By Susan Glasspool
How about a ride in a carriage?!
Naturally most tourists have gone on a carriage ride to see the sights of Florence and, without doubt, have found it a wonderful experience; all they have to do is pretend to be living in the last century when there were no cars or motorscooters whizzing around to disturb the sensations emanated by the ancient city walls. It is hard to imagine the peaceful carriage rides that were once taken by the Florentines, dressed in their best, along the Lungarni or the boulevards, especially those leading up to Piazzale Michelangelo. Gautier describes them thus "in driving, the seats of the carriages are loaded with bouquets; they are made to rain into the carriage at every step."
Today these same boulevards are jammed with traffic, by night and by day. In fact only a few of the typical Florentine horse-drawn carriages are left because even in the old city centre, now a traffic-free zone, their drivers have to take them on a sort of slalom between the motorscooters, bicycles and crowds of people. Not an easy job at all. However we don't always have to give up our dreams. Duccio and Antoine, who both live near Castellina in Chianti, have come up with an enjoyable and certainly original alternative that also gives the tourist the chance to explore this wonderful part of Tuscany. They organize half day tours in a carriage (5-6 seats) drawn by two horses that travels through the fields, vineyards, olive groves and woods of the Chianti.
Starting out from Casina di Cornia, the carriage follows country roads as far as Lornia, a small village in the borough of Monteriggioni. From here it continues to Rencine where passengers can visit the tiny Church of S. Michele (8th century), built in Lombard style. The route next passes through woodland, olive groves and fields and, if the travellers on board are thirsty, they can partake of a glass or two of Antoine's delicious wine. The journey back offers enchanting views over the gentle Chianti hills that rise above the Elsa Valley. Once back at Casina di Cornia, appetites are rewarded, after the hours spent in the open air in the carriage, with a simple country meal based on products from the farm. Duccio, in fact, grows herbs on his farm at Tregole (his herb and oil bread dip is really special), while Antoine's vineyard is situated at Casina di Cornia.
For information and prices please phone 0577.740662 - Fax 0577/743059 (also for visits to the herb garden at Tregoli).