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Report 491: Maremma: Lost in a Tuscan Kansas

By Alice Twain from Italy, Summer 2004

Trip Description: I was tired and stressed. Luca was tired and stressed. My mom was tired and stressed. None of us had enjoyed a beach stay in the past couple of years. This is why we decided we needed at least a week in Maremma.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Tuscany

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Beach; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 3-4 people; Adult Children w/ Parents

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Page 1 of 7: Preliminaries - A Brief Background

For quite a long time Maremma was one of the poorest areas of Italy. Its territory was a wide swamp where people died of marsh fever. Even the drainage works started in the XVII century did little to alleviate the problem, and in the XIX century it was a brigand area, where the dispossessed joined the armed groups of rogues to scrounge a living.

In the second half of the XX century, Maremma has become one of the richest agricultural areas of Italy. Mussolini started it; he had people from Veneto settle in the area to boost the agriculture. After the war, it was one of the areas where land reform was more successful, big properties were split in smaller and more manageable chunks that could be worked by single families, and the area blossomed.

The Tuscany Region Administration also created a park to preserve the wildlife of the Uccellina Mountains (actually hills) that extend between the shores and the farming area, which is now one of the oldest and most interesting parks of Italy.

Finally, the 1970's marked the start of tourism in the region, with the success of upmarket villages and resorts like Punta Ala, Monte Argentario and Capalbio, but also the success of the agritourism: working farms that mix tourism and farming by renting rooms or small apartments. Unlike some other areas of Tuscany, in Maremma these farms are not, for the most part, ancient ones, the buildings date back to the 1930's-1950's, and many villages bear the same mark of modernity.

The area's main city, Grosseto, herself is mostly modern. This is one of the reasons for which writer Luciano Bianciardi used to call his native Grosseto "Kansas City". Yet, history and art are not absent from the area, on the other hand it is rich in monuments and places of beauty dating from the prehistory to the XIX century, and Grosseto herself, while certainly not a competitor of Siena or Lucca, has a nice walled historical center. Besides, the countryside is one of the richest you will hit in Tuscany: this is the place for sunflowers! I must add that I had already spent a holiday in the area, as an older teenager. Actually, it was my first holiday with friends, not with my family. ^_^

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