Under the Tuscan Sun

By BBC + Rosewood Hotels & Resorts  •  April 1, 2017

Any visit to Italy means food – and lots of it. Add on wine and you’ve got a holiday that’s guaranteed to be memorable, but might add a few centimetres to your waistline. Plus, when you’re spending all day in restaurants and cafes, you’re missing out on the incredible sights that Tuscany has to offer, from ancient castles to gloriously green rolling hills.

The solution? A trip that indulges in all the gastronomic specialties that make Tuscany so exceptional, combined with plenty of outdoor activities that burn calories while exposing you to the beauty of the Tuscan countryside. Here’s a guide to doing Tuscany right, so that you can satisfy your taste buds and keep your bathroom scales happy.

Start on two wheels with a bike tour of the Val d’Orcia. Cicloposse offers a one-day biking tour from Pienza to Montalcino, a challenging ride of 43 miles – less experienced cyclists can just rent bikes and create their own, simplified tour.

The journey starts in Pienza, a jewel of a village (pick up the famous Pecorino di Pienza while here), then moves on past ancient vineyards and verdant fields towards Bagno Vignoni, a spa town of antiquated stone buildings built around a central pool of steaming thermal water. Then it’s on to the gorgeous Castiglione d’Orcia, the monastery of Sant’Antimo and, finally, Montalcino famous for Brunello di Montalcino – one of Italy’s best known and most expensive wines. This medieval city is home to an imposing fortress that dates back to 1361 – at the top you’ll take in views of the stunning countryside that will make all that pedalling worthwhile.

It’s this breathtaking Tuscan landscape that inspired some of the Old Masters, so to get your own creative juices flowing, look no further than Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco. This exquisite estate is set in some of the most picturesque countryside in the region, and offers guests landscape painting classes taught by experienced experts. The half-day classes are a great way to connect with Tuscany’s artistic heritage, while simultaneously taking in some of the best views in the country.

Can’t draw a straight line? Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco also has a professional photographer on hand to give lessons in how best to capture the stunning sights of your trip. Taking you to the unexplored corners of the immense Castiglion del Bosco estate, your expert guide will show you how to take your holiday snaps to the next level and create the most enviable Instagram shots. And if you prefer your vacation photos to be action shots, the hotel also offers horseback riding, gardening lessons and yoga.

PICTURESQUE VILLAGE PITSTOPS

Ever wanted to combine sightseeing with wine? At Barone Ricasoli, the oldest winery in Italy and the home of Chianti, visitors can tour the gardens and castle that dates back to the 12th century, followed by an exploration of the spacious wine cellars. Then it’s a gourmet dinner at the Osteria del Castello, the estate’s restaurant, which showcases the best local produce, including olive oil from just a few fields away. The dinner includes a guided food and wine pairing, complete with plenty of information on Italian food culture and the award-winning wines produced at Barone Ricasoli. Work off that multi-course dinner with an invigorating hike through the Crete Senesi, or Siennese Clays. This area includes some of

Tuscany’s most untouched areas: the rolling hillsides, the woods, and the desert-like lunar landscape of the clay fields. There are plenty of picturesque village pitstops along the way where you can refuel with a plate of pasta and a glass of wine.

What’s more, it’s is one of the best regions in the world for truffle hunting. Try it for yourself on a truffle hunting tour run by travel company The Art of Leisure. Accompanied by a guide and an expert truffle-hunting dog, you’ll learn how to spot the rare fungus, as well as the local hunting traditions, and they can even tell you how to cook the truffles you find.

A day trip to the island of Giglio means taking a small ferry from Porto Santo Stefano, but there’s no need to rent a car once you get there – keep up your fitness regime by exploring the island on foot. It’s got a population of less than 2,000 and its ancient trails are ideal for walking, most of which lead to jaw-dropping views of the sea, the port and its beaches. The main reason to come here, though, is to sample the local wine, Ansonica. Winemakers on the island are playing about with this dry, crisp Tuscan white, and creating interesting new varieties which visitors can sample at the local vineyards, like Vigneto Altura.

It would be tragic to leave Tuscany without at least an attempt to learn how the magic happens. Make a visit to Juls’ Kitchen for a cooking class run by chef and food blogger Giulia Scarpaleggia. She runs classes in making Tuscan specialities. Sign up for a pasta-making afternoon to perfect the art of pici, tagliatelle, tortelli and more in the kitchen of a traditional Tuscan country house. The event includes a visit to Azienda Agricola Casamonti, a local family-run farm that raises the rare Cinta Senese pigs, so called for the “belt” of white hair that runs around their bellies. Once nearly extinct, the pigs are making a comeback thanks to farmers like these, who produce prosciutto and salami which guests can sample, along with chianti and olive oil that are also made on the farm. What happens afterwards is up to you. Burn off those calories with a brisk hike around the estate – or better yet, succumb to your overwhelming desire for a long and luxurious afternoon snooze.

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Written By: BBC + Rosewood Hotels & Resorts

4.1.17

Locations: Tuscany

See more: Experiences

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