Tuscany by the Sea: Talamone

I thought I knew many things about Tuscany. I thought I’d seen many places in Tuscany.

Now I know I didn’t.

How do I know that? It’s easy: when literally every day you discover something new on the region you’ve lived in for already a year, you get to know how little you’ve got to know so far.

But I’m patient. And generally generous, so I’m trying to share my new knowledge with you, so that if you decide to come and visit this magical part of Italy, you know exactly what you can choose from and not to miss the things and places you might be interested in most of all.

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Talamone is one of my latest discoveries. I learned this very picturesque place was right under my nose thanks to Mr. Bond and his Quantum of Solace. Surprised? So was I.

Do you remember that scene when 007 was on one of those snow-white yachts of his heading to a rocky cliff to make peace with his old acquaintance Renè Mathis? Where do you think Mathis’ splendid villa was situated? Exactly: under the burning summer sun of Talamone in the province of Grosseto, at the seaside of the Tuscan Maremma.

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And as far as the region of Grosseto got onto the Le Monde latest list of 20 travel destinations to dicover in 2017, we will grant it the deserved attention. Why not start with Talamone then?

The area of Talamone is inhabited since the Neolithic age thanks to the shelter granted to the local population by the numerous grottoes hidden in its rocky coastal cliffs.

As far as the name of Talamone is concerned, there are several theories on its origin. The fist one is charmingly mythological.

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According to the Argonauts legend, when the expedition was on its way back to Greece, the waters of the Tyrrhenian sea met the Argo ship with a scary storm that destroyed the boat’s wheel. Out of control, it was about to crack against the cliffs. The brave Telamone, who made part of the legendary crew, decided to sacrifice his own life to save the mission and his friends on board the ship. He used his gigantic body and power to cushion the impact of the ship against the cliffs. The Argo was safe, but the hero fell dead into the sea. When the storm was over and the Argo made its safe landfall in the calm waters of the bay, the sea gave back the body of Telamone to his friends, who managed to bury him and founded the city to commemorate their friend’s memory and heroic act.

According to a more prosaic version, the name derives from the Greek word telamon meaning a belt  – an object that recalls the form of the gulf of Talamone.

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After the Etruscan age was over, the dominion of the Roman Empire brought to the area of Talamone commerce and its deriving advantages due to the proximity of the Aurelian Way and the possibility to reach the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago.

One more historical curiosity of the time was the destruction of Talamone by Sulla, a glorious Roman general, after the city allowed his enemy in the civil war to disembark in the port of the city.

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The fall of Rome meant rapid decrease for Talamone: in the abscence of the Empire’s ingeneering genious and care its lands got swampy, commercial activities almost ceased, the surrounding areas were left by their inhabitants and pillaged by the Goths living the city itself in ruins.

The end of the 10th century brought about the return of some fresh blood to the city with the construction of the Abbey of Saint Rabano surrounded by the belt of high walls that served to protect the church and the inner lands from the attacks of the Saracen pirates.

In 1303 Talamone was purchased by the Republic of Siena desirous to gain the access to the sea. Under Siena Talamone was reborn: the city got repopulated, a church, new houses and buildings were erected, the protective wall grew around it together with the fortress and its four square towers. The seabed depth of the port was deepened and wooden jetties were constructed on the stone foundation. The city was given a new life.

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Talamone showed great resistance to the corsairs of the Mediterranean thanks to its new defensive structure. Despite this in the 16th century it was attacked and partially destructed by “Barbarossa” Khair El Din, one of the most scary pirates of the epoch. But, as the Phoenix itself, Talamone got reborn from its own ashes.

At the end of the dominion of Siena in 1555 Talamone was subjected by Florence of the Medici family. Then, until 1707, the area was under the Spanish reign and then after that of Austria till 1736.

The spread of malaria one more time put Talamone on its knees for a long period of time untill Leopoldo II, the Great Duke of Tuscany, in 1824 took care of Talamone reclaiming the area and reviving the agricultural and commercial life of the city.

In 1944 the port of Talamone underwent the bombing by the air forces of the Allies and, later, became a minefield created by the Nazis in retreat. Fortunately, none of these events damaged the fortress and the city wall that reached our times almost intact.

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Talamone was even mentioned by the great Dante in the Purgatory part of his Divine Comedy. Moreover, the city used to host and still hosts some very important and famous personalities such as Giuseppe Garibaldi, the King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele III, the King of Egypt Farouk, the Dutch Royal family.

We could conclude that Talamone is quite an exclusive resort, so these might be some tips to keep in mind if you choose to stay here for your summer vacation:

As far as the city is situated on the rocky cliffs of the coast, it has no ‘easy’ and ‘calm’ beaches. Thus, if you are not much of a swimmer, it will be tough for you to have fun in these dangerous waters. It is definitely not a perfect place for a family vacation unless you prefer to enjoy the stunning view of the sea from beside a swimming pool.

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Talamone is more like a place of contrasts: it is either for the very rich to enjoy the beauty of the place in a sumptuous villa, or for those on an economic trip with a camper. As an alternative, you could choose any seaside location around Grosseto and come to visit Talamone, situated some 30 minutes away from the former.

In winter Talamone is deserted. It is a city that lives the season.

The location in question is an advantage with its being so close to Monte Argentario, Grosseto and the Natural Park of Maremma. It is all about the nature to admire and enjoy.

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The most comfortable means of reaching Talamone is by car. There’s also a free parking right under the city wall (white stripes only). It is not enormous, though.

Talamone is a perfect location for windsurf, kite-surf and snorkelling.

Here it is possible to rent a boat or book a charter trip to some of the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago.

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And now the only thing left to say, or better, to do, is to book your summer vacation in Tuscany. Maybe I convinced you to choose Talamone. Let me know whatsoever!

Photo credit: Machs Gut ©

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