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.
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.
Fattoria Barbilla is the perfect place to disconnect from the daily routine, take a break and follow nature’s rhythms.
A genuinely relaxed environment you can indulge in, whilst dipping your toe into the wonders which are on your door step.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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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