Whenever I feel the need to get away, I flee to Southern Tuscany, which is about 200 km from where I live. When I talk about Southern Tuscany, I refer to the area just beyond the border with Lazio (the region with Rome). This Southern Tuscany road trip itinerary includes pretty villages, natural and archeological sites that are just incredible and that pull me back there over and over again. This Tuscany road trip covers some must-see places that are fantastically off the beaten path in Tuscany. You will drive across the classic Tuscan countryside with olive fields and vineyards of course, but also discover different places, secret spots that only the locals know, like mysterious archeological sites, gorges, and bays.
Southern Tuscany is also known as “Maremma” or “Tuscan Maremma”, and it’s part of the Tuscia region (the area of influence of ancient Etruscans.), which includes areas of northern Lazio and Umbria as well. This itinerary will take you to 15 incredible places. I’m also offering advice on where to eat and accommodation.
WHERE TO START THIS EPIC SOUTHERN TUSCANY ROAD TRIP
Ideally, you will leave from Siena or Rome. Florence is handy as well, but farther. I started driving from Lake Bracciano which is the lovely area I’m staying in now north of Rome. This itinerary in Tuscany unfolds in 5 to 7 days, depending on how slow you travel, and I invite you to travel as slow as you can, because Southern Tuscany deserves careful exploration, and it will only reveal its secrets to those who dare to travel slow.
THE CAR YOU NEED FOR THIS TUSCANY ROAD TRIP
I traveled on a sub-compact car with a/c and wheels in a good condition. You don’t necessarily need to go for countryside tracks, but it may happen. You definitely need a good GPS. Google Maps’ “shortest way” is deceiving or inexact sometimes.
Try and keep on “SP” (provincial road, “strada provinciale” in Italian) as much as you can. We got lost while going for the agriturismo we had booked our stay at because it was surrounded by countryside. We drove along endless vineyards and got to see a lot of lovely country houses, it was worth the time anyway.
The aircon is a must-have in the car: during late spring or summer, when Southern Tuscany’s nature is in full bloom, you don’t want to mess with flying insects (including wasps and horseflies) that might get inside your car and distract you from driving well.
BEST SEASON TO TAKE A ROAD TRIP IN SOUTHERN TUSCANY
April to June and September to November. The Tuscan summer can be really hot, and I’d recommend it only if you stayed by the coast. If you visit in July or August, stick to the coastal locations I address in the last part of this article.
15 PLACES YOU MUST ADD TO YOUR SOUTHERN TUSCANY ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
I’m not sure if you drive to Southern Tuscany from north or south, so feel free to visit these places in the order which is the most to you. They are all close to each other anyway, this region is dense of attractions.
MUST-SEE VILLAGES OF THE “ARCHEOLOGICAL PARK OF TUFF”
One of the highlights of Southern Tuscany is the “Archeological Park of Tuff”, consisting of the villages, archeological sites, and scenic areas in between the Mount Amiata, the border with Lazio, and the River Fiora. The charm and the beauty of this region will leave you speechless and thinking that you’re exploring some authentic hidden gems in Italy. Here are some villages and sites you need to add to your first Southern Tuscany road trip itinerary. They are all only 5 to 10 km far from each other, so you could find accommodation in any of them.
Sovana is the smallest village of the region “Archeological Park of Tuff”. It is also the quietest and the most beautiful. If Sorano and Pitigliano are spectacular, castled on huge tuff rocks, Sovana is more delicate, feminine, and will fascinate you. Every corner of this village deserves a photo. The village consists of two small pedestrian streets, the main piazza with the watchtower and shops, and a few incredible historical landmarks. If you love meditative silence, make Sovana your base to explore Southern Tuscany.
Things to see in Sovana:
- Ruins of the Aldobrandesca Fortress
- Church of Santa Maria Maggiore
- Palazzo Pretorio
- Duomo di Sovana. The main building inside the village is the “Duomo Di Sovana”, one of the most important examples of Romanesque art and architecture in central Italy. The bas-relieves on the ancient gate of the cathedral and on the columns inside it are worthy of slow observation: enigmatic figures and symbols, which transmit the influence received from other parts of the Mediterranean. If you like Romanesque art, make sure to visit also the Basilica di Sant’Elia in Northern Lazio as well.
