Adventure in Tuscany
Florence is my favorite city in the world, and I’ve visited dozens of times over the years. But the past few years I’ve been branching out to explore Tuscany’s adventurous side. I’ve cycled. I’ve rented a Vespa and driven around the countryside. And last month I hiked 90km on the Via Francigena from San Miniato to Buonconvento.
I loved the Via Francigena hike, but 90km over five days is more than a lot of people have the time for. So I followed that up with a standalone one-day hike from Torrenieri to Montalcino. Was it similar? Yes. Was it the same? No. To really feel like a pilgrim you need to do a multi-day hike, ideally overnighting at pilgrim hostels and monasteries. But one of my favorite parts of the longer hike was arriving into Tuscan hilltop towns by foot. I had previously been to Montalcino four times, always driving or riding in. It was great this time to arrive through the ancient Porta Burrelli, from a different direction, just as people did for 1,000+ years before cars (and parking lots) were invented.
Montecatini to Torrenieri
I was in Montecatini for the Adventure Travel World Summit. At 7am I met up with several other conference attendees and we were picked up by Tempo di Viaggi. Roughly two hours later we arrived in the small town of Torrenieri, near Buonconvento, where we met Marta, our guide. She immediately recognized that we needed caffeine, so we walked to a cafe for cappuccini and pastries before setting out for Montalcino.
According to my health app, we walked 11.7km total, including strolling around Montalcino. 18,300 steps. 77 floors climbed. The 2.5-hour hike had some small hills, and then a major climb at the end to Montalcino (there’s a reason it’s called a hilltop town). It’s primarily on dirt roads. Whereas I wouldn’t have recommended five days on the Via Francigena for young kids, this walk could be done by kids as young as seven. I’d consider it easy.
The scenery alternated between vineyards and already-harvested fields. As we got closer to Montalcino it became slightly less rural.
It’s Tuscany. You can’t hike without wine! We passed several wineries along the hike, and we stopped for roughly half an hour at Cantina di Montalcino, where they brought out salami, prosciutto, cheese and bread, and we tasted a few local wines: Two Rossi di Montalcino and one Brunello di Montalcino. It was a perfect stop, roughly halfway between Torrenieri and Montalcino.
Freshly hydrated, we hiked the final hour to Montalcino and went straight to lunch. Because Italy. And just like every meal along the Via Francigena, lunch at Il Grappolo Blu was excellent – bruschetta, pasta and wine primarily.
After lunch we walked around Montalcino, visited the fortress and got gelato. Again, because Italy.
Montalcino’s small. It’s always been one of my favorite Tuscan towns, but you really don’t need more than an hour to explore if you’re not stopping frequently for wine tastings. Eventually we finished our gelato and slowly wandered to our waiting bus, which zipped us back to Montecatini.
This was a fun day. If you have more than a day to hike, definitely walk a section of the Via Francigena. But if you only have one day and want to get outside, this is a great excursion. And it’s even closer to Florence than Montecatini – roughly an hour and 45 minutes between Florence and Torrenieri/Montalcino.
Note: This excursion was included in my registration fee for the Adventure Travel World Summit. We tipped our guide nicely.