Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Sluttery Travels: Local Living, Tuscany

I'm not very good at doing 'touristy' things. I'm all for visiting a museum or three, but I care little for guided tours and I'd much rather seek out the undiscovered than follow a crowd of people. I don't like having schedules when I'm on holiday. I'd much rather do things inbetween people watching in a cute bar. I like exploring and going on my own adventures.


When G Adventures invited me to spend a few days in Tuscany on their Local Living trip, I was excited and cautious at the same time. A group trip? Organised fun? Guided tours? It sounds like everything I've ever tried to avoid while on holiday. But, the local living aspect appealed to me - meeting real locals instead of staying in a hotel, trying local food, learning about an area from the people who love where they live. Yep, that sounds like a winner to me.

After a sleepy two hour transfer from the airport, we found ourselves at Stefano's home in Chianciano Terme. Staying in someone's home doesn't feel strange, it's welcoming and comfortable. You feel settled. And my room had a huge balcony. I probably could have had my own party on it. Instead I took sunset photos like the one pictured at the top of the page.


I made pasta! Seriously, I made this. I'll share a brilliant pasta recipe with you soon. Between visiting towns dotted about the area, and drinking in wine tastings and olive oil tastings and eating so much food, you meet local people and hang out and take in a cooking class or two. We learnt about slow food and what makes produce in the region so special, we walked to Stefano about why he doesn't necessarily want to profit from his produce, he just wants to make the best food that he can because it's important to the local area and culture. It's important to him.


I don't drive, so having someone else doing the driving for me is a massive help (and it means you can catch up on book reading). I'm all for train hopping and rambling - Italy do train travel brilliantly - but there are some occasions when a car is handy and the Tuscan countryside is one of them (I've since learnt that it is possible to forget how to to ride a bike, after falling off four times, I have the scratches to prove it).


This is the The Abbey of Sant'Antimo. Near Montalcino, the church dates back to the 12th Century and manages to look beautiful even on the most overcast of days. It sees huge groups of people gathering every afternoon to hear Gregorian monks chanting. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed. Hairs stood up on the back of my neck and while I didn't quite understand (or maybe even appreciate) the significance of what I was watching, I knew I was very lucky to be there. I won't forget that for a long time, and I probably wouldn't have had the chance to experience this had I been holidaying on my own.


Travelling with a group of people you don't know can be hard work. Once upon a time, I went on a group trip with someone who didn't drink water. Ever. It was the strangest thing, but he hadn't drunk water for years. And yet he still had a pop at the vegetarian in our group more than once. I do group travel a lot, and if it's fun 70-80% of the time (it usually is), then you're onto a winner. But on group trips, you're spending a lot of time with the same people and you can't always go off and do your own thing when you want. That can be exhausting. It won't suit every traveller, but on most occasions the bad outweighs the good.


Local Living in Tuscany is brilliant for so many reasons. If you can't bear the thought of a beach holiday and want to do something different, you'll get to do that. Despite the organised fun element, there were still lots of 'let's have one more drink and then go exploring' moments. Stopping for limoncello in the campo in Siena was wonderful. You'll meet interesting people and if you're a solo traveller, this can be a godsend - I'm all for exploring on my own on a sunny day, but sitting and a solo dinner is dull three days on the trot. Group trips don't suit everyone, but G Adventures show you the best of a country with likeminded people. If you like the idea of adventuring but don't like the faff and bother, it's the perfect middle ground. Their Local Living Tuscany trip is a wonderful way to explore one of the most beautiful regions of Italy.

The Southern Tuscany Local Living tour is for seven days and costs £799. I was a guest on the G Adventures local living trip. Tuscany is my new jam.

6 comments:

  1. Next visit, go see this absolutely incredible place at Reggello where The Mall is: http://loveisspeed.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/hidden-palace-in-tuscanycastello-di.html

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  2. Regina Fellangi29 May 2013 at 16:56

    Thanks for this, I'm heading that way in a couple of weeks on a pilates retreat! Great recommendations, thats why you're my favourite blog!

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    1. Do visit that Abbey if you get the chance (aim to get there for 12:30), it's really special.

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  3. I can't believe it! I have ranted against alcohol for years online! Alcohol is a drug! Just because it's legal doesn't make it right!!

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    Replies
    1. It also doesn't make it 'wrong', Cindybin. People are free to make their own choices.

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