When we first started researching spots to stay for a month in Europe, easy seaside access was at the top of our list. Lindsay, Chris, Kai and I were all beach people, and we wanted to be by the sea. However, once we started looking, we found that many seaside accommodations were small and cramped, in shared apartment buildings or residential areas. We found ourselves more drawn to the open space that the sprawling countryside could offer – an attribute that was especially important given the pandemic. So once we booked our Tuscan villa, I started looking into beaches that were accessible from our home base. Turns out, there are a plethora of beaches IN Tuscany, which is typically only known for its lush rolling hills, endless vineyards, and delectable wine. But surprise (!!!) there are stunning beaches and islands to be found in Tuscany as well! And so we made a point of dipping our toes in the sea as much as possible, often driving to the coast to enjoy all aspects of Tuscan living.Our first trip to the sea was a day spent in Maremma, where we hiked, ate, and swam to our heart’s content – and fell completely in love with the Tuscan seaside.Maremma is a large area that runs along the coast in southern Tuscany. We’d heard about the region, as we’d sampled several distinctive wines that were produced in the area, and we were delighted to find that Maremma boasted of white sandy beaches and beautiful nature reserves as well.
The nature reserve park in Maremma is vast and is protected, so make sure to stop at the visitor’s center before venturing in to pick up entrance tickets and get information on the park. You can find directions, hours, and information on entrance fees here. After driving an hour and a half from our countryside villa to the sea, we were thankful to find a visitor’s center where we could go to the bathroom and buy water before setting out on our hike!
As we drove to the park, we looked at potential trailheads. We wanted to have enough time for lunch after our hike, and with over 10,000 hectares reserve, some of the park’s hikes could easily take up to 10 hours! In the end, we found one that had a good amount of elevation, promised sea views, and was around three hours in totaal. Our crew set off into the hot morning sun (my husband without a shirt as he forgot it in the car – ha!) The views along the way were spectacular – one of the things I love the most about Italy is how the mountains meet the sea, and this hike allowed us to take it alllllll in.The hike was exhilarating, and the views were the best part of the day – that is until we got to the bottom of the mountain and went in search of lunch!Gli Attortellati is a farm-to-table eatery located right next to the national park. Following our hike, we high-tailed it over to the restaurant, starving, and hoping to dive into huge, glorious bowls of pasta ASAP!I had read about the restaurant in a guide book a few weeks prior, and knew it was quite popular, so thankfully we had made a reservation in advance. This was a smart idea, as our lunch was starting later than usual (thanks to our long morning hike!) so the restaurant knew we were coming and held a spot for us, despite almost missing the lunch window.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, the food at Gli Attortellati is a set-menu, served family style. So reserving a table in advance not only ensures you a spot, but helps the kitchen staff know how much to prep on any given day. Which holy cow – let me tell you – is a LOT.
When we first sat down, we were famished, so we dove head first into table bread, cheese, and small, homemade jars of jam and butter. We then gorged our way through several starters, consisting of salads, charcuterie, cheese, and fritters . . . only to then be presented with the most beautiful pasta and garden zucchini dish. At that point, we definitely started hitting a food-wall. The breezy ambiance on the patio was divine, the food was delectable and prepared with so much soul, and the wine was flowing. But our downfall was trying to cram what should have been a lazy, three hour lunch into a mere 60 minutes. By the time this divine, homemade ragou ravioli arrived at our table, we were all groaning. Because we knew it would be the best damn thing we had ever tasted, and we knew we would have to eat it all!But the fun didn’t stop there – we were then served the most adorable homemade tartlets, alongside coffee, tea, and an assortment of digestifs. It could have been the numerous glasses of wine. . . or the delectable homemade fare, the chintzy decor, breezy terrace, or simply the awesome company – but somewhere along the line this spot stole the superlative for best meal of the trip!
Afterwards, we swung by inside to pay and to check out the gift shop, which had a lot of homemade jams, sauces, and condiments. I eagerly purchased a spicy tomato paste – that Kai and I actually just cracked open last week . . . and now love spooning a big heap into our pasta creations! As our final business of the day, we found a spot at the sea and sat in the sun to digest and relax. It was my absolute favorite kind of day – filled with stellar company, amazing food, a healthy dose of activity, wine, beach time, and adventure!I am feeling so wistful for summer 2020, and hope 2021 brings just as many new adventures!!