martedì 22 marzo 2016

Horseback trail ride in Tuscany Italy

Riding in Tuscany is a joy for the senses. I’ve ridden many times on vacation in the Tuscan landscape of Italy, and each time was enriching in so many ways.

One of the all day ride organized by the Prategiano stables - one of the most well known Equestrian Center in Tuscany - took us through cool, quiet forests, over trails lined with ripe blackberries, then through streams and open, lush green fields. Our happy group of riders stopped at a picnic spot where we were treated to a feast created by Hotel Prategiano's kitchen. On this day, the group was comprised of friendly people from all over the world; German, Russian, Czech, Italian, Austrian, Swedish, Swiss, Dutch, Bavarian, and American. 

How extraordinary it is to meet new people, sit down and spend the next hour laughing together. During one lunch stop, the horses were able to graze in a meadow full of lemon verbena, lavender, mint, and several other aromatic herbs I didn’t recognize. Every step the horse took stirred the most delicious scent you could imagine. 

Another ride took us to a river where the horses splashed with joy. A stupendous lunch was grilled over and open fire. One day was spent cantering over grassy hills and strolling through vineyards and olive groves. These horse holidays in Tuscany fill my soul. The sights, the aromas, the food, and the physical exhilaration of riding together in camaraderie with new friends are what make these and many other experiences in Tuscany unforgettable.

domenica 3 gennaio 2016

Maremma Tuscany Italy: The Orbetello Lagoon

The Nature Reserve of Orbetello encloses the renowned WWF Sanctuary, one of the oldest and best equipped sanctuaries in Italy, with three nature trails and many facilities for birdwatchers. 

The big spanish farmhouse, owned by the naturalistic association, hosts a Visitors Centre, an Environmental Education Centre and guest quarters. The ornithological itinerary is open from 1 September to 30 April on Saturdays and Sundays, from 9.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. You can freely take the track that reaches the Patanella wood from 9.00 a.m. till dusk or whigh a guided tour that requires booking. From the many observation huts opening on the lagoon, you will be spotting an incredible quantity of birds. It is better to use the huts early in the morning when the light is behind you, to better make out the colors of the plumage and take photos with no backlight problems.

The Visitorars Centre and the Environmental Education Centre are located in the northern tombolo that takes to Mount Argentario. The Orbetello Lagoon is an ancient sound separated from the open waters by two strips of land, the Tombolo della Giannella and the Tombolo della Feniglia that, starting from the Maremma coast, reach the headland of the Argentario. It is the biggest Tyrrhenian lagoon, which stretches for about 2600 hectares and reaches a maximum depth of 2 meters. A third incomplete tombolo, where the town of Orbetello stands, and the dam that from here reaches Mount Argentario split the wetland in two parts: the eastern lagoon, with the State Nature Reserve of Dun a Feniglia, and the western lagoon, where the WWF Sanctuary is.

The sanctuary protects 300 hectares of salty lagoon that receives, in the northern part, an intake of freshwater from the Albegna River, which enters the sea further north. On the outer shoe, represented by the tombolo of Giannella that separates the sanctuary rrom the sea, dunal vegetation and Mediterranean maquis grow. The inner shore is flanked by a large strip of glasswort and by very thick reeds. To the north, behind the glasswort strip, we find bushes and shrubs overlooked by cork oaks, some of them quite big. Further south, elm, ash, poplar and bramble mix with reeds to form a thick tangle of vegetation tat is a natural screen for visitors between observation huts.

 The southernmost part is covered by a suggestive cork oak forest that hosts also holly oaks and maritime pines. A thick Mediterranean maquis forms the undergrowth. On the borders, there are two umbrella pine forests, and from one of them starts a beautiful nature trail, always open to the public. This trail offers also a wonderful opportunity to discover this special part of Tuscany on horseback. Towards the lagoon, there are large expanses of Scotch heathe, a small plant that in autumn blooms with p ink flowers, while the rest of the territory has been variously modified by man with pastures, crops and vegetable fields. Come to experience this remote region of Maremma Tuscany. It is perfect for walking, mountain biking, cycling and horseback riding. You can stay at the Hotel Prategiano, which enjoys a central position, if you want to get to know the quiet parts of Tuscany. Here you can find more information about cycling holidays in Tuscany offered by the hotel in Maremma Tuscany: Rifugio Prategiano

sabato 21 novembre 2015

When the sun goes down

Holidays in Tuscany offers many things. Besides delicious food, Italian lifestyle, incredible nature, sports and many more, there is another world to be discovered: The Night.

The hotel Prategiano is shroud by the nature. In the nights you will not find lights, clubs, cars, or any sort of shambles. Certainly the most impressive thing is to look up at the sky and admire the stars. So close and yet so far, they sparkle in a dimension rarely seen and realized by many people. On top of the mountain of Montieri, near the hotel Rifugio Prategiano, one can forget the world and the time for a moment staring up into the sky until the neck starts hurting. But there seem to be endless constellations such as the Orion, the Cassiopeia, the Ursa Minor, Leo, Cancer and many more. And who does not want to make a wish when a shooting star passes by?!

