Paese del Tufa (Land of the Tufa)
The picturesque towns of Pitigliano, Sovana and Sorano form a triangle enclosing a dramatic landscape where local buildings have been constructed from the volcanic porous rock called tufa since Etruscan times. This area is called the Città del Tufa (City of the Tufa) or, less commonly, the Paese del Tufa (Land of the Tufa).
The Alta Maremma
The Alta (Upper) Maremma starts south of Livorno and continues down to Grosseto, incorporating Massa Marittima and the surrounding Colline Metallifere (metal-producing hills) that are now part of Unesco's European Geopark Network. It also covers inland territory including the hill towns south of the Crete Senesi and the mountainous terrain surrounding Monte Amiata.
Drawcards at this tranquil hill town include an eccentric yet endearing jumble of museums, an extremely handsome central piazza and largely intact medieval streets that are blessedly bereft of tour groups. Briefly under Pisan domination, Massa Marittima became an independent comune (city-state) in 1225 but was swallowed up by Siena a century later.
Check your car mirrors before screeching to a halt and indulging in an orgy of photography on the approach to this spectacularly sited hilltop stronghold. Organically sprouting from a volcanic rocky outcrop towering over the surrounding country, Pitigliano is surrounded by gorges on three sides, constituting a natural bastion completed to the east by a man-made fort.
Poor Grosseto. Its uninviting name, unattractive surrounds and lack of headline sites lead to it being ignored by most tourists, relegated to a mere navigational marker for travellers taking the coastal highway down to Rome. However, like all Tuscan cities it has a distinct character and is worth a short stop.
Sorano's setting isn't quite as dramatic as Pitigliano's, but it comes pretty close. Astride a rocky outcrop, its weatherworn stone houses are built along a ridge overlooking the Lente gorge and river. Below the ridgeline are cantine (cellars) dug out of tufa, as well as a series of terraced gardens, many hidden from public view.
Once an island, this rugged promontory came to be linked to the mainland by an accumulation of sand that is now the isthmus of Orbetello. Further sandy bulwarks form the Tombolo della Giannella and Tombolo di Feniglia to the north and south. They enclose a lagoon that is now a protected nature reserve.
Set on a balance-beam isthmus running through a lagoon south of the Parco Regionale della Maremma, Orbetello is a relatively laid-back seaside destination. Its modest main attraction is the cathedral, which has retained its 14th-century Gothic facade despite being remodelled in the Spanish style during the 16th century.
Tuscany's most significant Etruscan tombs are found within the Parco Archeologico 'Città del Tufa', 1.5km east of town. Interpretative panels in Italian and English impart interesting information about the site. There are four tombs in total. The Tomba dei Demoni Alati (Tomb of the Winged Demons) was discovered in 2004 and features a headless recumbent figure in terracotta.
Riserva Naturale WWF Lago di Burano
This saltwater flat 10km east of Monte Argentario is home to a nature reserve run by the WWF. Covering 410 hectares and stopping about 7km short of the regional frontier with Lazio, it is typical of the Maremma in its flora (600 species including spontaneous orchids) but is interesting above all for its migratory bird life.