Just outside the village, immersed in the thick nature and vegetation of the gorges that are typical of this area, there are three important archeological sites dating back to the Etruscans:
- The tomb of Ildebranda
- The tomb of the siren
- The tomb of the winged demons
This medieval village is built out of the tuff stone that shapes the region. Sorano is located on a dramatic tuff cliff surrounded by the River Lente. The village is similar to Pitigliano, which is another stop on this Southern Tuscany road trip, but even more secluded, and smaller. Most of this village you can only explore on foot. We parked our car on the side of the road “strada provinciale Pitigliano-Sorano” where we saw other cars parked, and entered the village from the neighborhood called “the ghetto of Sorano”. The alleys were silent, picturesque, a continuous of houses made with ancient stones, and every few of the small terraces offer views of the green valley below. Proceeding through arches and alleys, we arrived at the heart of the historic center. A few people were hanging out there: the old ladies sit in circles in front of their doorsteps, quietly chatting; children playing with their mothers, a very laid back village.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO IN SORANO?
- Visit the “Orsini Fortress” This is the most outstanding building in town, medieval, erected during the XII Century. It hosts the “Medieval and Renaissance Museum”, a hotel, and the “Enoristrò”, a bistrot and restaurant where you can get breakfast, lunch, aperitivo, and dinner in the local style.
- Sit and sip a glass of local wine at a café in the Piazza del Municipio. We did that at “La Cantina Dei Sapori”.
RESTAURANTS IN SORANO
Enjoy a true, organic local meal at the “Agriturismo Aia del Tufo”, which only serves their own products and has excellent prices. This is the best place we ate during the entire Southern Tuscany road trip.
Pitigliano is the biggest and most popular of the three main villages in the “Archeological Park of Tuff”. The sight of the town from the provincial road will be one of the most exciting moments of your Southern Tuscany road trip: it stands out from a very steep cliff, the houses are the continuation of the rock, it’s impossible not to stop during by day and night to take pictures of the landscape. I bet Pitigliano was unassailable in ancient times!
Now it’s a village waiting to be explored. Your task here is to walk through the tight and intricated alleys and discover the hidden panoramic spots overlooking the gorge, there are many of them.
ATTRACTIONS YOU’LL WANT TO STOP BY IN PITIGLIANO:
- Medicean aqueduct
- Fountain of the Sette Cannelle
- Archeological Museum of Pitigliano to admire stunning Etruscan artifacts from the region
- Workshops and shops in Via Roma and Via Zuccarelli
- The piazza with the Cathedral of Santi Pietro and Paolo
- The area around “Little Jerusalem”
GET YOUR SOUVENIRS IN PITIGLIANO
Pitigliano is the perfect place where to buy some food souvenirs and a few bottles of local wine. I stopped at a shop just outside the main historic center and it proved the right choice: “Narcisi e Bussi”.
RESTAURANTS IN PITIGLIANO
- Ristorante la bontà di Claudia Cucina Tipica
- Pizzeria Trattoria La Terrazza
WHERE TO STAY: ACCOMMODATION IN SORANO, SOVANA, AND PITIGLIANO (AGRITURISMO, B&B, HOTEL)
- Farm House “Tenuta Roccaccia” | There are many B&B inside the villages, but we wanted more privacy so we rented an apartment at a farmhouse a few km from Pitigliano. The “Tenuta Roccaccia” has a kitchen and a swimming pool and it’s surrounded by vineyards and olive fields… Their apartments can host up to 5 people. I sincerely recommend it if you want to cook your own meals.
- Agriturismo Sovanella | Cozy rooms in a farmhouse surrounded by nature. The cook is excellent and we probably ate too much here. The common stay here includes dinner and breakfast, but you can also have a simple B&B.
- Agriturismo “L’aia del Tufo” | Certified organic food (also some of the best food we’ve had in the region)
- Hotel Della Fortezza | The hotel inside the Orsini Fortress
- Agriturismo Airone Sorano
- B&B Antico Casale Il Piccione
- Terme di Sorano Residence | This is better be skipped in the hottest months
4 ETRUSCAN CUTS TRAILS (ARCHEOTREKKERS’ FAVORITE!)
The “Etruscan cuts” (Tagliate etrusche, also known as “vie cave etrusche”) are monumental paths caved in the tuff stone that naturally shapes the land in Southern Tuscany and northern Lazio by the Etruscan civilization. The concentration of these “archeological paths” around the villages of Sorano, Sovana, and Pitigliano is massive and unrepeated in other parts of Italy. These are the archeological and natural highlights of the area. There are more than 20 of these “particular” routes.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THESE PATHS?