Then there is the sounds of the night. One has to be patient and quiet and close the eyes but then you can hear a whole new world being alive during nighttime. Owls whispering in the trees, branches moving in the wind, wild boars looking for a late dinner, a cat crying for a lover. If you take your time you can dive into it and who knows? Maybe it even takes away the worries of the day. The presents of the nature are surprising and way to often do us humans forget about appreciating them.

Moreover, after looking at the quiet part of the night, there is also another way of spending it. With a glass of wine or two or three.. and good conversations with interesting people. Part of a holiday can be to get to know other views and to hear the stories of other lives. Italians love that part of life, so enjoy it and taste it yourself at our Agriturismo in Montieri !

domenica 22 marzo 2015

Horseback ride on the beach in Italy

What a beautiful day at the beach! What is more thrilling than galloping along a white deserted beach on the sparkling green Med?  This morning we packed up the horses and headed toward the protected natural park at Cala Violina.  With three amazing clients, Andrea on his mountain bike, and me with our smallest horse, Gina, we set out through the beautiful Mediterranean landscape toward the sea. 

After a refreshing gallop along the shore and some splashing in the waves, we met a group of hungry Italians for an amazing lunch by the sea. They told us fantastic stories about their adventures and mountain bike tours through Tuscany.

And there was wine, of course!  Then it was time for some bareback fun with the horses.  Our friend Barbara took a swim with the haflinger Asia. Everyone had a good laugh at the poor Italian girl who was quite surprised to see a horse go galloping by while she was sunbathing.  I wish I could have seen her face! 

On the ride back, the warm sun was shining and a cool breeze kept us totally comfortable.  In the Park of Cala Violina, the atmosphere is tranquil; the only sounds are the birds and the waves. There is something sublime about sand and sun, friends, beautiful weather and horse riding in Italy. Che bella l’Italia!!

Horseback ride to Tuscanys famous mines of Gerfalco

Today we rode to Gerfalco, one of the full day ride destinations that is offered at the Trail Riding Center in Tuscany Prategiano. Esmarelda, a delightful chestnut and Nikitia a local Maremma bred horse were our horses for the trip. Nikitia is fast becoming one of my favourite's here at the stables. She is a forward moving mare , who is fantastic to take out for a long ride. Her gait's are very comfortable, and she has the stamina to go all day.
Setting out for the morning, the Tuscan countryside had put on a nice day for us, without a cloud in the sky and 25 degrees we both quickly had out arms bare to soak up the rays.  It was a perfect spring day for riding.After trekking through the forest, crossing river's and galloping through fields, we eventually found ourselves in the small medieveil viallge of Gerfalco.
After having a litle sight see of the town, we headed up to a beautiful open area where we had views of the sea, and to finally sit down to a well deseved rest, (for us and the horses), and to join the rest of the Prategiano gang who had arrived with the bus with a hot picnic lunch made freshly by our chief Sarah.
After 2 courses, cheese, salami, bread and or course some delicious Tuscan wine, we all were well feed and happy to enjoy the sunny afternoon chatting with new friends.

A few kilo's heavier we were ready to saddle back up  and continue on with our afternoon riding back to the hotel. Passing along the road we meet a local farmer with his flock of sheep, Nikitia who pretends she is the boss of everyone was terribly afraid of the fluffy white moving animals, and didn't even mind letting Esmarelda go first!
Back the stables, we gave the horses an well deserved bath before letting them off to go, roll in the paddock and get all dirty again, It is always the way! But I could not complain after having such a fantastic day during our riding holiday in Italy. Plan to come to Italy and see Tuscany on horseback!

Trail riding in Maremma Tuscany

The “River Ride” is the ultimate full-day trail ride at our Trail Riding Center Prategiano.  Today, I had the pleasure of guiding our new friend and two-week guest, Bianca, to the River Merse for the first time this season.  The first time is always a bit exciting as no one knows what awaits after a winter of weather and change; plus, springtime means water, high water.  Nonetheless, Miss Bianca was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of this adventure.

What a perfect spring day with the sun shining, a cool breeze, and maybe a cloud or two. We set out for the village of Montieri, passing through the southern edge of the small town and then headed down the gravel road lined with quaint farmhouses, horses, and gardens.  Entering the woods, we continued following the downward slope of the mountain, heading toward the Merse Valley.  At the bottom, we crossed into open fields brimming with wildflowers and young grass.  Gallop time!  Nothing beats the adrenaline rush of a free run through open green. The horses gave their jumps of approval and riders let out a whoop whoop!

When we arrived to the river I was glad to be riding one of our taller horses.  In the spring, the water is rushing and fills the banks, but with a sense of adventure we crossed the waters like pioneers.  What fun!  The river touched the horses’ bellies and they put down their noses for a cool drink.  At the picnic site on the riverbank, chef Emilio cooked up some wonderful steaks on the fire, and we sat down to a full- course lunch.  After, a short car ride took us to the Abby of San Galgano, an ancient cathedral with an interesting history.  After a look around and a coffee at the bar, we headed back, saddled the horses, and set off up the mountain.  This part of the ride is one of my favorite times horseback riding in Tuscany.  The stillness and light of the late afternoon in Tuscany is spectacular. Winding up past the familiar hillside homes, waving to friends outside in the evening, and returning on horseback to the quiet of the farm is something truly special.