Friday, 06 February 2015 08:03

Italy: Adventure on horseback in undiscovered Tuscany

Horseback riders from all the world come to Maremma Tuscany, to discover these remote area of Italy on horseback. Since more than 40 years the family Paradisi has been offering horseback riding holidays close the medieval village of Montieri. Rifugio Prategiano was one of the first hotels in Tuscany to organize equestrian vacations on site and the family still continues the business with fourteen fit and reliable horses and a great international team.

We came to explore the most hidden parts of Tuscany and learnt quickly what it means to spend six hours in the saddle riding through the so-called "Maremma Toscana": thick vegetation, dense brush and low-hanging branches. The next day we are prepared: long-sleeved shirts to protect against the blackberry brambles, and sunscreen on our noses. Our guide is urging us to get moving. Nature has recuperated the ancient paths once the only connection between the little villages of this region. Huge chestnut trees, oak and pine trees verge our trail. The dense chestnut forest recedes and the landscape changes at first to low scrubs, overgrown fields and old orchards. After riding al morning through a vast area, it is only at late morning that we encounter the first houses.

The ruins of farmhouse, an oak tree grows out of the former kitchen and a few piglets run around the former courtyard. The deserted farms and villages are a silent witness to better times. Until the middle ages most people in this area earned their living in silver, copper and zinc mines. But now all mines are closed and people move away.

After a ride up a steep incline we finally reach our midday target. The ruins of a former miners village. A lavish picnic is waiting for us in the shade of a big cypress tree. Overlooking all the coast of Maremma Tuscany we dine on pasta, wild boar, and Pecorino cheese and drink some Montecucco red wine. Leaving the silver mine behind us we follow a narrow path to the ruin of a castle, pasted to the cliff face above us. It is a perfect site for a coffee break. The break is cut short by distant thunder on the horizon. Before running for cover we release our horses onto vast pastures.

The farmer waves to us as we walk down the cypress alley past the impressive villa of Anqua. Although we did not meet the count we are all impressed by the beauty of this property. We ride on over fields, pass olive and wine yards. Here in the hills of Tuscany the traditional farming has defined the landscape. All morning the sun has been burning in our faces. A few horses use a river crossing for a refreshing bath. The next picnic site is not far away and the sun quickly dries our wet clothes. The ruins of the San Galgano abbey appear on the horizon. This cloister built in the thirteen century was the cultural and economic centre of the region. Sitting in the shade up against the massive walls one has the impression that the monks are still around, striding through the well-preserved gothic arches.

With yet another Monteregio red wine we sit in the garden of the abbey. Looking at my new friends around me, I can tell, the first few days have already changed everyone in a little way. The group has become fused together; the wildness of the Maremma Toscana, the insights into the past, all this has brought about a new zest for life. The proverbial yearning for the Tuscany has now also got hold of us.

The hotel Prategiano and the horse riding center are situated close to Montieri, a small village in the hills of Maremma Tuscany, famous and renowned throughout the centuries for the extraction and the workmanship of silver. Settled on the north eastern slopes of the hillock, in harmony with the watershed between the high valleys of the Cecina river and the Merse river. The Republic of Siena and the Bishops of Volterra disputed over the important Maremmano castle at length and it eventually became a mining town and lost a great part of its importance. Further from Montieri at 800 meters there is a vast park run by the municipality, called Il Piano that offers the ideal place for complete relaxation. It is also possible to climb up to the Vetta del Poggio from which it is possible to admire a vast panorama that stretches out to the whole coast of Maremma TuscanyFree Articles, Sardegna and Corsica.

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