It’s known and loved for its stunning views, but Tuscany’s iconic countryside is more than just a pretty face. Get out and about and you’ll discover its hidden depths…
Of course we’re going to suggest walking. There’s no better way to get up close and personal to those alluring panoramas. Trekking hotspots include Garfagnana, Lunigiana, Casentino and the Florentine hills and if you’d like to learn a little along the way, you can book a guide to go with you.
The Brunello Trail takes you through some of the world’s most famous vineyards and ends in Montalcino or, if you’re a movie buff, you can follow in the footsteps of Russell Crowe in Gladiator, (Val d’Orcia), Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient (the countryside around Pienza), Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace (Siena) or Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun (all over Tuscany, from Arezzo to Montepulciano).
Self-titled ‘A poem written with a bicycle’ the Eroica is an institution. With routes around the world, it’s a celebration of those clean, green two-wheel machines (and the cyclists who love them) and even if you don’t take part in the official event, which takes place in October in Tuscany, the route is so well sign-posted you can follow it whenever you fancy.
It starts in Gaiole in Chianti, following white roads (unpaved, gravel tracks) in a rough figure of eight. Go the whole distance and it’s 200km, but you can jump on and off and go at whatever pace suits you. It will take you into some truly ‘off the beaten track’ corners of Tuscany, as well as delivering some irresistible en route treats that include the beautiful medieval town of Siena; Montalcino, famous for its olive oil, wine and honey; the stunning countryside around Val d'Orcia and Crete Senesi, home of the white truffle, its coveted ‘diamond’.
Visitors to Tuscany describe it as a highlight of their stay and ballooning remains a great way to take in that landscape in its epic entirety. There are various qualified organisations, operating the impeccable service and safety standards you really want when you’re floating up to 3,000 feet above the ground. With baskets able to accommodate up to 16, you can make it a family adventure – a wonderful way to start the day of a big celebration. Trips usually last about an hour and include breakfast. Check the age limits, as younger children may not be allowed to accompany you. Good companies will be insured for public and third party liability, but it’s wise to check your own cover before you fly.
Getting lots of fresh air goes hand in hand with a good night’s sleep – and we’ve got some lovely country retreats, with room for 6 to 20 guests, which have far more to offer than comfortable beds. Take the beautifully decorated Villa Cabreo, for example. Private and secluded, it’s a wonderfully peaceful place to lay your head and, should you fancy a day at home, it’s on an estate known for its red wine – and you’re welcome to visit the cantina and try a few glasses.
For those who want the rustic appeal of a restored farmhouse, there’s Villa La Torre and Villa Palaia, both in beautifully unspoilt locations or, for a special occasion – or just because you can – there’s La Rocca. This magnificent 17th-century villa is all about marble fireplaces and antique furniture and set in two acres of formal gardens. But if two acres isn’t enough, stay in the Romagna Toscana Estate Villa, which takes pride of place in an impressive 400 acres and is full of historic elegance and charm.