Tuscany's Wild Wild West: Maremma
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Southwest of Florence and Chianti lies a vast golden sea of wheat called Maremma. Drive through these waves of grain and you'll see cowboys in fedoras riding big sturdy maremmano horses herding long-horned maremmano bulls. Drive east and you'll reach Castel del Piano, center of a dozen well-preserved medieval towns where the Epiphany, a costumed outdoor pageant heralding the arrival of the Three Kings, is still performed by townspeople on the evening of January 5th. Drive west and you'll reach the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea, where a causeway leads you to the promontory called Argentario, site of l'Oasi della laguna, one of the few bird refuges in this avid bird-hunting country. Elegant water fowl come here from all over Europe and so can you, from September 1 to April 30. A few miles away in the town of Ansedonia, a procession of gaily lit boats celebrates the miraculous finding of a religious relic every May 11th. North of here is the capital city, Grosseto, a beautifully restored 16th-century walled town that was greatly enhanced by Medici family patronage. Farther inland are the warm sulphurous waters of Saturnia, which legend claims as the first town ever built in Italy (by no less illustrious a founder than the mother of Saturn). Etruscan tombs abound in this area, centered in the woods around the semi-derelict town of Sovana. Also well worth visiting are Massa Marittima, Follonica, Magliano (and the nearby ruins of the romanesque monastery of San Bruzio), the seaside village of Capalbio and the Etruscan ruins of Vetulonia.

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