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From the Etruscans to the Romans to the Renaissance, Tuscany is iconic in what it says about Italy. Visitors to Tuscany come for many reasons. Many come in search of fine art, others to explore the extraordinary countryside; gourmets and wine buffs enjoy the simple yet wonderful cuisine and wine; riders and walkers enjoy the mountain paths and rolling hills.
Your base for the week is Castellare di Tonda, a country resort and spa in the heart of Tuscany. This 800 acre working wine estate and Quarterhorse stud farm dates back to the Renaissance period, when it was owned by the Strozzi family of Florence. The estate is located almost equidistance between Pisa and Florence, above the medieval village of Montaione, and just a stone’s throw away from the historical cities of Lucca and Siena. The owners of the estate, Stefano and Alessandra, are passionate about their horses and riding, and have invested extensively in the facilities of the stud farm and equestrian centre.
There are two alternative riding itineraries.
The Medieval Trail is a seven night itinerary comprising full and half day rides. The week includes approximately 24 hours of riding and is suitable for intermediate and experienced riders.
The Heart of Tuscany offers a more relaxed holiday and is an ideal itinerary for families and groups of mixed ability. The week includes 12 hours of riding, which can be a mixture of lessons and trail rides. You may also be able to join a full day ride, subject to ability and availability and additional riding can normally be arranged locally.
Each trail has been designed to include a variety of landscapes; from shady Mediterranean forests to rolling golden grain fields, vineyards and olive groves. Stop for a gelato whilst you ride through a medieval village, visit ancient castle ruins in the middle of a forest still inhabited by wild boar or enjoy taking your horse for a paddle in the estate’s own private lake.
The trails are diverse, so every day on the farm riders can experience a different style of ride: take a fast canter alongside the river at the bottom of a beautiful canyon; visit a friendly artisan for an aperitif at his workshop in the Pisan hills; discover medieval castles and abandoned churches on horseback; and perhaps enjoy a wonderful Italian style BBQ down at the lake accompanied by the farm’s own Chianti wine, whilst the horses graze nearby.
There is a wide selection of interesting local fauna on the estate, including porcupines, boar, deer, badgers and even the Apennine wolf.
The Wellness Centre is open each day from 10am, except Tuesday. The estate also has a golf driving range, tennis courts and bicycles which can be reserved at reception. There is a lake for fishing and many hiking trails through the surrounding hills. Ceramics classes and cooking classes are also arranged on the estate.
Just 3 km away on a neighbouring estate is an 18 hole golf course, with equipment available to hire. Hire cars and taxis can also be booked at reception.
The riding style is Western. There are a herd of over fifty horses used for riding and breeding. The trail horses are a mix of Criollos imported from Argentina, Fjord horses and Quarterhorses. For the breeding stud the estate concentrates on Quarterhorses and Paints, with some of the best international reining bloodlines.
To join the Medieval Tuscany (c. 24 hours of riding over the week) you should be at least an intermediate rider confident to canter in open terrain.
The Heart of Tuscany is suitable for novice to experienced riders. The week includes 12 hours of riding, which can be a mixture of lessons and trail rides. You may also be able to join a full day ride, subject to ability and availability and additional riding can normally be arranged locally.
There are horses gentle enough for beginners but also more spirited horses suited to experienced riders. The speed is mixed, and experienced riders can be guaranteed some lovely canters on each ride as well as interesting mixed terrain. Novice riders can enjoy a calmer pace, enjoying the wonderful landscape on sure-footed horses. The riding includes steep mountain trails and riders may be required to dismount for small sections of the trail to walk with the horses.
Franco, the resident horse trainer, is happy to spend time with you showing you his methods for starting the young horses and bringing them on. He is a well-known trainer in Italy, and has worked in Canada and Switzerland.
Children aged 12 years and over, who are competent riders, are welcome to join their family on the trail rides. Children aged 7 years and over can enjoy Western lessons in the arena.
