Italy Travel

Slow travel – hidden treasures in the heart of rural Tuscany

Image of the Tuscan Countryside

In an increasingly hectic world, more and more of us are turning away from over-stimulation, pressure and excess.  Mindfulness, de-cluttering, grow food not lawns, hugge, the simple things – these aren’t just 21st-century buzzwords; they’re a reaction to the stresses of daily life.  Absurdly, the natural instinct a child has to be in the present moment is something we as adults are having to re-learn. So, this year, we chose our holiday with ‘doing less’ as our main criteria, slow travel in rural Tuscany seemed the ideal way to sample ‘The Good Life’ Italian Style.

Collage of Rural Tuscany

 

Fattoria Barbialla

We escaped to Fattoria Barbialla, a 1200-acre organic farm and forested estate deep in the heart of rural Tuscany.  It truly lives up to its own philosophy; selling its own organic ‘slow-food’ product, promoting local businesses with similar ethics, providing cooking classes and a range of outdoor activities. The perfect base to experience slow travel in rural Tuscany.

 

Image of Fattoria Barbialla in Rural Tuscany

 

Image of Fattoria Barbialla in Rural Tuscany

 

 Fattoria Barbilla is the perfect place to disconnect from the daily routine, take a break and follow nature’s rhythms.

 Image of Fattoria Barbialla - summer house

 

A genuinely relaxed environment you can indulge in, whilst dipping your toe into the wonders which are on your door step.

Image of Fattoria Barbialla - pool fence

 

 

Relaxed Exploration

Image of Rural Tuscany in the evening light

 

Florence, Pisa, Siena, Lucca and Livorno are all within an hours’ drive.  We chose forays to, San Gimignano, Certaldo, Volterra and San Miniato which are even closer.

 

Image Volterra Tuscany

Volterra

 

Image of Volterra alley ways

 

Image of Volterra Tuscany 1398 Sign

 

Image of Volterra Tuscany Balcony

 

Daily farmers markets provided us with a surfeit of vegetables, meat, cheeses and wine.  Because our children are young it was easiest for us to mostly eat at our villa after a market foray in the morning, sampling the delicious seasonal produce.

 

Italian Market - Tomato

 

In the early evening we would ventured out to a hilltop town for a ‘Gelato Hunt’.  Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano is a World Champion with foodie heavyweights like Jamie Oliver endorsing its charms.  L’Isola del Gusto in Volterra is also worth a mention, but really most gelaterias in Tuscany will deliver on quality and flavour.

 

Image of Italian Gelato

 

 

There is always plenty to do also for the interested. In Volterra we were caught up in medieval excitement thanks to their Annual ‘1398’ Re-enactment Festival; bringing to life the town in all its ancient glory. Living history is the best way to teach your children about the past.  Happy children, happy parents!

1398 re-enactment Volterra Tuscany

 

Image of boy 1398 festival

 

Image of Volterra Castle

Relaxation Tuscan Style

Back at the Fattoria Barbilla, we took meandering walks through the estate, long lazy lunches on our terrazzo and added to our freckle collection by bobbing too long in the pool.  We re-discovered the ancient indulgence of reading, drawing and playing board games during Meriggiare – an Italian-only word (they have a few, love them) that literally translates as ‘To escape the heat of the midday sun by resting in the shade’, how very civilised. Slow travel certainly has its benefits!

Image of Fattoria Barbialla Driveway

 

Pool - Fattoria Barbialla Estate Tuscany

 

Pool at Fattoria Barbialla Estate Tuscany

 

On one solo run, I found speed I didn’t know I possessed when I spotted a ‘sounder’ of wild boars foraging in the forest…! But mostly life was slow. Nightly, a family of badgers came foraging for figs as close as our front door.  Bats dived, Stone Martens tussled, House Martins swooped.  Deer gambolled.  Children slept.  For the first time in a long time, I felt rested.

 

Image of Fattoria Barbialla Estate - Le Trosce

 

Fattoria Barbialla Estate Tuscany

 

Image of Evening Light at Fattoria Barbialla Estate Tuscany

 

Understanding the flow of Italian Life

In rural Tuscany, particularly when it’s hot, going against the flow, moulded over generations of Italians working with, rather than against, their climate/people/landscape, would be foolish.  For ten glorious days, time bubbled along. We were happy to learn the lesson that dashing hither and thither may ‘Get Things Done’ but it isn’t a harmonious way of living.  I’m grateful to Fattoria Barbialla for reminding us what “Quality Time” as a family really means.

 

Image of timber canopy

 

Next time, we will extend the invitation to friends and book a week in the winter.  I feel sure we will find even more to love and experience the landscape anew. I am also sure that out-of-season is ideal time to experience the cultural side of Tuscany, far from the hot, maddening crowds.

 

Image of Panama Hat

 

Semplicemente e Lentamente.  Simply and slowly: the Italian way.

 

The Slow Travellers Ideal Accommodation

The Fattoria Barbilla Estate has a number of accommodation options to choose from, we stayed in Le Trosce. This simple rustic farmhouse is full of charm and the perfect antidote to our busy modern world.

 

 

Interior of Le Trosce - Fattoria Barbialla Estate Tuscany

 

Slow Travel in Rural Tuscany - Fattoria Barbialla Estate

 

Image of Basket and cotton sneakers

 

Our slow travel tips:

  • Base yourself in one place for a good period of time, unpack and really live in the place

  • Travel by train if possible rather than flying

  • Shop in the local village/town, get friendly with the shopkeepers and locals, ask for their recommendations

  • Immerse yourself in the local food culture. Eat where the locals eat, shop where the locals shop, cook your own meals with fresh local ingredients

  • Indulge in leisurely day trips to local areas

  • Explore by walking or even cycling, you will enjoy a much richer experience

  • Avoid tourist hot spots, if it is a must see find out when is the quietest time to visit

  • Most of all remember the key is to slow down and really experience a place. Leave time for the unexpected and unplanned. Rather than trying to tick everything off the must see list, aim to get under the skin of a place, relish it and return home feeling uplifted and refreshed

Pin it for later

Image of Rural Tuscany collage

 

If you love Italy as much as we do you might enjoy a leisurely wander through the Boboli Gardens in Florence.

 

 

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