The Tuscany hiking trip was my third with Wilderness and it had everything that I love about a Wilderness Travel adventure. The leaders were wonderful, and even though I had been to Italy before, I got to see and experience places I would have never thought to visit on my own. Instead of taking a lot of photos this year, I decided to keep an illustrated journal instead. After hiking and sightseeing each night, I would go to my room and sketch and write up what I had seen and done that day, then ink everything in and apply watercolor. Here are a couple of excerpts from my experience:
A full day started with a visit to a local Vin Santo (a dessert wine) producer in San Quirico d’Orcia. Lisa Halderman, the trip leader, seemed to know everyone in every town we visited, and she got us a quick tour by the head vintner himself. I sketched him standing next to racks that held thousands of bunches of grapes. We also went to Pienza that day, where we stopped into a shop that had dozens of locally produced pecorino cheeses. The town itself was beautiful, perched high up on a hill. It had been completely razed in the Renaissance period and rebuilt by Pope Pius II as an ideal city. The Cathedral there shows a mix of Gothic and Renaissance elements. We had a hike through beautiful, rolling hills that day, and a picnic lunch made up of local foods and wine underneath a 600 year-old olive tree at a farm. The day ended in Sorano, another beautiful town, where we wandered cobblestone streets and saw hills dotted with ancient Etruscan tombs.
That day we transferred by ferry from the mainland to the Island of Elba, a place I would have never thought to go, but was so happy to have discovered. In Portoferraio, we had a tour of Napoleon’s villa followed by a lunch prepared with local produce and accompanied by local wines that we got to watch the chef make for us at a restaurant built into part of the medieval fortress walls. After, we rode to another part of the island where we hiked through the hills along the coast, with Mediterranean Pines above us, like something out of a Dr. Seuss story, and the bright blue sea water sparkling below us. Some folks in the group opted out of the hike and spent some time on the beach, which was in walking distance of our hotel, and had a swim. We did have some wonderful hikes on the 2 days we spent on Elba, and had what might have been my favorite meal of the whole tour in a little restaurant in Poggio.
-Sketchbook and text by 3-time WT adventurer Susanne Reece, Hiking in Tuscany