This ride has 2 choices of itinerary.
The following is an illustration of the likely itinerary. However this is flexible and routes may vary due to local conditions, but always with your best interests in mind.
Collection at Pisa or Florence airport in the afternoon for your transfer to the farm. You will be accompanied to your apartment and will have time in the late afternoon to wander down to the stables and perhaps take a swim.
In the evening enjoy an aperitif on the terrace and meet your guide to discuss the riding over dinner.
You have the opportunity to become familiar with your horse and tack in the arena before riding out into the 800 acre estate, perhaps down to the private lake for a paddle and then on to peaceful woods.
In the afternoon you ride out following the old dirt trails of the estate towards Montaione, the main village of the area. Riding through rolling vineyards and farmland, you pass donkeys, ponies and chickens as you ride up to the artisan Riccardo's house. If he is in you will have time for coffee and a viewing of his wonderful workshop of ceramic sculptures and etchings.
After leaving his home, you enjoy a long and exhilarating canter along a soft grass track surrounded by fields of wildflowers, before riding into a long shady forest tunnel that eventually takes you home.
Today you head out for the day through olive groves and over rolling hills to Pietrina, an ancient medieval convent near Volterra. In the past "Pietrina" was called 'Pietra' whilst today that name indicates the opposite hill where the ruins of an old watchtower sit between the two lakes of Montaione.
First recorded in a document from 1118, the sanctuary of Pietrina is all that remains of the ancient Castle of Pietrina. The sanctuary is built on a rocky spur and affords spectacular panoramic views of the Tuscan landscape and the nearby town of Volterra, an awe inspiring fortressed town perched high on an alabaster cliff.
After lunch surrounded by Mediterranean brush filled with strawberry trees, you ride back to Castellare di Tonda along lovely tufo sand trails and passing huge rolling turnout paddocks where the foals can be seen grazing and playing at liberty.
Another full day ride takes you to Sughera, a small red colored village dating back to 1100, surrounded by rolling Tuscan farmland. Behind the village is an old merchant trail that will take you to Barbialla, a truffle plantation and Chianina cattle farm. The Chianina is one of the world’s oldest breeds of cattle and historically of immense cultural value to the Tuscans.
After lunch at the farm you head home through ancient tufo trails with panoramic views over the rolling hills. As you ride you may pass a Sardinian shepherd and his flock of sheep, the final legacy of an old almost nomadic lifestyle.
Today is left as a free day from riding and you can take the opportunity to visit Florence or Siena.
For those that would prefer simply to relax at the farm, we recommend the Wellness Clinic and Spa treatments as an excellent cure for muscle fatigue after riding.
After breakfast you depart for the morning to Castelfalfi castle. Riding down deep into the canyon you cross the stream and ride up into Castelfalfi, a hilltop borgo and castle that was built by the Long bards.
Learn about the mysterious legends that surround the castle as you ride up to its fortressed walls, passing the old chapel that holds the remains of a medici princess.
This is pure Tuscany; rolling vineyards, golden wheat fields and dense forests rich with colour. It is not unusual to spot wild boar on this ride, and the stunning backdrop did not go unnoticed by the film director Bennini, who filmed his adaption of Pinocchio here a few years ago.
This afternoon you have the choice to exchange your afternoon trail ride for either a Spa session in the hydro spa circuit (complete with panoramic jacuzzi, aromatic showers, ice grotto and Turkish baths) or for a one hour private Western riding lesson.
Today’s full day ride incorporates some diverse and interesting riding. Forest trails, creek crossings, open fields, abandoned ruins, and finally the highlight of San Vivaldo monastery. Here you tie the horses in a shady area, whilst you enjoy a picnic lunch in this extraordinary religious retreat.