They are caved with picks, they follow along extended necropolises, they cross each other, and reach up to 20 mt. deep and a few mt. wide. The Etruscans (1000 b.C. – 1st Century b.C.), created them, and researchers aren’t able to understand clearly how these trails were used. During the Middle Ages, hermitages and Christian votive niches appeared within the Etruscan paths. On the massive walls of these man-made canyons, you can see the work of the picks, inscriptions from all ages, symbols, and of course, you can access the burial caves.
How to visit the “Vie Cave Etrusche”
All of these trails are interesting to walk through. You can start your exploration descending from Pitigliano village to the valley. Take the path through “Porta Sovana” and follow the directions to “via Cava di Poggio Cane”, then to the “Via Cava San Giuseppe”. The Etruscan cuts around Sovana instead have direct access to the archeological sites Tomb of the Siren and Tomb of Ildebranda.
Tips to visit the Etruscan cuts
Even if the hiking difficulty for these trails is just easy-moderate, it’s best for you to wear hiking shoes. The path is mostly shaded, but during the summer a hat is highly recommended. Bring a torch with you if you want to explore the interior of the many caves along the way. The path becomes very slippery when it rains.
5 SAN QUIRICO – WALK AROUND THE PREHISTORIC SETTLEMENT OF VITOZZA
The village of San Quirico (not to be mistaken with San Quirico D’Orcia) is a fraction of Sorano. I visited there to have dinner at the popular restaurant “Il Tagliere Etrusco”, which is now open only during weekends, Friday to Sunday.
Since I found the place shut, I strolled around the village and found out about the abandoned settlement of Vitozza, which seemed worthy of further exploration. The next day, I left my car in San Quirico and walked for 1 km to the access of the archeological park. This is the easiest nature walk in the area, and it’s shaded because it goes through a forest.
The trail develops across prehistoric and medieval settlements. There are dozens of caves facing the trail, the ruins of two castles. These ruins are easier to visit than the necropolis in the Etruscan cuts. I really enjoyed this walk. The entrance is free.
6 THE SATURNIA HOT SPRINGS
The “Mulino Waterfalls” of the Saturnia hot-springs are famous all over the world. They look like the spectacular pools of Pamukkale in Turkey. These natural thermal pools have a constant temperature of 25 °, access is public, and so they are open 24h a day. The sight of the pools is delightful. If this is your first time in Saturnia, try to get here when there is still light, even if you can enjoy bathing by night as well. The pools are many, but the visitors too. There is also an equipped thermal resort nearby. Have a look at all the information I’ve collected on how to visit the Saturnia hot-springs before you get there.
7 TERMAL RESORT “TERME DI SORANO”
An awesome compromise between the natural thermal pools of Saturnia and the Terme di Saturnia Resort is the complex “Terme di Sorano”.
Southern Tuscany is rich in natural hot springs. The Terme di Sorano is a recent creation, it features three big pools with different depth and temperature, thermal massaging flows, and a lawn with beach beds and umbrella. You need to spend time in this place if you’re in mild seasons (October to May). Prices are accessible. These are some of the best thermal baths near Rome. You may also book your stay here.
8 MANCIANO, OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH VILLAGE IN SOUTHERN TUSCANY
The villages and historical landmarks I’ve added to this itinerary for a perfect road trip in Southern Tuscany attract many local travelers, many more than the neighboring Manciano, which doesn’t deserve at all being overshadowed instead.
My fellow road-tripper and I visited Manciano to haunt for a good trattoria. What we found is a surprisingly off-the-beaten-path Tuscan town with an intact fortress (Rocca Aldobrandesca) and a splendid panoramic view on the surrounding countryside. We spent a couple of hours strolling around the historic center and visiting the Museum of History and Prehistory of the Valley of the River Fiora, which is free.
EAT IN MANCIANO
- Il Covo dei Briganti Biobar | Breakfast, wines, aperitivo, and to get local food souvenirs
- Osée | For the pizza
- Trattoria Lanterna Blu | Tuscan specialties
- Il Miravalle da Meloni | Restaurant trattoria with Tuscan food
9 TAROT GARDEN – UNIQUE GARDEN IN ITALY
Italy has plenty of secret spots, off-the-beaten-path destinations that are overlooked by foreign and local travelers alike. The Tarot Garden in Southern Tuscany is one of them.
