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Handmade pasta, overflowing wine, world-class art and rippling hills are just a few reasons why the masses pack their bags and head to Tuscany. But the region, located in central Italy, can do much more than satiate the appetite or offer fodder for pretty photos, and it extends beyond Tuscan pillars such as Florence, Siena and Pisa, too.
In fact, Tuscany has claimed a well-deserved spot on the adventure travel map, inviting intrepid clients to take a walk — or maybe even a via ferrata climb — on its wild side.
Mountain BikingAlthough he divides his time between Florence and the ski resort town of Abetone, Rolando Galli is especially fond of the latter’s treasure trove of active pastimes, including rock climbing, paragliding, alpine skiing, snowboarding and more.
But you’ll likely find Galli — the president of the Abetone and Pistoia Mountain tourism board and president of Societa Abetone Funivie ski lift — on a mountain bike. And, according to Galli, there’s no better place for cycling than Abetone.
“You have the lift, so you can access the top of the mountain for downhill biking, and there are easy, intermediate and double-diamond paths,” he said.
Safety First: July through September is the prime time for mountain biking; however, travelers can opt for fat bikes if they’d like to extend the riding season into winter. Additionally, e-bikes are recommended for novice and intermediate bikers, especially due to the region’s sometimes nearly vertical terrain.
Truffle HuntingSusan Kelly, owner of Luxury Adventure Trips, an independent affiliate of Travel Experts, Inc., believes that experiences in nature don’t need to require “roughing it” — which is why she loves planning upscale exploration trips for her clients.
Her own travels have taken her to Italy’s larger cities about a half-dozen times. But after recently visiting the UNESCO-protected Val d’Orcia, Kelly says there’s no better way to understand the local culture than by staying at an agriturismo (farm) and partaking in a truffle hunt with some of man’s adorable best friends in tow.
“Truffles need a little bit of rain to appear, similar to mushrooms,” she said. “And you’ll be tromping through the woods and climbing up and down hills without trails, so wear proper shoes.”
Farm to Table: Kelly suggests a stay at Fattoria del Colle, which is owned by one of the first women to produce wine in Italy. The 830-acre estate features its own vineyards, olive groves and truffle-filled woods.
Horseback RidingThe owner of two horses, Chiara Romoli, who works in sales for local operator Primavera Viaggi, says that traveling by horseback is a wonderful way to discover Tuscany.
The destination has many diverse landscapes ideal for equestrians, but Romoli’s favorite is the Fucecchio Marsh — an idyllic stretch of land little-known to American travelers. Set between the Pistoia and Florence regions, the nearly 4,500-acre ancient wetlands are brimming with flora and fauna, including more than 200 bird species.
A Ways to Go: “During the winter, the Fucecchio Marsh fills with water, which makes horseback riding even more special,” she said. “And you can ride through the marsh all the way to Florence. It’s beautiful.”