Magic is alive in Italy and the vast majority of it is found in the medieval walled hilltowns that dot the landscape. The preservation of tradition, the old ways, and the ancient sites lead directly to the heart and soul of a community. It is here that one begins to truly understand the Italians and their culture. Read more →
During my stay in Padova, a college town known for Giotto’s frescoed chapel and the majestic St. Anthony’s Basilica, I took a day and drove out through the surrounding countryside to the south. I explored several small communities, most of them with a castle at the center of town. I had so much fun snapping shots of a few of them. Their astounding size and impenetrable walls are so impressive. The few I saw were built in the 1300 – 1500’s.
These castles are in very good shape. Bricks were mortared together to create huge walls and arches. Some large blocks were used as well in the building. Many small narrow windows are spaced around the upper structure that were used by archers to shoot arrows. Moats that once encircled the castle with water are now green with lush grass.
Wandering through them brought visions of another time when life was so different from today, and every town needed the protection of a castle to survive.
I hope you enjoy the following photos taken just a few days ago of the castle fortresses of the Padova countryside.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain
Observing a kayak on glowing amber waters off the coast of Amalfi one evening made me think of Homer, Greece’s epic poet of antiquity. He described the Mediterranean as having wine-dark seas, but he was also blind. This evening, however, the usual cool blue waters gave way to a brilliant, fiery orange.
Paddling over the often-visual underwater ruins of ancient Roman and Greekcivilizations is enough to excite anyone. Words often fail to express a kayaking day over the Bay of Naples, down the Amalfi Coast, or the many other crystalline waters off the shores of Italy.
This September, I will be exploring the wonders of Italy again for three weeks. Sea Kayaking is on my must-do list. Drifting by hidden grottos, dipping into caves, paddling through volcanic archways and observing castles and fortresses on the rocky mainland as I drift by is an experience I just can’t pass up.To see Italy from the water will be like getting to know it all over again.
The Island of the Sirens (la Sireneuses) is an archipelago of tiny islands off the Amalfi Coast of Italy between the Isle of Capri and 6 miles SW of Positano. Kayaking throughout these ancient mythical islands is breathtaking. Made up of three main islands, mythical sirens are believed to have inhabited them. They sang or played the lyre and flute, and bedeviled anyone happening to hear them. Strabo, a 1st century BC geographer, would warn you to plug your ears and avoid crashing your kayak on the rocky coast. Go ahead and explore their secret hideaways along magical shores, but be careful!
Explore the coastline by kayak between Portofinoand Cinque Terre on the turquoise Ligurian Sea. The subtle play of light on the colors of the landscape is spellbinding. Harbors of bobbing boats, homes that cling to rugged cliffs, vineyards and olive trees that dot the terraced hillsides envelope you as your kayak glides by. Coves and promontories provide enticing exploration moments. Sunlight gives way to the shadows of rocky outcrops.
Tofino Expeditionsoffers kayaking tours from the Italian Riviera and Cinque Terre.Top-rated by National Geographic Adventureand an established sea-kayaking outfitter for 25 years, they also offer an 11 day excursion by kayak combined with some great on-land adventures.
Amalfi Kayak provides excellent local knowledge and insight into the area along with Kayak rentals and expeditions. If you like to support local business, as I do, this is a great option. They offer customized itineraries based upon your interests, time available and level of skill.
” ‘Andiamo,’ let’s go, the sound comes out at a gallop.” Frances Mayes
Imagine riding horses under cypress shadows that fall in wide bands across a sunlit pathway that meander over the hillsides of Tuscany. Endless blue skies blown clean of clouds frame medieval villages and vineyards. Birdsong and breezes gently caress your senses and nature is suddenly all around you.
Have any of you, like myself, ever dreamed of riding from castle to castle on horseback? Recently, I have fallen in love with a similar idea. Riding from winery to winery on horseback. But the very best is to combine the two of them together and ride to castles and wineries on horseback! And what better place to journey through than Tuscany.
Tuscany is a primeval land full of history, legends, and ancient peoples. Pathways wind through meadows and forests that pilgrims walked many centuries ago. Olive groves, vineyards and cypress trees embellish the landscape in the most striking tones, giving a balance of beauty that soothes and refreshes the soul.
Chianti is a region in Tuscany located between Florence and Siena. Steeped in ancient history, the land has grown wealthy from wine. Today the vineyards produce an excellent quality. This was not always the case. Many of us remember the cheap Chianti encased in a wicker bottom with a candle sticking out of it, displayed in Italian restaurants years ago. However, the wine has changed with time and today has become some of the best in the world. Classico is a term used which means that the wine is grown in the oldest zone of origin. The map below shows the area.
Chianti wine was first mentioned in a document from 1398. The above outlined Chianti area boundaries have been fixed since 1932 and have stayed the same. But not all are Chianti Classico. Divided into 8 sub-zones, each one produces its own Chianti wine. As you ride through the region, you will find many farms and wineries along the road offering wine tasting.
There is no better way to experience the sights, smells, and tastes of Tuscany than on horseback. Enjoy a day under the Tuscan sun and experience the ambience close up and personal. Below I have listed a few recommended riding experiences that offer wonderful horses that anyone can ride. Click on the titles to open the websites. I have provided a brief description after each title.
After riding for two hours through the Chianti hillsides, you will return to the stables and enjoy a robust Tuscan lunch of salamis, cheeses, meats, fresh vegetables and wines from the same vineyards you just rode through.
Beginning with a one hour ride through vineyards, olive groves, and medieval villages to a 17th century Villa’s estate, you will be taken on a guided tour of the ancient cellar. The unique process of making olive oil and wine will be discussed, followed by tasting the olive oil and several wines. A Tuscan lunch, consisting of bruschetta and pasta, or dinner for the pm ride, will be served afterward.