Tony Sylvester enters the wilderness in search of the perfect jacket.
Two hours north of the bustle of Rome, and one hour south of the gentility of Florence lies the province of Maremma. While the surrounding region of Tuscany will evoke olive groves, vineyards and the renaissance hotspots of the Grand Tour in the mind’s eye of the international tourist, Maremma is an altogether different proposition. Jutting limestone cliffs border hardy, impenetrable forest, dotted with imposingly fortified hilltop towns, many now crumbling and deserted. The Maremma has always been a wild place in the Italian imagination, its swamps and woods hiding pirates, brigands, myth and darkness. Dante himself likened it to a particularly grim circle of his hell: “Even the beasts who abound in (its) wilds would call this inhospitable.”
But it is to these beasts that we owe the creation of the Tuscan hunting Jacket. For alongside its foul and dangerous reputation, the Maremma is a veritable Eden for hunters of game. On the lookout for the majestic Cinghiale or the bountiful pheasants and larks, aristocratic sportsmen started flocking to the Maremma inspired, in part, by the bucolic paintings of the region by a group of late 19th century Impressionist painters, the Macchiaioli. The stars of these romantic images of Italy’s Wild West were the Butteri or cowboys - perched on steeds in big hats and a local fustian coat.
And what a coat it is. The visiting sportsmen recognised its robust practicalities; especially its deep sweeping front pockets and ingenious game pouch. Its overall design has changed very little over the past century, even if the velvety moleskin and corduroys now employed add a little elegance to its utility. Local makers Capalbio have been manufacturing the genuine article since the 1940s, and while you may not be packing the shotgun and saddle for your weekend plans, this handsome coat still commands a place in your wardrobe.