Five fun things to do in Maremma that your children will love: all tried and tested. Many times.
These are the things that when we are wondering what to do over the weekend, when we have friends visiting, or during the long summer holidays, my young daughter says, “Why don’t we go to… “.
And they all come with a free, built-in bonus: unforgettable lessons in art, history, nature and geology!
1. Awestruck in an amazing art gallery
Yes, I did say an art gallery and yes I am talking about young children. Because this art gallery is different: its installations are nearly all outdoors, placed in unusual locations in the medieval streets and squares of the hill town of Roccatederighi.
You will need to go up and down and around narrow alleyways and streets to find them all, and whether you like them or not, they will have your little ones entranced for a couple of hours and full of questions as to why and what! So be prepared to explain about modern art!
There is a rock to climb too behind the church, with a nothing less than jaw-dropping view of Maremma.
The art show – called the Mostra La Rocca – is on during the summer months (normally from the middle of June to the second to last week of July) and includes a packed programme of musical events, star-gazing and storytelling too.
2. Climb a clock tower
Climb the inside of a 13th century clock tower with a beautiful medieval and Renaissance city below. The Torre del Candeliere in Massa Marittima. You’ll need to squeeze through a tiny entrance hole in the first floor whilst manoeuvring up a very narrow staircase that will give any of you with a fear of heights the heebie-jeebies! Your kids will be laughing and already up those stairs with no problem!
For the adults amongst you, you will be rewarded with another one of the most beautiful panoramas in Maremma.
If you go in the afternoon there is an added delight, but you need to be young of heart to appreciate this! You can play huge monster shadows on the terracotta roofs below from the Sienese keep that it is attached to the tower.
Stand one behind the other and your monster can have four arms and four legs… with three of you, six and six! Go on, you know you’ll love it and no one up at that height is watching!
3. Hide in a hide
Now birdwatching might not be for everyone, but the experience of a morning or an afternoon out at the World Wildlife Fund site of the Laguna di Orbetello – Orbetello lagoon – will see your children eagerly trekking from one hide to another to see what else they can see. And back between one and another, again and again.
For not only will they see pink flamingoes and the beautiful yellow-tipped beaks of the Common Spoonbill, Cormorants, Grey Herons and Kingfishers. But shy crabs, noisy Sea bass, mushroom fairy-rings, damselflies and dragonflies, and a botanical garden full of shy toads.
And even, if they are lucky, wading wild boar.
When it is time to go home, tired they may be, but those little legs won’t want to.
PS. Don’t forget to take your binoculars!
4. Smell stinky sulphur springs
This is a treat of a half day out that not everyone will love at first sight because it stinks, literally! But once those little noses (and yours) have gotten used to the smell of rotten eggs, the magic of the geothermic site at Parco Geotermico delle Biancane at Monterotondo Marittimo begins.
And it is a magic that you won’t easily forget, for getting there takes you past an enormous cooling tower – part of the ENEL geothermal plant in Maremma and one of world’s largest geothermal fields – that will get the conversation going in the car.
Then you will get to walk on hot rocks, too hot to touch in places. Watch tiny streams of boiling meteoric water trickle from underground and vapourise away in front of you. Be caught in the down draft of vaporous fumaroles as the wind changes direction. And trek through a landscape that is an amazing kaleidescope of colours. Photographers be aware that you will fill a camera card!
Your budding mineralogists get to see the ever so delicate formations of crystals of sulphur growing at the openings of those tiny thermal springs – Solfataras – heated by a magmatic intrusion some 5 to 10 kilometres below their feet!
This is a geology lesson that kids – big and small – will love.
Open every day of the year and it is free.
5. Terrible tremors in Tumulus tombs
Take your kids on an outdoor history lesson deep inside spider-filled Etruscan tumulus tombs!
Some are really spooky and will have the youngest hovering at the entrances not brave enough to enter, but the Indiana Jones in them will rise to the occasion and into the dark they will go! Unlike a mum or auntie or two I could name!
There are two great sites to explore. The tombs at Vetulonia and those within the incredible Parco Archeologico di Baratti e Populonia. Both are must visits, but if you are looking for a whole day out, or easily even two in one place, then head for the Bay of Baratti. (It is also home to one of Maremma’s very best beaches.)
The Archaeological site is enormous and there are two entrances: the Necropolis site down by the shore, and the Acropolis site up on the hill. Footpaths connect the two, but I wouldn’t recommend doing both in one day with young children.
For the tumulus tombs you have to see and the jaw-dropping first sight of the necropolis, enter the park at the first of the two sites, the Necropolis entrance. (There is ample free parking, but not at the Acropolis site.)
My recommendation is to try and get there in time to join both a guided tour of the tombs that you will pass to reach the ticket office. Which includes going bent double through the entrance dromos tunnel of the largest, the “Tomba dei Carri”, to its inner chamber. (Note: you cannot gain access outside of a tour.)
And to do the “red” Via delle Cave trail trek up, up and up (I did say up, didn’t I!) into the woods that will take you past Etruscan quarries and spooky chamber tombs, to a small clearing from which you get to see the hidden “Grotte” necropolis.
Playing zombies inside!
The trek back down will take you past even more, and darker, chamber tombs waiting to be explored by the brave hearted.
TIP. Plan for a good rest and refreshment break after this trek. Little feet will have deserved it! The picnic area with a bar next to the ticket office is a perfect spot and has (clean) toilets.
Alternatively, the outdoor wooden chalet bar along the road to Baratti’s port is usually always open and has a great view of the sunset over the bay. Note to mum’s: it doesn’t have a bathroom.
Author: Donna Stiles
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