Trail riding in Maremma Tuscany Italy
Waiting in the shade for me was Saba, a 12-year-old black mare, who would carry me over 120 kilometres in the coming week, as we rode in a huge, scenic loop in the countryside surrounding Montieri, with the horses stopping overnight at friendly farms, while we returned to the welcome comfort of the Hotel Prategiano. This were horse riding holidays in Tuscany that I will never forget.
And so the pattern was set for the week – a morning in the saddle, riding through Tuscany over ancient trails, teetering down vertiginous dried up river beds and cantering through the cypress-spiked scenery usually reserved for the picture books. Usually silent, we would swish through soft swathes of wheat and splash through the silvery River Merse, with Saba making serene progress though intimate sun-dappled forests, bravely cresting steep climbs and cantering ears-pricked through breathtaking wide-open valleys, with the hilltops around us sprinkled with medieval villages like Monticiano or Gerfalco, where the marble used to build Siena cathedral was mined.
Then after a picturesque picnic pit-stop, with me sneaking, off we would go again, marveling at the surprises each day brought. Some delights were natural, like the sound of a wild boar thundering away in the bush; the sight of vivid pink cyclamens and creeping flox; spotting an overgrown Etruscan priest’s grave by a stony track in Lagoni and taking an unexpected bath when the horses decided to take a swim in the river.
Other delights were man-made, like an encounter with a former international showjumper on the Countess of Luriano’s vast estate, where we watched him exercise first his rare Persano stallion (one of only 50 of the breed left in the world) and then some of his falcons. Watching his graceful birds hover on thermals high above the castle, we were witnessing a scene which had been unchanged for centuries. The same spine-tingling brush with enduring history hit us again in the afternoon, when we hitched up at the awe-inspiring abbey of San Galgano and the medieval chapel of Monte Siepi, where a young knight plunged his sword into a boulder to mark his new life as a religious hermit.
On the next day, we rode through the Nature Reserve of Le Cornate e Fosini which is situated between the Provinces of Siena and Grosseto and includes to the north the area surrounding the castle of Fosini, strong-hold of the counts D’Elci at the end of the 14th century, to the south Poggio Mutti and the rise of Le Cornate di Gerfalco. A well-marked track starts from the entrance of the village of Gerfalco and reaches the ridge of Le Cornate, whence you can reach the castle of Fosini or close the loop by going back to Gerfalco by taking the white road that runs along the southern side of the massif.
Among the interesting geological formations found on Le Cornate, mostly belonging to the Successione Toscana the prevailing ones are the solid limestone and, to a lesser extent, the beautiful ammonitic red limestone. In the area, there are also the ruins of an old silver mine and beautiful specimens of minerals such as fluorite and mossottite have been found. The southern side of Le Cornate is covered by the species of the Mediterranean maquis, by hop hornbeam and by a forestation of black pine dating back to the thirties. Until then, the steep slope was a very degraded pasture, with protruding rock, where only a few scrubby shrubs of holly oak and hard beam survived. To the north, instead, we have unusual vegetation, with the hop hornbeam prevailing, which forms large pure woods, sometimes combined with flowering ash, Montpelier maple and field maple.
Too soon the week was over, and it was wagons roll for this tenderfoot and with a saddlebag of memories. I vowed to return one day to discover more of this wonderful quiet region of Maremma Tuscany on horseback.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am a professional equestrian guide and would like to invite you to come to Italy for a horse riding holiday. Here you can find more information about our equestrian vacations in Tuscany.