The Etruscans once ruled over a very large portion of Italy, south of Naples all the way up to Padova, but the area between modern day Northern Lazio and Southern Tuscany was their heartland, know today as Etruscan Maremma. Today the area that surrounds Monte Amiata (Frantoi Franci lies on the western slopes of this former volcano) is dotted with Etruscan sites and tombs, natural beauty, hot springs and towns that feel as ancient as the old faces that inhabit this scarcely populated area.
The history of this land is clearly defined by its most distinctive geological feature: tufa, a porous limestone rock, that has allowed carving of sites and hills, both by humans and rivers to make ravines, towns dotted with caves where not that long ago people lived with their animals, underground paths and many amazing architectural features.
The Etruscans were traders, making and selling their wine and olive oil, just like today. Indeed as you pass by the small towns there is a sense that people have been doing this for centuries… millennia even. This atmosphere of foreverness is transmitted to you whilst bathing in the wild hot pools in Saturnia (there are also excellent spa hotels too, for the less adventurous), while walking in Via Cave – ancient paths carved in the tufa which connect towns alive and dead – and looking at the dramatic hill-top towns like Pitigliano or Civita di Bagnoreggio further South.
The autumn is perhaps a perfect time to visit this corner of Italy: the food is rich and abundant, the colours of the trees and vineyards vibrant, and olives are being picked and rushed to the local frantoi to be pressed, and the chill in the air makes for a perfect splash in the thermal waters. Autumn is also the time of the year when the mind drifts more towards magic, which is very appropriate for Maremma in the fall.