What a great week in Tuscany exploring the Apuane and Appenine Alps. This really is a wonderful area of deep beech and chestnut forests and rocky ridges of limestone.

Well, it's another sunny morning in Tuscany at the villa at Lavacchio. Our guide this week, Kathy Grindrod, is just about to head off on the first day of walking with our guests who arrived yesterday at Pisa airport. The walking here is great with the limestone landscape offering ridges, and jagged peaks and towers, natural arches and bridges. Essentially, the mountainsides are forested by hornbeam and chestnut trees which offer an incredible lushness, but also help provide the contrast between shady walks, and then the openness and views of the summits and ridges. Our guests are a great bunch and there looks like being plenty of humour this week!
As for me - I have been looking at some mountain biking in the area as this is something we hope to offer fairly soon. The terrain is pretty wild and finding the routes is proving very challenging. The maps are, how can I put it politely? - not great! There are few signposts, if any, and the paths are often rarely used. This all makes for great biking and a real sense of exploration though I had more of an adventure than I cared for yesterday when I disturbed a wild boar in the forest! She was not impressed to see me and I beat a hasty retreat. I have also been told that there are wolves in this area and there have been several sightings recently. It would be great to see one but the chances are slim I guess. Anyway, must slap on the sunscreen, dig out the shades, climb onboard and get biking! Lindsay

What a wonderful discovery - the Apuane Alps in Tuscany. Just been staying in the area for ten days with a view to perhaps offering trips there next year in 2010! The area is truly wild and beautiful with forests of beech trees covering the mountainsides with rocky limestone ridges rising high above the treeline. It was my first visit to this part of Italy and it did not disappoint me. There is some excellent walking to be found on paths which are not crowded, and have a great feeling of remoteness. For me it was particularly interesting to see that some of the walks resembled Scotland with juniper, and blaeberry scattered over the hillside. However, the food experience was very different to Scotland with plenty of opportunities to enjoy fresh local pasta, autumn fungi, and of course some incredible local cheeses!

I was based at Promiana which is only an hour or so from Pisa airport and is a great base to explore Florence and the stunning medieval walled city of Lucca - so excellent for combining walking, or mountain biking, with culture. A day in Florence meant a visit to see 'David' by Michelangelo, and the Duomo with its frescoes, and of course some retail therapy in the street markets. My Christmas shopping was done in 2 hours!! My base was the lovely farm and villa at Lavvachio which is run by two Scots, Jamie and Ailso. The accommodation is truly beautiful with lots of tasteful art and antique furnishings. The fact that Ailsa is a cordon bleu cook and professionally trained make meal times an extravaganza of taste! The villa sits high on the mountainside surrounded by olive groves and chestnut trees, with much of the fresh food coming from the herb and vegetable gardens, or the livestock - ducks, chickens, guinea fowl, goats and sheep. If you would like to join us in Tuscany, Italy in 2010 then do get in touch and we can either arrange a bespoke guided walking trip or we may even offer a scheduled departure if there is sufficient interest. The photo shows myself and Kathy Grindrod on our ascent of the Pania Della Croce, 1858m, the dominant limestone peak in the area above Promiana.

Ciao !!!