Sustainable agriculture and typical products
The Metalliferous Hills area is also characterised by an important food and wine and agricultural tradition, which the Park is committed to promoting and enhancing, with particular attention to those who combine quality food products with sustainable production methods. The objective of qualifying and enhancing typical local products generates important cultural, social, economic and environmental benefits. These producers contribute to maintaining the landscape and preserving the delicate balance of the environment, thus achieving a twofold objective that benefits the entire Park community. But let’s see where the food places are in the territory of the Metalliferous Hills National Park.
In the territory of Massa Marittima, in the Marsiliana area the Azienda Agricola Campo Ruffaldo run by the Guazzini family for about 70 years, cultivates and selects the best local grains, produced in the Maremma region. For some years the company has been the driving force behind the DRAGO chain (Distretto Rurale Agricolo Gastronomico Organizzato – Organised Rural Agricultural and Gastronomic District) and thanks to its mill it produces local flour from ancient grains, with an experience that allows it to bring to the table pasta and products that are a primary care for the wellbeing of man and Nature.
Also in Massa Marittima, in the locality of Cura Nuova, is the cheese factory Saba Formaggi where excellent pecorino and caprino cheeses are produced. In recent years, in order to improve the quality of the milk, the company has been working with the University of Pisa’s Faculty of Agriculture on an experiment to create a pecorino cheese that fights “bad” cholesterol.
As far as cheeses are concerned, Monterotondo Marittimo is home to the “geothermal” cheese dairy Podere Paterno where more than a thousand sheep are reared. Production varies from fresh to more mature products, using “raw milk” to maintain the natural aroma in the cheese. In its continuous search for perfection and balance, Podere Paterno is environmentally aware and therefore uses the geothermal heat available in the area for its production cycle. It also uses a photovoltaic system to produce electricity.
In Montieri, the typical product par excellence is the chestnut. The whole area is rich in chestnut groves where many of the specimens of Castanea sativa are centuries old. The association Castagna Alta Maremma protects and promotes the value of this product, which is eaten both fresh and dried. After the chestnuts have been dried in the drying room, they are peeled and taken to the mill to be ground into a high-quality flour. Unlike other flours made from dried fruit, chestnut flour has a very low fat content, so much so that some dieticians recommend using it in place of other flours. From a nutritional standpoint, it is high in calories. Rich in complex carbohydrates (starches) and with a fair amount of protein, it contains about 3.7% fat and is a valuable source of minerals and vitamin content.
As far as oil is concerned, the Frantoio San Luigi in Basse di Caldana, municipality of Gavorrano, produces extra virgin olive oil from olives harvested within a radius of 40 kilometres from the farm. Since 2009, the mill has been 100% carbon free: the only energy sources used are the sun and the olive stones, which are the source of electricity and heat, respectively, both of which have zero impact and are produced directly on the farm. Thanks to this commitment in defence of the environment, Frantoio San Luigi has become part of the Association “Agricoltori Custodi della Comunità del Cibo a Energie Rinnovabili della Toscana” (Renewable Energy Food Community Farmers of Tuscany), the first world food community using clean and renewable energy, made up of Tuscan entrepreneurs whose priority is environmental sustainability and the use of renewable energy in their production processes.
One of the first businesswomen to join the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism Forum was Anastasia Vecchiarelli and her family, from the Aziende Agricole Montegrappa and Santhia small family-run farms, located a stone’s throw from the renowned “Castel di Pietra”, or Castle of Dante’s Pia, in the municipality of Gavorrano. The two CCPB-certified organic farms produce olive oil, vegetables, saffron, aromatic plants, white chickpeas and black chickpeas, and offer numerous educational workshops and experimental archaeology related to food, as well as olive and saffron harvesting experiences.
With a past as a TV and Cinema editor, Chiara Bizzarri returned to her homeland a few years ago and together with her husband and family of origin, gave life to her dream: to live in a healthy way in the midst of Nature and to be gentle and respectful in the way she cultivates. Thus the Farm and Agritourism Poggio Tondo was born just a stone’s throw from the important Etruscan site in the Municipality of Scarlino, in Pian d’Alma, immersed in the setting of the Mediterranean maquis just a few minutes away from the sea, from where you can enjoy unforgettable trekking and biking experiences. Agriturismo Poggio Tondo is part of a farm that is the guardian of ancient grains and typical Tuscan horticultural crops.
It is the custodian of a unique and exclusive bird life that offers wildlife-watchers the chance to observe the sea jay up close, the roe deer grazing at dawn among the wild orchids, the fox curiously approaching, the wild boar cubs in the woods searching for tubers. Park biodiversity officers often work with these young, innovative companies to check the health of biotopes and the presence of endemic species.
