Under the Tuscan Sun—Tuscany, Italy
When most think of Tuscany, they think of rolling hills, fine wine, amazing food, ancient architecture, and passionate people. However, Tuscany’s passion expands to horses as well. The Federazione Italiana Sport Equestri, also known as FISE, is the go to for all things equine in Italy. The federation connects all riding disciplines and territories together and works to keep equestrians connected across the country. There is also, of course, the Palio di Siena. Among many historical places in Tuscany, the Piazza del Campo is one that will peak interests in equestrians. Located in the heart of Tuscany, Siena has a lovely square where twice a year, the Palio di Siena takes place. Riders are mounted bareback, yet are decked out in colorful attire to represent the 17 contrade, or districts, of Siena. Three laps around the Piazza del Campo and the race is over, but its an exciting 90 seconds!
What’s the best way to discover Italy, or any location for that matter? Horseback of course! All throughout Italy there are riding tours and trails for the novice to advanced rider. Riding Ancient Rome is a must when taking in the ancient tourist sites; they have a Riding in Tuscany tour that takes you along picturesque beaches on the Tyrrhenian coast.
As for exploring on just two legs, of course there is much to see, and much to do. Visiting the thermal baths of Saturnia is a must, for these waters are known to have therapeutic and relaxing properties. There are also, of course, spas and wellness centers in Saturnia along with two beautiful waterfalls. All in all, this is the place to go if you are looking to take it easy.
Around every corner, you will find somewhere to eat, but during the summer months, the best is surely the Summer Sagras. Much like everything else in Italy, the Italians do it right when it comes to celebrating food. Throughout the summer months, tourists and residents can find festivals dedicated to a particular food or dish that is prepared in high volume for all to enjoy. For example, Cortona, Arezzo, celebrates the Chianina beef with a grilling frenzy for the Tuscan people. Some of these are smaller events, others are larger fundraisers, but all have fantastic food.
Last, but not least, we must address wine. South of Florence is the famous valleys of Chianti. Separated into seven sub-zones, Chianti has been producing seven different types of wine for decades. Viticcio, in Chianti Classico, is a staple on the tourist wine tasting list. With its classic Tuscan landscape, straight from the barrel tasting, and personal blending, a visit is surely a memorable one. When grapes are the country’s theme, surely a moment must be taken to stop at one of its fine vineyards.
WHERE TO EAT
Located in Ghiverti, Florence, this lovely little restaurant has a Tuscaninspired menu with favorites such as Florentine buistecca. Come for a meal or happy hour and be sure to enjoy the country feel of Tuscany!
Right near the Piazza del Campo is Fonte Giusta, best known for their homemade pasta and rustic, yet elegant, feel.
Wine’s best friend is also famous in Italy…cheese! Cugusi is one of many farms that produces, sells, and has tastings of fine cheese, however, they do stand out with their picnic offerings that allow for a romantic date on the farm overlooking Montepulicano.
WHERE TO STAY
Villa il Palazzino
When in Italy, one may want to take in the natu- ral bliss of the country- side. Villa il Plazzanio does just that. The peace- ful setting of this bed and breakfast will have you feeling the history with its Florence Renaissance style.
Borgo di Castelvecchio
For those horse lovers that don’t want to miss a moment away from the barn, this is the place for you to stay. Along with events, weddings, and lessons, this equestrian center also does reservations for lovely on-site farmhouses.
If staying in the city suits you, then Hotel Athena is a fantastic choice. This hotel has it all, from allowing pets, to onsite parking, to air conditioning, to beautiful, clean rooms, and a lovely rooftop for photos.
WHAT TO DO
Viticcio Wine Tasting
While visiting Tuscany, a stop must be made at the vineyards, not only for the outstanding wine, but also for the landscape and history of Chianti.
Great Apennine Excursion
The GEA is the hiking trail for adventurists! Trek through the mountains along the ridge that connects the Trabaria pass from Umbria to Liguria. At about 400 kilometers long, this is Tunscany’s longest hiking trail.
The Siena Cathedral
Right near the Piazza del Campo is the Siena Cathedral. Filled with art, history, and breathtaking architecture, the cathedral houses masterpieces from artists such as Michelangelo, Donatello, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. This temple of culture can be appreciated by anyone of any age.