How better to explore the beautiful Tuscany region of Italy than on foot! I spent several October days with Soul Running exploring the Via della Lana e della Seta (Silk and Wool hiking trail) which connects Bologna to Prato with 130km of gorgeous trail.
Tuscany offers not just rolling hills and sun-drenched wheat fields and olive groves. As part of this journey we explored medieval hill top villages where church tower bells ring out loud and soulful and sensational slow food is cooked with love.
The 130k Via della Lana e della Seta
The Via della Lana e della Seta has only recently been officially opened to the public, and so our group of 9 intrepid travellers felt like pioneers into ancient Etruscan civilisations – although with the difference being the route is well-signposted and easy to follow these days – probably not back in the Etruscan era.
As a runner I’m used to passing through trails at a less than gentle pace but it quickly became apparent that this route needed to be appreciated and after the first day of a gentle 6 miles we all agreed that in sync with the slow cooking movement of Tuscany we would also take this route a little slower and appreciate it even more.
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Chiusa di Casalecchio di Reno
Our journey started from the Chiusa di Casalecchio di Reno at dusk, following the Reno Canal which was used to power silk factories, as well as water, paper and spinning mills.
We reached Palazzo de’Rossi towards the end of the day. The Palazzo is a beautiful medieval complex made even more romantic in the setting sun housing a castle and a small village along with numerous cats that seemed to take ownership of the area. You can even hold your wedding here (cats optional)!
Tuscany conjures up images of rolling hills and sun drenched landscapes filled with bright green vineyards, olive groves and golden wheat fields.
While in the area we took a quick visit to the Bridge of Vizzano. The bridge is an impressive single arch suspended structure built starting from 1926 and has been destroyed numerous times through historic events of war and floods, but is always rebuilt to keep the link between the two banks.
On our first night we stayed in a beautiful hilltop agritourism farm surrounded by vineyards and fruit trees, Fattorie di Montechiaro. At the farm we enjoyed Tuscan hospitality at its finest with delicious cold meats, cheese and bread to start, before indulging in delicious home made pasta and plenty of local red wine.
Grizzanda Morandi to Castiglione dei Pepoli
Day 2 on our itinerary involved the longest day of hiking from Grizzana Morandi to Castiglione dei Pepoli, before lunch and then on to Vernio.
The hike took us along panoramic ridges across the Reno and Setta valleys on quintessential Tuscan trails and ancient Etruscan roads through farms and small villages. In true ancient Mediterranean style, we topped up on figs still hanging in the trees along the way.
After arriving into Castiglione dei Pepoli we consumed gorgeous lunch at Taverna del Cacciatore, cooked by Lucia Antonelli, known locally as the ‘Tortellini Queen’; with her nearly being my namesake I’d like to say her amazing cooking skills come from the name.
Castiglione dei Pepol to Vernio
With full stomachs and a few red wines later we hike the remaining section to Vernio along chestnut tree lined woods before arriving at the Agriturismo i Corboli for a few hours of relaxation beside the pool and in the panoramic farm house before indulging in their own locally produced honey, olive oils, jams, chestnut flour products as well as their own pig meat sausages.
Sitting around a massive table altogether for dinner conversations flow as easily as the red wine and the hours disappear into the night before we retire to the comfort of dark and tranquil rooms to prepare for the final day on the trail.
Going wild for wild horses
We start the morning exploring the Molino Bardazzi, a mill renowned for transforming high quality grains into flour.
With the promise of wild horses to be seen we enthusiastically climb the highest peak of our few days from Vaiano, heading to Prato.
The long hill winds up into the sunshine and we are greeted by a herd of wild horses galloping around the meadows!
We can’t get our cameras out quick enough and soon we also have a drone up in the air and cameras are going crazy, with all we’ve seen throughout the week its amazing to see these wild horses invoke such a sense of excitement among all of us.
Artiminio – A Unesco World Heritage Site
Our last night is spent exploring a Unesco World Heritage Site, the medici villas and gardens of Artimino. We stayed at the Tenuta di Artimino in beautiful apartments in the old fortified village.
During our stay in the area we also explore the Museo Pecci (centre for contemporary art) and Palazzo Pretoria (Museum of Praetorian Palace) in Prato. I come away with too many bottles of locally made wine and I’m glad I have the car so I can manage to carry it all.
Exploring the landscapes of Tuscany
The enchanting landscapes of this region make the Via della Lana e della Seta a must-visit in my eyes.
Whether you choose to hike or run the entire 130km or just just take a couple of days to experience some part of this amazing trail you’ll find yourself won over by the people in the Apennines, captivated by the stories and the legends of an era long gone, amazed by the architecture and full of gorgeous food and wine! And what could be a better long weekend than that?!
To learn more about the region including places to see and travel itineraries, head over to Prato Turismo.