Satellite Half-day programme, Hotel Tuscany Ride, Summer 2008
If I had to sum up our holiday in Tuscany in one word, it would be flexibility and this was the key to its success. My daughter, Elspeth, and I had planned a week of quality time where she could indulge her passion for riding while I relaxed/explored. We flew to Pisa and travelled by train to Follonica, having booked our rail tickets with Simply Rail ( 08700841414 ). For a £10 fee they posted the tickets to us and and gave us the train times over the phone. We were met at Follonica and driven to our hotel. Transfers had been arranged in advance with Emma at Far and Ride.
Hotel Tuscany surpassed our expectations and felt like home the minute we arrived. The interior is spotlessly clean and pleasantly rustic. It stands in beautiful, quiet countryside and has stunning views. The grounds and pool areas are attractive and well maintained and the stables are just a five minute walk away.
Breakfast consisted of croissants, rolls, jams, cheese, yoghurts, cereals, and fruit. Giovanni the cook spoilt us in the evenings with traditional Tuscan fare. We were offered, amongst other things, pastas, risottos, venison, wild boar, gnocchi and meatballs. There were daily vegetarian options, and a variety of salads and fruits.
During our evening meal the guides, very unobtrusively, came round to each table and helped to plan the next day for those who wanted them to. They were delightful - young, enthusiastic and proficient riders who adored horses and had a thorough awareness of safety issues. One lived locally and had known the horses since he was a child. Another, a student from France, was returning to work the summer there for a second year. They were all exceptionally helpful and spoke excellent English. They gave lessons and accompanied the rides but were also able to advice and give routes for mountain biking and hiking trails. It was possible to co-ordinate some of these routes with the riding ones, thus enabling groups and families to meet up for the lunch time picnic. Fiona, from a company in the village, works closely with the guides and can arrange high rope courses, archery, historical mini tours, canoeing, quad biking and more. I chose to relax by the pool/explore on my own while Elspeth opted for full days riding.
The horses are kept as a herd and they have their own pecking order and friendships so they are remarkably good-natured and reliable when out on rides. They are in beautiful condition, have lots of stamina and are not easily spooked. Elspeth rode through fields, along river beds, up and down mountain paths and along forest trails. I joined her most days for a picnic lunch, travelling there in the hotel minibus. The picnic was a real feast. We had two hot courses, breads, salami, cheese, fruit local wines and coffee. On one day we had a barbecue beside a river and the riders and horses paddled in the water. While we enjoyed a leisurely lunch the ponies rested in the shade in preparation for the gallop home which was always a different route to the one they travelled to get to the picnic. Riders who only wanted half days could return to the hotel in the minibus.
I enjoyed exploring the local area on foot and by bus. Montieri is a medieval village, a pleasant ten minute stroll away down flower strewn country roads which were full of fireflies during the evenings when we were there. From here I got a bus to Siena which is an hour away and breath takingly impressive. Buses also go to Massa Maritima which is a very fine example of a medieval hilltop village and is only half an hour away. Montieri has a Post Office, a gift shop, a couple of good restaurants, a bar, a tourist information centre, and a small Co-op where they sell four different breakfast cereals and sixty three different sorts of pasta. That’s not including the ones for dogs!
After riding until about 4.00 pm Elspeth was ready for a couple of hours by the pool. They have a hot tub there where you can rest aching muscles. After dinner we sat outside on the terrace enjoying the tranquility and eagerly anticipating the next day. The week went far too quickly.
We would have no hesitation in recommending this holiday. It can be whatever you want it to be from action packed days to chilling by the pool. The holiday met our needs perfectly – good natured horses to suit all levels, interesting routes with fabulous scenery and wild life, several activities available, friendly welcoming hotel with delicious food, and sunshine too. I know we’ll be returning.
Read more about this ride here: Hotel Tuscany Ride