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Scansano

Etruscans, cucina maremmana and a renowned red wine made from Tuscany’s native grape

By: Donald Strachan Writer & Journalist | Specialist in Italy & European travel

Scansano travel guide

Scansano has been blessed by its location. It crowns a ridge close to the farthest north-western reaches of the Albegna hills, about 17 miles south-east of Grosseto. Views from its fortified medieval centre stretch for miles over woods and fertile Maremman farmland.

Sulphur and antimony mining filled town coffers in the 1800s. Now, these hills are famed for their wine: Morellino di Scansano is made (like most of Tuscany’s great reds) from the Sangiovese grape.

In the Beginning...

Humans have been living on Scansano’s hill for a very long time. The surrounding countryside has Etruscan remains and ruins of a Roman villa. Scansano itself first appears on the historical record in 1188.

Early years were scarred by conflict. Both the Sienese and Aldobrandeschi counts who lorded it over the Alta Maremma wanted Scansano. In 1331, the Sienese won their prize.

Though it was later ruled by the Milanese Sforza dynasty — via links with a branch of the Aldobrandeschi — it passed to the Medici-ruled Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1615. It’s been Tuscan ever since.

Until 1897 Scansano became the seat of provincial government each summer (a practice known as the “Estatatura”). Public offices fled Grosseto’s coastal plains in hotter months, because they were infested with malaria.

Visit This

Scansano’s centuries of seasonal importance has left timeworn palaces in its charming, claustrophobic old centre. Most date to the 15th or 16th century, and line cobbled streets which gradually spiral their way to the town’s summit. A few small shops sell ceramics and other crafts, olive oil and of course the famous local wine, Morellino di Scansano. Other than that, there’s nothing except the sound of an occasional domestic dispute to disturb the peace.

At the top, La Corte is a panoramic terrace where you can see for miles over haphazard terracotta-tiled rooftops and the rolling agricultural hills of the Alta Maremma.

Inside the Palazzo Pretorio, Scansano’s small Museo Archeologico has finds from local Etruscan digs (notably Ghiaccioforte) and exhibits on the history and culture of winemaking — first introduced by the Etruscans.

At the gated entrance to the old centre, Piazza Garibaldi is the social hub of Scansano. Around a statue of Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–82), old men gather at day’s end to shoot the breeze. Most of Scansano’s restaurants are close by.

Timeworn palaces from the 15th or 16th century line cobbled streets which gradually spiral their way to the town’s summit

Eat & Drink This

Scansano may not have the fame of Siena, Pisa or San Gimignano, but its name is familiar to wine-lovers. Morellino di Scansano is dry, robust DOCG red wine made with at least 85% Sangiovese grapes. It ages well, and costs significantly less than Chianti, Montepulciano and Montalcino wines.

The official growing zone stretches south to Magliano in Toscana and east as far as Saturnia. Dozens of local wineries welcome visitors for tours, tastings and purchases, including Fattoria Le Pupille, which produces an excellent Morellino Riserva.

Typical Maremman cooking is rustic — this is farming country. Wild boar pops up everywhere, in salami and sausages as well as the classic stew, cinghiale alla cacciatora (with tomatoes and red wine). Olives are well used, and not just for extra virgin oil, including in stews (where you will also sometimes taste juniper berries). Foraged vegetables like wild asparagus (in spring) and porcini mushrooms (in autumn) are popular ingredients.

Nearby Orbetello’s bottarga (dried mullet roe) is deliciously salty and fishy when shaved liberally over pasta. Excellent honey is also made locally.

Scansano’s quirky Fiaschetteria Rurale serves delicious Maremman cuisine in a short menu of dishes with a modern twist. There’s usually boar and other regional meats like flame-grilled chops of nero della maremma, a local breed of pig similar to the Cinta senese.

Festivals

On September weekends Scansano stages one of Tuscany’s most popular wine festivals, the Festa dell’Uva, with tastings, open cellars, live music, open-air dances and craft markets.

Morellino Classica is a series of classical music performances at multiple atmospheric locations in and around Scansano. It runs from spring to late autumn each year.

Three Excursions from Scansano

  • Grosseto: sprawling suburbs don’t give a great first impression, but the pretty, compact historic centre is delightfully free from tourists, and has plenty of shopping plus one of Tuscany’s best Etruscan museums
  • Parco Naturale della Maremma: a network of panoramic hiking trails radiate from Alberese through the Monti dell’Uccellina, squat coastal mountains shrouded in parasol pines and holm oaks
  • Pitigliano: one of the “Città del tufo”, Pitigliano seems to sprout directly from the volcanic rock it perches on


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