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Bringing Back the Brigands

3423143521_ab39a186b3 At the moment, we in the Tuscan Maremma are getting ready for the summer festival Vivamus. In its inaugural year, the festival has set itself the very hard task of encapsulating everything the locals (and foreigners-turned-locals like me) love about the Maremma- the infectious traditions, the simple beauty of its countryside, the food... and wine! It's a lot of squeeze into four days, but we're talking about Tuscans here and if they know anything, it's how throw an incredible party.

As well as an excuse to gorge yourself and dance the night away, Vivamus promises to showcase the little things that are unique to the Maremma. It's difficult to describe, but this picturesque corner of Southern Tuscany has, over the centuries, defined itself through a cuisine, a culture and even a way of life that you won't find elsewhere in the region. Few things sum up this individuality better in the minds of the locals than the Maremman brigands, which is why Vivamus has dedicated the last day of festivities to them. In Maremman history and folklore (often the two run together, so you can't always tell what's truth and what's fiction), the brigands were criminals who arose in response to the injustices of post-unified Italy in the 19th century. The most famous brigand, Domenico Tiburzi, became a legend in the eyes of the Maremmani, sort of like an Italian version of Robin Hood. Tiburzi may have been a thief and a murder, but he never robbed the poorer social classes, or so the legends say. Instead he revolted in their name, forcing rich landowners to pay a tax known as the “tassa del brigantaggio” in exchange for guaranteed protection. Brigands may have been rife all over the Two Sicilies, but their presence in Central Italy was limited to the Maremma- a fact the locals continue to proclaim with the utmost “orogolio” (pride). And it's not hard to see why. Over the decades Tiburzi has become the poster child for the irrepressible spirit of country Tuscany, a symbol of a people who simply refused to be repressed when everyone else around them took it lying down. When he died in a blaze of glory in 1896, the Maremman Brigandage died with him. But for one evening, the Vivamus festival and the Maremmani are bringing the brigands back. On Friday July 18, the town of Manciano will be overrun by modern brigands looking for lost treasure. Tourists can also take part in the hunt and they'll be prizes and, of course, enough food, wine and festivities to see you through the night! It's not exactly a historical re-enactment, but it promises to be an incredible evening reliving a slice of history that has helped shape this small corner of Italy. So if you're anywhere near Southern Tuscany from July 15-18, come join us for the festa! This guestpost was written by Elisa Scarton - an Australian journalist who came to Tuscany to teach English and quite simply never left. Foreigner-turned-local, she now writes a blog about Tuscany and the Maremma, a corner of Tuscany that is particularly close to her heart, in hopes of inspiring other intrepid travellers to get a taste of 'la dolce vita'. The first picture was taken by Dimitri.