About half an hour drive from Manciano and a few km from the coast lies a green hill that is home to 22 contemporary statues and artistic installations. The American-French artist Niki De Saint Phalle dedicated ten years of her life to the creation of the statues, the Tarot Garden being the most important art project of her life. Once you are inside, you start walking through colorful, giant figures, welcoming, and sinuous. The 22 major arcana of the tarots are realized using steel, cement, glasses, and lively ceramics. The artist said she drew inspiration from the Park of the Monster in the Tuscia region and from the statues in Barcelona’s Park Guell. You need a couple of hours to enjoy the visit to the Tarot Garden. Kids will love it too. What a unique thing to do on your Southern Tuscany road trip!
AND NOW HEAD TO THE COAST OF SOUTHERN TUSCANY
On your Southern Tuscany road trip, you can get to know a few of the best beaches near Rome like Capalbio and Ansedonia and even discover some of Italy’s most beautiful and secret beaches, and I’m talking about the Argentario Peninsula.
10 CAPALBIO TOWN AND BEACH
After visiting the Tarot Garden, before we headed to our campsite near the beach in Capalbio, we made a detour to the medieval town of Capalbio. We strolled around the old village. The place is quiet and off the main tourist tracks. We walked on the ancient defensive wall at sunset, soaking in the colors of the sky and of the countryside, romantic and relaxing.
The day after, we spent it exploring the beach, from the border with Lazio to Ansedonia. The quality of the sand is the same of the beaches in northern Lazio, dark yellow to grey. The water is slightly more clear, instead, and most enjoyable during the morning, when it’s calm. There are beaches equipped with a café, umbrellas, beds, and toilets (which you can use anyway), like the “Ultima Spiaggia”, and others where you can pitch your own umbrella if you have one.
The summer in Italy is very hot. You can’t spend hours laying on the sand without a shade. A hat, sunscreen, a refreshing bath here, and there is not the point: the temperature gets high, you need a shade for sure! The wind might deceive you.
11 ANSEDONIA BEACH
There is 10 km of sand between Capalbio Beach and Ansedonia Beach. The beach in Ansedonia is smaller and less touristic, and it features a very special attraction: a work of hydraulic engineer dating back to the Etruscans if not earlier. The bluff, which reaches out to the sea, is sharply cut to create a channel, and there are more galleries on the other side of the promontory. Climbing the stairs up to the top of the cliff, you can admire the lovely view on the bay. The top of the promontory hosts the ancient Roman town of “Cosa”, the rest of the acropolis with cyclopic walls, and an even more breathtaking panorama.
FALL IN LOVE WITH THE ARGENTARIO PENINSULA
Beach lovers will love the Argentario Peninsula. Three strips of land connect this rounded promontory to mainland Italy. If you have followed my Southern Tuscany road trip itinerary, you get here from the South, so the first place you reach is the town of Orbetello. You can book a B&B here, and you can eat in one of the many local restaurants. Orbetello lies on one of the strips of land that take you to the Argentario peninsula. Past Orbetello, you reach one of the best beaches in Italy.
12 La Feniglia Beach | biggest beach in Southern Tuscany
14km long and surrounded on its whole length by untouched pinewoods. The beach is so big you won’t have trouble getting all the space you need to relax and sunbathe. The view is beautiful: on one side, the promontory of the Argentario, with a glimpse of the cute dock of Porto Ercole village; on the other side, kilometers of sand and trees up to the mainland.
You can access the beach from the car park at the end of the road coming from Orbetello, where you’ll find also the campsite “Camping La Feniglia”, where we stayed.
13 Porto Ercole | must add to your Tuscany road trip
There are two main towns on the Argentario Peninsula. The smallest, Porto Ercole, is the one that deserves a visit for sure. Get your dinner here, a beer, or a gelato, and enjoy walking along the dock up to the ancient citadel on a refreshing summer evening.
14 Secret beaches of the Argentario
The last stop of our road trip in Southern Tuscany is one of the highlights. We explored a few of the little bays and beaches that are hidden in the lush vegetation of the Argentario peninsula. Our favorite is the tiny “Cala Gesso”. The water of the Argentario’s small bays is crystal-clear. You might need to hike down for half an hour to get to the bays: bring your sneakers, plenty of water, food, and your own beach umbrella.
I tried to be as concise and helpful as I could be. Southern Tuscany is dense of stunning villages and archeological sites to explore. We had to leave out a few places, so I will be back there. This Southern Tuscany road trip will make you a very happy traveler, let me know in the comments how you like my itinerary!