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Vintage Tuscany

La Maremma is the much-loved Italian province’s wine darling, and the best time to sample its pleasures is now.

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Alain Ducasse's new inn, L'Andana.  

As Italy’s celebrated harvest season winds down, it’s the perfect time to explore La Maremma, Tuscany’s wine region di ora. Dante famously wrote that even the wildest beasts would find the Maremma inhospitable. That’s a tough reputation to live down, but today, Italy’s famed poet would not recognize coastal Tuscany’s former swampy backwater. Miles of neat rows of fat grapes have taken prime position up and down the tamed coast, five-star hotels have cropped up among the vines, and renovated farmhouses are now the country seats of some of Rome’s most elite families. The region is also home to majestic stands of cypress trees, charming fourteenth-century villages, and rustic country restaurants. But what sets the Maremma apart from Tuscan cousins like Siena and Lucca is its romantic seaside drives through lush vineyards that overlook the cobalt Mediterranean.

Alain Ducasse was among the first to recognize the Maremma’s potential: This summer, he opened L’Andana, a 33-room luxury inn near the sea on the former estate of the grand duke of Tuscany, and he plans to have his own winery up and running in the next few years (39-0564-944-321; from $350). A smart move, it appears, as Maremman vintages have garnered an increasingly high profile on international wine lists in recent years, and producers from all over the world are taking notice of the warm coastal climate and inexpensive land. And New York’s own Italian champions Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali recently bought a vineyard here, joining local heavyweights like the Antinori and Biondi Santi families.

Plan a tasting itinerary that includes stops at Fattoria Le Pupille, one of the top producers of Morellino di Scansano, as well as legendary labels like Ornellaia and Sassicaia, where a prime 1997 bottle will run you up to $150—a veritable bargain compared with New York prices (try Sassicaia’s Tenuta San Guido, a robust Cabernet with a spicy, smoky finish). Beyond its oenophilic delights, the Maremma’s pleasures include exploring the hill towns of Sovana and Pitigliano—medieval masterpieces that have so far not been beset by the crowds of central Tuscany—and walking Porto Ercole, which, after summer’s posh yachts sail away, reverts to a quiet fishing village. Make time to visit Sovana’s imposing duomo and to wander the narrow streets of Pitigliano’s old Jewish ghetto. There’s also a fantastic spa at the Hotel Terme in nearby Saturnia, or if you’d rather avoid the hotel’s well-trod baths, head to the natural cascatelle (spring) close by. Bring a couple of bottles of local vintage (a decent Morellino variety like Mazzei will set you back only $20), and soak in the hot pools until after sunset; when the stars come out, it’s one of the most romantic spots in the region.

For hearty Tuscan fare, make a reservation at La Taverna del Pittore in the village of Bolgheri, or try the roasted pigeon at San Vincenzo’s Gambero Rosso, whose wine list is as reasonably priced as it is long (the cellar holds 12,000 bottles). When it’s time to sleep off the vino, couples can hide away at L’Andana, one of the Maremma’s more glamorous lodging options. Or, if you’re traveling with a group, rent a villa. Near Bolgheri is a sixteenth-century converted farmhouse that sleeps twelve and offers views all the way to Elba. It’s a relative bargain at $9,000 a week and includes a full staff and a key to a private, pine-lined beach, a privilege as coveted as access to Gramercy Park (dolphinprop.com).



If You’re Going To . . .
Turks and Caicos
At the Palms, a five-star boutique resort opening on Provo’s Grace Bay Beach in January, guests will be treated to sorbet, aroma-therapy mists, and personal iPods while they lounge by the pool. Seventy-two suites feature ocean-view terraces, high-tech amenities, and mahogany four-posters outfitted with 450 thread-count linens (866-877-7256; from $750).

Scottsdale
Frank Lloyd Wright fans can see how the famed architect lived and worked when his private living quarters at Taliesin West open to the public for the first time on November 1. His former bedroom, seating area, and work space have been carefully restored to reflect the simple fifties’ interiors—desert masonry, low, modular furniture—Wright loved (480-860-2700).

St. Barts
When the Hotel St-Barth Isle de France opened its small but chic Molton Brown spa two years ago, the pampered set rejoiced: Finally, a place on the tony isle to get a decent facial. Now the Hôtel Guanahani throws its scented eye pillow into the ring with a 5,000-square-foot Clarins spa debuting in December. The requisite rubs and scrubs will be administered amid lush gardens and ocean views (590 590-27-6660).

South Beach
Restaurateur Tim Spuches (of New York’s Veruka and the Park) recently wrested the Marlin Hotel from Chris Blackwell’s lodging portfolio. Located on Collins Avenue and best known for its legendary recording studio, the Marlin will unveil its spiffed-up suites this November along with a new Vietnamese-tinged restaurant (305-604-3595; from $175).


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