Our host Vittorio invites you to discover the real Tuscany without the crowds; here we offer an authentic experience of all things Tuscan in the quiet winter season.
Based at a 13th century villa, this trip will give visitors a memorable Tuscan experience. Your host believes that in winter, Tuscany shows her true self, abandoning the stereotypes she represents to millions of summer-time tourists every year. It is a secret, quiet time; the olive leaves turn from green to silver, wildlife thrives in fields now recovered from summer ploughing; chestnuts and mushrooms make their way to market and thick, hearty stews bubble on stoves in local village homes.
This holiday is aimed at those wishing to experience all aspects of this region; ride through hidden villages, relax at a spa, visit the museums without the queues, cook up a storm with culinary tuition or simply sit back and sample some of the region's finest wines. There is no set itinerary; you decide which activity you would like to do on a day to day basis.
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There is no set itinerary for this holiday; you have a choice of the following activities to create your very own Tuscan Experience:
See parts of Tuscany many visitors never see: ride through villages, across streams and through the woods along ancient trails with breath-taking views of rural Italy.
If you enjoy riding, the villa offers 15 well-trained horses. If you’re a beginner, the staff can provide riding lessons in the on-site arena.
Learn to create traditional culinary masterpieces using fresh herbs and vegetables picked straight from the villa's organic garden to experience authentic rural Tuscan cuisine.
Three cooking classes are offered each week, but guests are also encouraged to visit the kitchen at any time to watch and help the chef prepare meals in the spirit of the 'slow-food experience'.
ASTRONOMICAL ADVENTURES UNDER THE TUSCAN STARS
Discover the celestial underpinnings that led Galileo to his discovery of the wonders of the universe. Visit the Galileo Museum in Florence that houses the instruments he used to understand the planetary physics and stellar motions that guide us in our galactic quest today. At the villa there is an on-site astronomical observatory which is available for guests to enjoy under the guidance of an amateur astronomer. Instruments include a Meade LX200R14”f/10 telescope with GPS.
HEALTH AND BEAUTY
Exercise, relaxation and pampering are important components of the notion of 'otium'.
The villa is proud to offer not only yoga classes, sauna, swimming, hiking, horseback riding and healthy food, but also manicures, pedicures and an array of natural beauty products.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses are a stable of extremely fit and well-schooled hunter types, ridden English style. They are friendly, forward-going and responsive. Breeds include Warmblood and X, Anglo Arab, Lippizaner and Thoroughbred and X, Sicilian and Maremma. They vary in height from about 15hh-16.3hh.
The horses will be prepared, saddled and cared for by the grooms and guides, but the spirit is friendly and informal and anyone wanting to help will be very welcome. The grooms and guides unsaddle the horses at lunchtimes and check them carefully. They also ensure a good warm up and cool down for them.
Vittorio, your guide, has lived in the area since birth and is passionate about all things Italian, Tuscan and equine. He is extremely knowledgeable, has a great sense of humour and is interested in wide variety of subjects from Italian art, gastronomy, 'slow food' and ancient pig breeds to astronomy. In fact he has a professional observatory on-site and due to the complete isolation of the villa it is perfect for star gazing. If the weather is suitable he may take you up to the observatory and, under the guidance of a local professor, you can view distant galaxies through professional telescopes. Vittorio has a close affinity with the land and takes pride in growing most items for the kitchen right on the grounds of the villa.
All out-rides are for reasonably experienced, fit and confident riders who enjoy (and can manage) an energetic riding pace. You should be able to mount a horse without help, be confident on and around horses and comfortable, relaxed and secure in the saddle at all paces from a walk to a fast canter. You should also be reasonably riding fit and should have a fairly good level of general fitness as there can be long periods of trot and canter.
Beginners can learn to ride with tuition in the villa's own ménage.
Vittorio, your guide, wears a helmet and will strongly recommend all riders do so and has a selection available. However helmets are not compulsory for riders over 18. You may be asked to sign a disclaimer if you choose not to wear a helmet.
The weight limit for this ride is 17 st/242 lb/110 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is in a renovated 13th century villa with individually decorated apartments, each with twin or double rooms with private bathroom. The villa has been tastefully refurbished with antique furniture to provide all modern comforts without affecting the original features; each still has an origional log fireplace for atmospheric evenings.
The villa is located to the south of the historic city of Siena, on the top of a hill with a 360-degree view of the gently rolling Tuscan landscape. It is protected by thousands of hectares of forest belonging to the natural biogenetic reserve of Tocchi, of which 100 hectares are part of the villa’s estate and 25 hectares are fenced off.
