Tuscany & Liguria Hill Walker
Alastair Tour Leader chats about our Tuscany & Liguria Hill Walker tour (XCT):
It was sweet and sad, last evening, to gather for our final group dinner after an exceptional two weeks touring Tuscany. Margaret Farran, a group member, quoted us a line from E.M. Forster: "The true Italy is only to be found by patient observation...", adding that this tour had enabled us all really to savour and experience at a deeper level our remarkable Tuscan surroundings. We had time: to walk; to pause; to look more closely; to listen; to taste; to breathe it all in.
Much of our time was spent in less visited areas of Chianti and Southern Tuscany, where we balanced country walks through a variety of landscapes with cultural visits to some of the region's loveliest towns: Florence; Siena; San Gimignano; Volterra; Montalcino and Lucca. In the evenings, we would gather together for wine-tastings and enjoy meals of homemade pasta and local specialties at charming country inns.
For our walks, we chose lesser-known trails of moderate ease. Heading off, one morning, from the Benedictine Abbey of Sant'Antimo, we crossed an emerald field of barley splashed with thousands of crimson poppies. We climbed a ridge and had to stop and simply look and look: the views of the surrounding countryside were so profoundly beautiful. At times, the silence was penetrating. At one moment, we froze as a wild boar leapt across the trail ahead of us vanishing into the undergrowth in a second. We picnicked at a 14th century castle at Ripa D'Orcia, under cypress and olive shadows, on fresh buffalo mozzarella, crusty loaves, vermillion tomatoes, black olives, pecorino cheese and pearsówith a good bottle of chianti shared all around. Our walk continued after lunch, passing an old travertine marble quarry, to arrive at the tiny Medici spa village of Bagno Vignoni, where we soaked our feet in the hot sulphur springs that spilled down the hillside. This was a typical day.
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