In the Metalliferous Hills there is the Monteregio Wine Route, which brings together many wineries that produce the fine DOC Monteregio di Massa Marittima wine, as well as wine shops, holiday farms and restaurants.
Of particular note is the Monteregio di Massa Marittima Slow Food convoy which collaborates with the Park on many projects. Of particular note is the project “minerality of taste” through which various initiatives (market exhibitions, local markets, events, tastings and cooking classes) for locals, schools, visitors, tourists and experts lead to the discovery of the relationship between typical local products and our geology.
There are numerous certified products from the Tuscan tradition and even more specifically from the Maremma tradition. The Park boasts, within its boundaries, 54 Traditional Agricultural Products (PAT), 3 Slowfood products, 2 DOC wine labels, two IGP products and one DOP product.
In the territory of the Park there is also the “Santa Paolina” experimental farm in Follonica, which is part of the Institute for BioEconomics – IBE – which was born from the merger of the Institute of Biometeorology (IBIMET) and the e the Institute for the Valorisation of Wood and Tree Species (IVALSA), which over the years have developed expertise and complementarity in the strategic bioeconomy sector. The main task of the Santa Paolina farm in Follonica is to conserve plant biodiversity and support the research carried out by the IBE. The farm, which has been in operation since 1966, has important collections of pear, peach, olive, kaki, apple and quince varieties.
Among the “0 km” initiatives, we should mention the experience of the Orti di Maremma a biodynamic and regenerative social garden, the emerging Emporio delle Vie dell’Orto and the Farmer’s Bus, a group of producers and buyers who have organised a distribution of agricultural products, buying from local farms and distributing vegetables, vegetables, jams, baked goods, meat, eggs and fruit around the Metalliferous Hills with minibuses. This way they sell local products at a transparent price, help businesses and improve the environment and biodiversity.
Breeding Donkeys at Podere Ponte alle Catene (Puntone di Scarlino)
A few hundred metres north of MAPS (Archaeological Museum of Portus Scabris) – one of the gates of the Park – which can also be reached by a scenic cycle path overlooking the Padule di Scarlino, is the Podere Ponte alle Catene in the hamlet of Puntone di Scarlino, which is an institution for the entire Tuscan Maremma. Here in fact Bandite di Scarlino an organisation in the municipality of Scarlino, has been taken care of a very special breed of donkey for a long time: the Miccio Amiatino. The same one used for many years in the tunnels of the surrounding mines. The animals on the farm live in the wild and can play on the edge of the Scarlino Marshes. At Podere Ponte alle Catene it is possible to get close to donkeys and do activities (educational donkey trekking, onotherapy, someday trekking) with donkeys thanks to the passionate professional operators of AsiniAmo.
Donkey milk is the protagonist of a project involving the “Meyer” University Paediatric Hospital of Florence, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Pisa and the Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Latium and Tuscany, which has led to the certification of the product, a valuable substitute for cow’s milk for infants suffering from lactose intolerance.
The use of donkey milk is not limited to the paediatric field; it is also used in geriatric nutrition and in the cosmetic industry. Market demand is increasing due to its high digestibility, low fat content, natural antibacterial effect (due to the presence of lysozyme) and vitamin D and calcium content: a real nectar.
The breeding stable is designed by the University of Pisa STPA (Science of Animal Production and Technology): Amiata donkeys roam undisturbed here and in the fields.
Contrary to popular saying, the donkey is a very intelligent animal, is very sociable, loves to be in the company of humans and is very sensitive. It has a nice soft and fluffy coat and loves to be scratched on the head. If you get down on your knees the donkey will trust you even more and approach without fear.
Donkeys can be easily observed along the cycle path between Puntone di Scarlino and Follonica, part of the Tirrenica bike route.
The company Bandite di Scarlino Regional Forest Agricultural Complex
The company Bandite di Scarlino owned by the Region of Tuscany occupies an area of approximately 8700 hectares, of which approximately 3900 in the municipality of Scarlino, 3000 in the municipality of Follonica, 1450 in the municipality of Castiglione della Pescaia and 380 in the municipality of Gavorrano.
It carries out agricultural and forestry activities aimed at enhancing, preserving and protecting ecosystems.
Pure red partridges and pheasants are bred for restocking in protected areas and in the free territory of the province of Grosseto.
Since 2005, the farm has been breeding Amiata donkeys with the aim of preserving biodiversity, encouraging milk production, onotherapy and trekking on donkeys.
The farm also has a nucleus of Maremmana cows bred in the wild in the damp air of Scarlino.