Tuscan Maremma


What to do in Capalbio and surroundings

Visit to the village of Capalbio in the Tuscan Maremma

Capalbio is a town in the province of Grosseto located on the border between Tuscany and Lazio. The hamlet stands on a low hill in an enviable position, less than 10 kilometers from the sea and not far from the Argentario, while Grosseto is about 50 kilometers away. Nicknamed “the little Athens” due to its great cultural wealth, Capalbio attracts thousands of tourists every year both for the beauty of the village and for its beaches.

Porta Senese and walls of Capalbio
Porta Senese and walls of Capalbio (Photo by Matteo Vinattieri / CC BY)

The origin of the name of the place is uncertain; it could derive from the Latin “caput albulum” or white head, or from “caput Albii” of Albio.

The area of Capalbio is inhabited since the bronze age but the first mention of it is in the 805 when its castle was donated by Charlemagne to the Abbazia dei Santi Anastasio e Vincenzo alle Tre Fontane. Between the 13th and the 15th centuries, the castle and the village of Capalbio became a domain of the counts Aldobrandeschi before and then of Orsini and Siena. This is a period of intense urban development during which are realized great works as the completion of the fortress and the renovation of the walls. Things got worse since the 16th century when, following the conquest of the Medici Capalbio was hit by a serious economic and demographic crisis. During the Granducato di Toscana it has lost its administrative autonomy and was marred by the plagues that afflicted the Maremma: malaria and brigandage.

What to do in Capalbio, guide to the visit

Capalbio has long been a renowned tourist resort, ideal for a relaxing and seaside holiday. In this guide we will try to see all the main attractions of Capalbio and its surroundings and also which are the main beaches in the area.

Walls of Capalbio

Like many other towns in Tuscany, Capalbio is also a village of medieval origin and in fact, approaching the historic center you will immediately notice two things: the walls and an imposing crenellated tower that stands out in the center of the town. You must know that Capalbio has not one but two defensive walls. The first walls were built by the Aldobrandeschi between the eleventh and twelfth centuries while the second was built by the Sienese during the fifteenth century. The walls have been very well preserved thanks to some recent restorations. Walking along their patrol walkway, you can enjoy a great view.

Rocca Aldobrandesca

The tower that rises in the center of the village is part of the ancient Rocca Aldobrandesca. Originally the fortress belonged to the Abbazia delle Tre Fontane in Rome but in the 13th century it passed to the Aldobranschi family who owned numerous territories and castles throughout southern Tuscany. The fortress is located at the highest point of the village and is composed of the tower and a noble palace of the Renaissance period: Palazzo Collacchioni. Inside the palace you can admire some refined frescoed rooms where remarkable antiques are kept, among which a fortepiano that was played by Giacomo Puccini stands out. The visit to the Castle of Capalbio can only end with the tower which offers a truly special view that goes from the roofs of the houses to the sea.

What to do in Capalbio: The tower of the fortress in Capalbio
The tower of the fortress in Capalbio (Photo by Luca Aless / CC BY)

Chiesa di San Nicola

The Church of San Nicola is located in the central square, a stone’s throw from the fortress. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries but renovated in the 15th century, the church retains some elements of interest such as some Renaissance frescoes of the Umbrian-Sienese school (15th-16th century) and some capitals sculpted with plant and zoomorphic decorations.

Not far from the church, there is one of those little big surprises that the villages of Tuscany always manage to give: a marble head of the emperor Hadrian of the second century AD, perhaps coming from the ancient city of Cosa, which lies beyond above the so-called Arco Santo. Outside the walls that delimit the historic center, but still in the village, we finally find the Oratory of Providence. The church was built towards the end of the eighteenth century as an extension of a pre-existing chapel that was born to venerate an image of the Madonna. In the chapel you can admire some sixteenth-century frescoes attributed to the workshop of Pinturicchio.

Church of San Nicola in Capalbio
Church of San Nicola (Photo by Matteo Vinattieri / CC BY)

Oratorio della Provvidenza

Outside the walls that delimit the historic center, but still in town we finally find the Oratorio della Provvidenza. The church was built towards the end of the eighteenth century as an extension of a pre-existing chapel that was born to venerate an image of the Madonna. In the chapel you can admire some sixteenth-century frescoes attributed to the workshop of Pinturicchio.

What to do around Capalbio

Lago di Burano

The surroundings of Capalbio are very appreciated by who love the sea and also by who is interested in nature. In addition to the many beaches that make up the Maremma Coast we recommend an oasis protected by the WWF at the Lago di Burano. The oasis is close to the sea separated only by a narrow strip of sand. On a shore of the Lake you will also find the XVI century Torre di Buranaccio.

Tower of Buranaccio near Capalbio
Tower of Buranaccio (Photo by Etrusko25 / CC BY)

Tarot Garden

Located in Gravicchio about 8 kilometers from Capalbio, the Tarot Garden is one of the most famous destinations in the whole area. The garden is the work of the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle who drew inspiration from the Parc Güell in Barcelona (the work of Gaudì) and from the Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo. In the Tarot Garden you can admire a series of large fantastic statues representing the 22 major arcana of the tarot. The Tarot Garden is a unique work of its kind that is appreciated for its magical atmosphere and for the close union between art and architecture.

The construction of the park required more than 17 years of work starting from 1979; several artists participated in its creation, such as the sculptor Jean Tinguely (husband of Niki de Saint Phalle), the painter Alan Davie and Marina Karella.

For all information on timetables and tickets, I recommend you visit the official website of the garden.

The Garden of the Tarot cards near Capalbio
The Garden of the Tarot cards (Photo by Simone Ramella / CC BY)

Beaches and sea

Capalbio has a long sandy beach that stretches continuously for 12 kilometers, from the promontory of Ansedonia to the border with Lazio. Along the coast of Capalbio there are several bathing establishments, including some of the most famous in the area, and also large stretches of free beach. The seabed is shallow and the water is often crystal clear, so these beaches are also suitable for a holiday with children. The area is also very popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers.

In the area closest to Ansedonia, there is Playa La Torba, the beach with black sand, where there are the first bathing establishments, a stretch of free beach and a nice walk that leads up to the Ansedonia promontory. Near the Lake of Burano there is the Macchiatonda, which is largely free and wild even if here too there are some clubs and establishments. Finally, continuing towards the border with Lazio, you reach the locality of Chiarore where the famous Ultima Spiaggia beach resort is located.

If these are enough for you the beaches of Capalbio, I suggest you also read the guide on the Argentario where you will find many other ideas for a holiday by the sea.

How to get to Capalbio

By train: Capalbio has a train station near the lake of Burano, from there you have to take a bus to get to the village. Probably the best choice is to go to Orbetello by train an then to get the bus 120 Tiemme lines.

By bus: from Grosseto line 390 Tiemme till Orbetello the line 120.

By car:
From Florence (197 km) you have to take the Raccordo Autostradale Firenze-Siena till Siena (128 km) and the SS223 till Grosseto. Then Strada Statale 1 Via Aurelia E80 untill the exit Albinia-Giannella and continue on SR74 till the turn on Strada Provinciale di Capalbio.
From Rome (130 km) A1 till the exit for Capalbio.

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