7th century BC and the 4th century BC, when the Etruscans were a wealthy civilisation in central Italy.
Top Tip for exploring the South of Tuscany
During the Summer months – especially second half of July and August – the area is a popular hangout for Italian holidaymakers, that descend on the area’s beaches. The rest of the year it’s a quiet and peaceful place for ‘slow travellers‘. Some places close or have shorter opening times during the winter months (from November to April), so plan accordingly.
You might find that prices outside the ‘hottest months’ of July and August can be lower than in other more touristy areas. There are lots of varieties of accommodation for every taste, from agriturismi in the interior to vast campings with modern equipment, b&b’s and hotels for every budget.
The best way to explore this area is by car. Public transport is not made for tourists and can be scarce. You can arrive at some destinations by train (there’s a train line that runs along the coast) but to really savour the trip a car is advisable, for exploring the interior and smaller villages.