The Province of Grosseto is situated in the southern part of Tuscany and is the largest province. The area between the sea and the mountains is called Maremma that derives from the Spanish word marismas, marsh. From north, right before the seaside resort of Follonica, on the border of the Province of Livorno, the province is extending north-east until the medieval town of Massa Marttima, to the borders of the Province of Siena, towards south-east until the Mount Amiata until reaching the Latium in the most southern part.
The invasion of the Romans started in the 3rd century b.C. from Vulci that later on destroyed the Etruscan town of Roselle. From the 9th until the 13th century, the province of Grosseto was under the dominion of the Aldobrandeschi family who built great part of the fortresses and castles in the area of Grosseto.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the Aldobrandeschi were deprived from the Sienese who again, in the half of the 16th century were substituted by the Florentines.
The territory of the Maremma Grossetana until the 19th century was nearly a marshy area; people died from malaria and the medium age was quite low, about twenty years and there were also lots of children dying after a few months of life.
The first land reclamation was made by the Grandukes Lorraine and during the Fascist period by Mussolini. During the summer months, flagellated by mosquitoes , the state authorized the population to fade away into the hinterland hills around Scansano. The marsh did not allow to cultivate the land and therefore the province was the poorest in Tuscany. The main resource of this rough land was hunting, but after the land reclamation, the first step for economic growth was made. The Province of Grosseto is the less known of Tuscany, but definitely not the less fascinating.
Within the hinterland, gentle hills covered partly with thick forests, whereas along the coast there are still today long desert beaches and pine forest, all framed by a blue sky. The variations of the sea level have created and destroyed islands: the most famous and greatest of the Province of Grosseto is the Island of Giglio, followed then by Giannutri and Montecristo. The Argentario Area was once an island, of which has remained the beautiful Lagoon of Orbetello. Vetulonia and Roselle, at the times of the Etruscans were directly on the sea. In the whole province there are today natural reserves (Marsiliana, La Pietra, Poggio Spedaletto, Monte Leoni, Diaccia Botrona, Dune di Follonica, Oasis and March of Scarlino).
The Natural Reserve Parco Naturale della Maremma is stretching is starting from Principina a Mare until Talamone, the Natural Reserve of Orbetello, the coastal Feniglia dunes and the Burano lake.
The most important symbols to represent the Maremma, are the buttero, the local cowboy, and the wild boar. The name buttero derives from the greek word botér that means herdsman. When the Maremma was still subdivided by large landowners, the buttero’s task was to tame the animals living in liberty in the countryside. The animals that had to be tamed were the long-horned and particularly robust Maremma cow and the strong Maremma horse, a crossbreed of arab horses. Both animals are the ideal breeds to survive within the marsh.
Today, large landowners don’t exist anymore and therefore, the tradition of the buttero has been conserved by the state. A famous legend tells that in 1890 Buffalo Bill and his cowboys were on a tour in Italy. Count Caetani di Sermoneta saw him in a show and had the idea to organize a competitiom between the American and Maremma cowboys. The winner should win the prize of thousand lire that today correspond approximately to 5 million Euro, plus the takings of the competion. At the end there was no winner, as nobody thought about fixing the competition rules.
It is said that Buffalo Bill escaped with the money and retained afterwards that he was cheated.
As already said before, the wood and the hunting were the main resources of the Maremma. In autumn started the hunting of wild boar within the thick forests or the search of mushrooms, a custom that has remained until today. This is mirrored also in the specialities of this area that vary from game to fish. Savoury the tortelli with ragu (sort of Ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta cheese served with meat tomato sauce), or Pappardelle alla Lepre (kind of large tagliatelle pasta with hare in tomato sauce), Risotto ai Funghi (Mushroom rice) as well as the special wild boar salamis.