Constructed between 1500 and 1600 on ruins that date back to 1100, San Vivaldo became known as the Jerusalem of Italy. San Vivaldo was created to allow devoted Catholics the possibility to take a sacred pilgrimage without having to travel to Jerusalem (which at the time was controlled by the Turks, and was therefore very dangerous). Still a working Franciscan monastery, there are 18 chapels through the San Vivaldo Park; and each represents a part of the life and passion of Jesus Christ.
You return to the stables via the trail of the wolf, an old forest trail that has been used for hundreds of years by travelers on their way to Volterra. The trail leads you past a Cinta Senese pig farm and interesting swamp sections where the rider feels almost as if he is traveling through the Amazon.
After breakfast you are transferred to the airport for your flight home.
Accommodation is in warm Tuscan-style self-catering apartments built into each of the twelve beautifully restored farm houses on the estate.
Couples will normally have a lovely one bedroomed apartment. Two friends will normally have a two bedroomed apartment with a shared bathroom. Families can have a two or three bedroomed apartment.
Single travellers can guarantee a single one bedroom apartment by paying a single supplement. If you are willing to share a two bedroomed apartment (one bathroom) and a sharer is available, then there is no single supplement. The supplement is payable in advance and refunded when we find you a sharer.
Each farmhouse of apartments is quite different. Each has its own swimming pool which is usually open from mid-May to mid-October. If the weather permits, they may be open at other times.
Dining in Italy is a delightful experience. Italians are very proud of their regional cuisine, and Tuscany is no exception. Meals are prepared with the freshest of seasonal ingredients in the restaurant. You will enjoy eating al fresco on the terracotta terrace during the summer months and once a week a local musician plays Italian acoustic music whilst you dine.
Buffet breakfasts are held in the dining room from 8am, and there is a selection of options for everyone, from cereal through to warm croissants and Tuscan bread with salami and cheeses. You can be assured of a top quality Italian coffee to start your day, as well as a selection of fruit juices and tea.
Open April to October.
The Medieval Tuscany is on set dates from April to mid-July, and from the end of August through October.
The Heart of Tuscany ride is on set dates from April through October.
Short breaks are available for groups of four or more for a minimum of four nights (arrive Saturday, depart Wednesday) except not from mid-July to the end of August.
Please select a date on the
calendar to request a booking.
Castellare di Tonda
Sharing prices are based on two people in either a one bedroom superior apartment or a two bedroom classic apartment with a shared bathroom. The single person price is based on one person in a one bedroom classic apartment.
|2017||HEART OF TUSCANY
|(12 hours of riding)||(24 hours of riding)|
|8 Apr - 15 Apr
|15 Apr - 22 Apr
|22 Apr - 30 Apr
|1 May - 19 May
|20 May - 14 Jul
|15 Jul - 25 Aug
|26 Aug - 22 Sep
|23 Sep - 29 Oct
INCLUDES Seven nights accommodation; half board; wine with dinner (half bottle per person); riding as per programme; tourist tax; twice weekly apartment cleaning. Medieval Tuscany also includes picnic lunch on three days.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT If you are willing to share a two bedroom apartment (one bathroom) and a sharer is available then the per person sharing price applies. If no sharer is available you will have a one bedroom classic apartment at the single person price and be refunded the difference if we find you a sharer.
PAYABLE LOCALLY Lunches; drinks; optional tips; spa treatments; other activities; transfers.
NEAREST AIRPORT Pisa or Florence
TRANSFERS We can arrange private transfers at a cost of €100 (up to 3 people) / €140 (up to 6 people) per vehicle each way from Pisa or Florence (payable locally). For the Heart of Tuscany we recommend a hire car.
NOT INCLUDED Flights to Pisa or Florence.
In The Saddle Gallery
Located in the hills of Tuscany midway between Florence, Siena and Pisa. The nearest airports are Pisa and Florence, both about one hour by car. We can organise airport transfers or you may prefer to hire a car. We can also arrange transfers from Castelfiorentino train station, about a 20 minute journey.
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