LA MAREMMA: A CORNER OF TUSCANY
A little bit of cycling paradise to call home
The Maremma really changes you. Like drinking a fabulous wine, it is hard to compromise afterwards. I wondered how I had ridden so much of Italy yet had not heard of this idyllic area. Chris Balogh yearns to return to La Maremma..
Tuscany is consistently charming, a pleasure to ride in, but it is the variety presented by this particular southwestern corner of the region that left me yearning to return. Clear blue sea with black rock as in Capri, dry rolling terrain and medieval walled towns built on ancient Etruscan ruins, and roads in near perfect condition. Much of the Maremma is reclaimed marshland, a process that began under the Medici and ended only after the Second World War.
When I rolled out with my guide, Corrado Corra Corridori; the most aptly named cyclist I have ever met, I immediately asked him if is it was a holiday.
“We have a traffic problem here, “grinned Corrado.
It seems that with no industry to bring in the bustle, that there is in fact no hustle, and no trucks to damage the roads and no exhaust and really truly no cars in sight on a three hour ride! Not one you might ask?..... Well maybe one, but definitely not three.
Roads are mostly narrow, ascents are gentle - no more then seven or eight kilometres at the longest. They sweep and turn, revealing breathtaking vistas. Corrado was full of stories about the Maremma that he has always called home. In three days of riding, I realised that we only scratched the surface, when he turned up a gravel road in the middle of a never-ending sea of olive tress.
“I want to show you a really old Roman church.”
In the middle of nowhere I glided into the belly of what was a pre-Christian Etruscan temple dedicated to some animal deities, between whose stone heads, a templar knight was added in the middle ages, long after the Romans had inherited the temple from its original builders.
On our way back to the road, Corrado gestured in a matter of fact way to a small fenced off plot of land between trees.
The Maremma is unfathomably rich, mysterious, and the most rideably delicious spot that I have cycled. One might compare it to Andalucia, perhaps a slice of the Cordoba region with its truly arid landscape? But add the clear blue sea, villas of the rich and famous and the repeated ascents into medieval towns and it becomes really unlike anywhere else.
At times it feels too narrow for long stretches on the bike. Thick farm walls of stone forever and ever, odd cacti that flower once in a lifetime, producing a towering Doctor Seuss-like shoot full of flowers before dying …. and stories, plenty of stories. Stories of mercury mines from which whole towns died, stories of Spanish invasions, of Garibaldi’s return to liberate Italy, stories of women only beaches and ancient salt pilgrimages. All opening up into rolling plains of one single tone, the colour of wheat, peaceful to the eye.
Even more irresistible, Italy Bike Hotels, a consortium of hotels throughout Italy, asked me to visit the Locanda Rossa, one of its newest additions. Located just outside of Capalbio, it opened in 2010. An antique farmhouse converted into a contemporary and elegant retreat.
Its sprawling grounds were created by landscape architect Paolo Pejrone who achieved a special balance, a rare harmony between the open concept interior spaces and the surrounding environment. The artwork begins in the rooms and the story continues into the comfortable common areas. It feels like being at home, with many details left for the guests to discover. The complimentary cold iced tea infused with herbs in the mini fridge in the discrete cabinet hidden next to the poolside shower, the bookshelves filled with hand-picked books, seating that beckons for you to step into the scene. It feels like hanging out at your rich stylish friend’s country house…… Oh yes, and your friend happens to be a cyclist with a bike room full of the best German Focus bikes for road , mountain or gravel, ready to roll anytime.
Cyclists, put it on the top of the list …..the Maremma awaits and the Locanda Rossa is a truly rare oasis of style, relaxation and gastronomic pleasure.
If you are a cyclist thinking of a trip to Italy, this is the one!
Contact SoulRiders Tours at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about upcoming versions of the Maremma experience in September 2017 and May 2018.
Also visit www.locandarossa.com
LA LOCANDA ROSSA
PUBLISHED JULY 2017