The food is a real feature of this ride. The Villa marries the local gastronomic tradition with the natural oasis that surrounds it. Dishes are typical of Tuscan cuisine with products from the large organic vegetable garden and livestock raised on the estate, such as pigs, cows, sheep, goats and trout. The cooks revive forgotten flavours that the guests can enjoy in the wood-scented dining room with its imposing stone fireplace, or on the terrace in fine weather. The menu offers an unexpected exploration of the senses. The vegetables are cultivated in the garden and the fruit is carefully selected, making the most of biodiversity. The full-bodied taste of the meat is enhanced in rich Tuscan recipes: pieces of pig’s liver and fennel seeds, local sausages, the traditional bread and bean soup called ribollita and then pasta with black-leaf kale pesto, baked squash and chestnut mousse. Every meal is accompanied solely by quality wines, especially selected to bring out the flavours of the local cooking.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
The average, daytime temperature between November and March is 7 degrees (45F) with 7.5hrs of sunlight.
Good quality film is widely available for purchase as well as batteries (normal, alkaline and lithium). There will be access to power every evening to charge equipment, eg telephones and cameras. Mobile phone coverage can vary and you are recommended to contact your supplier for details.
Layered clothing is recommended on most of the departure dates. You need a riding helmet or a broad rimmed hat which must stay on firmly (we strongly recommend wearing an approved correctly-fitted riding helmet) and sunglasses with string. 2 pairs of riding trousers (cycling shorts for men), half chaps are recommended, riding gloves, jersey, warm jacket (spring and autumn), shorts, long sleeves shirts, T-shirts, raincoat (seasonal), sunblock, camera on a shoulder strap with a pouch which can be secured to your belt, binoculars, 2 pairs of lightweight riding boots or trainers.
The horses have saddle bags equipped with bottled water attached to the front of the saddle.
This is an 8d/7n programme running from Saturday to Saturday with a flexible itinerary, although other lengths of stay are possible on request. Guests can choose from a wide selection of activities to create their own ideal experience. Please note that it is advised to focus on fewer activities and enjoy these fully.
2017: Saturdays from 4 November to 17 March 2018 (excludes Christmas and New Year weeks). Other start dates are available on request for groups of 2 or more.
2018: Saturdays from 3 November to 16 March 2019 (excludes Christmas and New Year weeks). Other start dates are available on request for groups of 2 or more.
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In ancient Rome rest was turned into a way of caring for the body. Following the same principle, in the heart of Tuscany, we help you to regain possession of your time and yourselves. The calidarium, frigidarium and tepidarium guide guests through a unique sensory experience: the three large pools - each containing water at a different temperature - whose infinity edges offer visual continuity with the surrounding green valleys, promise total gratification, whether you are alone or in company. A wellness centre with a variety of facilities all located within a short distance of one another: indoor hot baths, two swimming pools with cascades, a Turkish bath, yoga room and fully equipped gymnasium. This in itself would be enough to make a visit worthwhile, but the Villa is much more.
It all starts with the traditional welcome treatments: a refreshing sauna prepares the skin for reinvigorating massages with pure honey and medicinal herbs. In a mix of modern know-how and ancient techniques, wellbeing here answers to a precise philosophy: showing respect for nature and places, in order to rediscover the pleasures of the slow life.
This holiday includes many cultural aspects with some outings to local archeological sites and historic towns and opportunities for shopping if wanted. It also includes wine tasting in this established wine producing area. Massages can be arranged on-site for a reasonable fee.
Italy forms a peninsula in Southern Europe extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, Elba and about 70 other smaller islands. It is mostly mountainous, though between the Apennines (which form the spine of Italy) and the eastern coastline there are the fertile plains of Emilia-Romagna in the north and of Puglia in the south. The Alps in the north divide Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.
The Roman Empire was once the most powerful in the world, covering Europe and extending into modern day Asia. Their horsemanship skills second only to the Mongols further east. The incredibly cultured and refined Roman culture still leaves its mark across Europe and has been the foundation for countless artistic movements, including the Renaissance, through cities such as Florence and the medieval university city of Bologna.
Italians are understandably proud of their heritage and are renowned as people of great taste and as having an eye for the aesthetic. Their architecture and fashion leave most of the world in their shadow, appearance is very important to them and the majority of Italians will never leave the house without ensuring they are impeccably and elegantly attired.
Italian food, from pizza to pasta, has been commandeered by the rest of the world but you will never taste a better pizza anywhere else. As with the rest of mainland Europe meals are eaten late with plenty of wine and preferably al fresco.
Italy is one hour ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. (There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram).
The international dialling code is +39.
Important information regarding rail travel:
Visitors are often caught unawares by train and transport systems requiring validation. Tickets bought in Italy for Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains are not marked for any particular time or train and become valid only when time-stamped at a validation machine. Without this validation, train operators assume the rider is trying to fare dodge, since the ticket could be reused. So validation is absolutely essential before boarding, and there are small boxes in the station or near the platform. After being time-stamped, the ticket is valid for the amount of time shown on the ticket.