The art of slow travel is one that we should all celebrate. Taking the time to appreciate local culture and to meet new people is what travel is all about. Slow Travel Fest is a collection of festivals focusing on outdoor experiences and slow travel, along and around the iconic Via Francigena in Tuscany, Italy.
Slow Travel around Via Francigena in Tuscany
There are three annual editions of Slow Travel Fest in different parts of Tuscany:
- Lunigiana Folks and Family, in June
- Camaiore Hike & Climb in September
- Monteriggioni Walks & Talks in September
What they all have in common is a great range of events to encourage people to get outdoors and experience travel in a different way. Slow travel is all about sampling local food specialties and trying new activities.
Closely connected with the Slow Food movement, it enables you to experience immersive travel. It’s also a way of reconvening with nature, and admiring the simple beauty of the sun setting over the Tuscan hills.
Via Francigena, Tuscany
An ancient pilgrims route leading from Canterbury, England via France and Switzerland to Rome, Via Francigena is a popular walking trail. It was designated a Major Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 2004.
In recent times, the pathway has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity, particularly in Italy. You can travel on foot, by bike or on horseback.
Whether your journey is a religious one or more of a spiritual way of enjoying nature, we recommend picking up a Pilgrim’s Passport. It’s a memento of each stage of your time along the Via Francigena, as local churches and municipalities stamp your passport.
The form can be ordered online from the European Association of the Via Francigena or collected from the Tourist Office of the City of Monteriggioni. The Region of Tuscany has encouraged an initiative to restore the path and increase signage, as well as developing low impact infrastructure for those travelling along it.
In Tuscany, the Via Francigena covers 354 kilometres from Pontremoli to Radicofani. One of the most beautiful sections of the route is from San Gimignano to Monteriggioni. It passes by the charming hamlet of Abbadia a Isola, with its medieval cloisters, and Monteriggioni, a picturesque walled town.
Slow Travel Fest in Monteriggioni
The Monteriggioni edition of Slow Travel Fest is organized by Ciclica. It’s sponsored by Comune di Monteriggioni and Regione Toscana with the help of Toscana Promozione Turistica.
This three day festival features a range of activities suitable for all the family and all levels of physical ability.
The 4th edition was held recently, with fun experiences such as cycling tours, orienteering and travel writing workshops. An entertaining performance by the clown Ugo Sanchez Jr. was held in the church garden at Abbadia a Isola.
There was also a fascinating initiation to wilderness and bushcraft survival techniques by Andrew T. Price. One of our personal highlights was rafting on the Elsa River. Working as a team, you pass by Diborrato waterfall and through the sparkling turquoise water.
If you’re attending Slow Travel Fest in Monteriggioni, don’t miss the opening walk along the Via Francigena to Abbadia Isola. You get a lovely view of Monteriggioni Castle from a distance as the sun sets.
Another interesting excursion is the guided walk around the Montagnola Senese, a hillside area with rich vegetation and abundant wildlife.
San Salvatore Abbey
Many of the Slow Travel Fest Monteriggioni activities depart from Abbadia a Isola, known for its medieval abbey. Founded in the 10th century, San Salvatore Abbey was a popular place for pilgrims to stop along the Via Francigena in Tuscany.
The interior is impressive, with a high timbered ceiling and a marble baptismal font. At the adjacent cloisters, visitors to Slow Travel Fest can relax in the deckchairs whilst listening to talks.
There’s local food, beer and wine to enjoy, as well as artisanal products such as organic toiletries to purchase. In the evening, the illuminated cloisters look magical.
They’re the perfect backdrop for the evening entertainment, with DJ sets and live bands playing while the crowds dance and party.
Monteriggioni Walled Town
While you’re in the area, don’t miss the nearby town of Monteriggioni. Lesser known than San Gimignano but equally charming, it dates from the 13th century.
Considered to be one of the best preserved walled towns in Italy, it was built to defend the people of Siena from the Florentines.
There are 14 watchtowers dotted along the ten metre high walls and you can walk along several sections. Monteriggioni features in the Assassin’s Creed video games and was mentioned by Dante in his Divine Comedy.
‘Because on its circular parapets
Monteriggioni crowns itself with towers‘
It has a lovely main square, Piazza Roma, where you’ll find the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. At the Museum of Weaponry and Armour, you’ll learn how the locals defended themselves against attacks. What makes this museum unusual is that visitors can try on some of the armour and also wield the weapons.
There are many restaurants in Monteriggioni, as well as boutiques selling handmade items such as these colourful shoes. You can also see artisans making clothing on hand looms and creating jewellery.
The area is known for its vineyards and there are several shops where you can taste and purchase the local wine and olive oil. Sienese pork from wild pigs, pecorino cheese and porcini mushrooms are also well worth trying.
Where to Stay for Slow Travel Fest
There are some lovely places to stay near Abbadia a Isola and Monteriggioni. One of our favourites is the Relais Castel Bigozzi. This luxurious hotel is set in a medieval castle dating from 1000.
There’s a gorgeous Travertine marble swimming pool, a wellness centre with sauna and treatment rooms and a cosy lounge bar. Guests take their breakfast overlooking the olive groves and there’s also a barbecue area within the hotel grounds.
The staff are very friendly and make your stay here very enjoyable.
It’s easy to get to Monteriggioni from Florence or Pisa airport and once you’re there, you may well not want to leave. Slow travel is becoming increasingly popular and Slow Travel Fest is the perfect introduction to this new movement.
Have you ever been to Tuscany? What does slow travel mean to you?
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