Take a moment to immerse yourself in the calming nature all around. In recent times, if anything, we’ve learned how to take a pause and reset, as we’ve been coerced to accommodate sudden change. After months spent locked inside, closed off to the idea of museums and crowded tours, now it’s time to get creative and explore Tuscany more thoroughly, viewing the region as an open-air museum. The pandemic has caused immense change, and one of the greatest shifts includes the way tourism is experienced. With restrictions on travel, we have had time to reflect on the beauty of our own backyard, while minding the physical footprint we leave behind.
A yoga retreat in Fiesole
This shift has allowed space for eco-friendly alternatives for tourists. I spent an afternoon at the beautiful Azienda Agricola Montececeri, in Fiesole, for a day centered on the outdoors and wellness. The property has been in the current owner Antonella’s family since the 1970s, producing organic cold-pressed olive oil and wines above Florence. Lying on the ground, nestled between rows of vineyards and bustling olive trees, the day started slowly on the 16-hectare farm with a private yoga experience taught by a master in yoga studies, Shirley Shivhon. The peaceful practice was paired with a delicious outdoor picnic, complete with seasonal ingredients sourced steps away on the organic farm. With my yoga mat pressed into the soil, the sun greeted my skin as the birds chirped, chickens cooed and the donkeys brayed in the distance. Feeling Tuscany through all the senses is a spectacular experience as you learn about the culture using a method that has been practiced for decades in a place that holds so much history, a place where Leonardo da Vinci conducted his flying experiments.
Shepherd for the day in Chianti
Next on our ecotourism excursion, we head for Radda in Chianti. We were immediately transported to a magical place, surrounded by bountiful trees and greeted by friendly goats, each jumping with their own boisterous personality. The Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm was started by Nora Kravis, an animal whisperer with an innate passion for raising, combing and caring for hundreds of cashmere goats. Alongside expert walking guide, Jennifer, Nora pointed out how the current economic struggles can be seen as an opportunity to push for more ecotourism in Florence rather than relying on the overcrowding that formerly filled our streets. At this wildlife certified farm, visitors become shepherds for the day, combing the goats to collect the raw material used to produce sustainable cashmere, followed by lunch in the garden and a tasting at a neighboring winery.
Hike to the ancient past
Continuing into the countryside, we found ourselves at Castellina in Chianti to discover the Etruscan necropolis of Poggino, kindly organized by DF Tailored Travel & Lifestyle. Via Romea, the ancient path that connects Chianti and Siena, transported us back to the seventh century on a captivating three-hour walk to the Etruscan tombs, which culminated in a lunch by a private chef at the 17th-century Tenuta Ceccatelli. Embarking on this journey you discover more than just stories of the past told by the expert walking guide. Walking along the tranquil forest path led through a lush archaeological area to the hamlet of Fonterutoli, dating to the year 1435. We stumbled on the five Etruscan tombs. Lining the road stood crosses, decorated and detailed with objects to create meaning: for workers to bless the harvest and crops in the countryside. The relics of a past life were omnipresent and the striking views of Siena in the distance allowed us to take in a unique moment in history, standing at a location where the peace treaty between Siena and Florence was formed.
The benefits of ecotourism are manifold. This personal, alternative way to savor the flavors of Tuscany while supporting a family-run estate or local business proved to be the most peaceful days in months, all while keeping ecological impact in mind.