One of Italy’s largest regions, glorious Tuscany is awesomely beautiful. Everywhere you look are landscapes like paintings, pristine hill villages and hamlets crafted from stone that seem unchanged since ancient times. Gently rolling hills are clothed with fields of golden wheat dashed scarlet by poppies. Winding lanes lined with pencil-straight cypress trees lead to inviting villas with views to picture-perfect hill towns of medieval and Renaissance splendour, recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Walking in Tuscany means all this – and stacks more! The dense forests of the Casentino, rugged mountains of the Apennines and Apuane, Mediterranean maquis backing long sandy beaches in the Maremma on the Tyrrhenian coast, and there’s even the stunning island of Elba, a world of its own.
The tiny lookout on Monte Penna (Walk 16)
Visiting Tuscany on foot is akin to making a voyage through time, as the region is riddled with historical pathways used by traders, pilgrims, armies and travellers since time immemorial. A breath of fresh air for visitors between the crowded art cities, the walks follow in the illustrious footsteps of the ancient Etruscans, the Romans, Hannibal, Saint Francis, Barbarossa, Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Pinocchio, Giuseppe Verdi, Byron, Milton and DH Lawrence – to mention just a few. Oh, food and wine play a big part too.
Thanks to the excellent capillary network of trains and buses, travel around Tuscany is both enjoyable and reliable, enabling visitors to enjoy the scenery without contributing unnecessarily to pollution.
Topographic maps are provided with each route described in this guide. However, commercial maps showing a greater context and landmarks are also important.
Kompass have put out two useful overlapping collections of 1:50,000 maps for Tuscany. The three-map set n.2439 Toscana Nord takes in the Apennines, Alpi Apuane and the Florence area. The four-map set n.2440 Toscana (‘Heart of Tuscany’) covers Chianti, the Val d’Elsa west of Siena, the Crete, Val d’Orcia and the Tyrrhenian coast.
A handful of more detailed 1:25,000 maps are also available: Edizioni Multigraphic (www.edizionimultigraphic.it) does the Alpi Apuane and the Maremma, L’escursionista (www.escursionista.it) does the island of Elba, and SELCA maps are good for the Apennines and the Foreste Casentinesi.
See individual walks for the sheet numbers of relevant maps. All of these maps are on sale locally in Tuscany. Well-stocked overseas maps suppliers include The Map Shop (www.themapshop.co.uk) and Stanfords stores (www.stanfords.co.uk) in the UK, and Omnimap (www.omnimap.com) in the US; otherwise order from the online Florence bookshop Stella Alpina (www.stella-alpina.com).
Dos and don’ts
- Don’t set out late on walks even if they’re short. Always have extra time up your sleeve to allow for detours and wrong turns.
- Tell your accommodation where you’ll be walking, as a safety precaution.
- Find time to get in decent shape before setting out on your holiday, as it will maximise enjoyment. You will appreciate the wonderful scenery better if you’re not tired, and healthy walkers react better in an emergency.
- Don’t be overly ambitious – choose itineraries suited to your capacity. Read the walk description before setting out.
- Stick with your companions and don’t lose sight of them. Remember that the progress of groups matches that of the slowest member.
- Route conditions can change; if you have any doubts about the way to go, don’t hesitate to turn back and retrace your steps rather than risk getting lost. Better safe than sorry.
- Avoid walking in brand new footwear as it may cause blisters; on the contrary, leave those worn-out shoes in the shed as they will be unsafe on slippery terrain. Sandals are totally unsuitable for walking in Tuscany.
- Check local weather forecasts and don’t start out if storms are forecast. Paths can get slippery if wet, and hills and mountainsides are prone to rockfalls.
- Carry weatherproof gear at all times, along with food and plenty of drinking water.
- In electrical storms, don’t shelter under trees or rock overhangs and keep away from metallic fixtures.
- DO NOT rely on your mobile phone as there may not be any signal.
- Carry any rubbish away with you. Even organic waste such as apple cores is best not left lying around as it can upset the diet of animals and birds and spoil things for other visitors.
- Close all stock gates behind you promptly and securely.
- Be considerate when making a toilet stop and don’t leave unsightly paper lying around. Remember that abandoned huts and rock overhangs could serve as life-saving shelter for someone else. It’s a good idea to carry a supply of small plastic doggy bags to deal with paper and tissues.
- Make an effort to learn basic greetings in Italian: buongiorno (good morning), buona sera (good evening), arrivederci (goodbye) and grazie (thank you).
- Lastly, don’t leave your common sense at home.