Everyone knows Tuscany is a Paradise for photographers. It offers amazing natural and urban landscapes, wilderness and architecture, cold mountains and hot seas, all in a relative small area. So it’s easy to take decent pictures. But as a photographer once said: the point is not to take a picture of a beautiful woman, but to take a beautiful picture of a woman.
This picture was made in Maremma, between the promontory of Punta Ala and Le Rocchette, not so far from the ancient seaside town of Castiglione della Pescaia. The small island behind the rock that looks like a giant puma head is called Isolotto dello Sparviero (Islet of the Hawk) or Isola della Troia (Island of the Sow): according to legend, a sow, chased by a hunter, threw herself into the sea along with her piglets. So the mother became the main islet and the babies became the small rocks all around.
Originally called Punta Troia, Punta Ala (which can be roughly translated as “Cape Wing”) was given this name gave by Italian aviator and Fascist leader Italo Balbo who bought the property in the 1930s.
Formerly the Tyrrhenian Sea was infested by pirates and smugglers who attacked merchant vessels carrying goods of all kinds. In particular, in the fifteenth century, the Turks began to threaten the coasts of Maremma. That’s why, since the Romans, the only way of defense was to build towers strategically located.
In the sixteenth century, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I dei Medici, applied a militarization of the territory by creating a network of coastal watchtowers, building new efficient fortifications and repairing old ones. This route, that protected the region from the dangers of the sea, originally connected Livorno to Monte Argentario and Porto Santo Stefano. A very peculiar kind of cavalrymen were controlling this path: the Knights of Saint Stephen. That’s why it’s called Strada dei Cavalleggeri (Cavalrymen Road).
The military took care of the defense as well as the collection of taxes, duties or customs of those who passed by the area to sell their goods or even just to go with their flocks. They also repressed smuggling and prevented the unloading of cargos suspected of carrying diseases. So this route was also known as Via della Dogana or Via delle Dogane (Customs Road); in particular, the section of the Strada dei Cavalleggeri that goes from Punta Ala to Le Rocchette takes the name of Via delle Dogane Sud.
This ancient path is still there today with its typical macchia mediterranea (a shrubland biome of the Mediterranean region), its towers and a stunning view overlooking the sea. It’s also a good place from where it’s possible to see many islands of the Tuscan Archipelago such as Isola del Giglio (Giglio Island), Isola d’Elba (Elba Island) and Isola di Montecristo (Island of Montecristo).
Via delle Dogane Sud is great for trekking or mountain bikes. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to reach Le Rocchette: since the ‘70s, the last kilometer of the path is blocked by gates. The whole area between Torre di Cala Galera (one of the watchtowers) and Forte delle Rocchette (the fort) is privately owned by the Lucifero marquees. The good thing – if you have enough money – is that you can rent it and even sleep inside the tower. Maybe it’s not a panorama for every pocket!
Photo made with a (borrowed) Nikon D800 and processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.