My velvet escape travel tip” is a guest series about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. With this series, I hope to uncover travel tips from places around the world to help visitors have a truly local experience.

Via Leopoldina

If you ask me, a velvet escape is an escape to a place that relaxes you, makes you happy and surprises you at all times. If I had to recommend a destination for such an escape in my area, I would certainly recommend a drive, walk, bike- or horseback ride along a stretch of the ancient Via Leopoldina, a road that runs near the village where I live, in Tuscany.

The Via Leopoldina follows the path of an ancient Roman road that led from Siena to the coast of the Maremma and ensured a steady supply of salt. Now, it is just a minor country road, dotted with old stone houses, ancient castles and majestic country villas. The views over the valley of the River Ombrone towards the Val d’Orcia and Monte Amiata are just breathtaking. It’s quintessential Tuscany at its best.

Terme di Petriolo
Terme di Petriolo

Via Leopoldina

My tip is to get on the Leopoldina leaving the Siena-Grosseto highway E78 at Iesa – Terme di Petriolo. The road leads down to some natural hot springs. The old Roman thermal baths are still visible, and so are the remains of the medieval fortifications. The natural hot pools and the river (cold water) can be accessed freely, and the woods around them are perfect for a picnic or a nice walk.

Following the road uphill, towards Grosseto, a stop in the perfectly-preserved hilltop hamlet of Pari is a must. The views from the top of the hill are really priceless. Besides, if you want to try local food, it doesn’t get any more authentic than at La Locanda del Cacciatore, but you will probably have to ask for “Siro”, the owner, as most of the locals wouldn’t know any other name! Don’t expect a menu, or printed prices!

A couple of kilometers past Pari, the “velvet escape part” begins. The road branches towards Casenovole and gets full of surprises. The best way to enjoy this “velvet escape” would be either on foot or on horseback. Driving or cycling (if you are an expert and in great shape) is perfect too, though.

View across to Pari
View across to Pari

What you should not miss, besides the sound of the woods, the many wild animals (beware of deer and wild boar crossing the road… and occasionally cows and sheep as well), are the beautiful castle of Casenovole and the spectacular panoramic views that stretch from here to the Castle of Monte Antico. Casenovole is a picture perfect castle, but the road to Monte Antico is picture perfect Tuscany: a steep, winding, cypress-lined road plunging towards the sunflower fields, through green hills, vineyards, and olive groves.

View from Monte Antico
View from Monte Antico

If you are up for a real “velvety escape”, you should probably stop at Fattoria Nuova Pievanella for a plush, and romantic meal in a very beautiful setting. The owners are an Italian-German couple who really know how to take care of their guests.

Monte Antico, among the other things, is on the railway line that links Florence to Grosseto: it’s small, long, and very slow, but it passes through the Val d’Orcia and that makes for a really nice ride. Check the events organized for the steam engine train called Treno Natura: it stops here too.

When you are ready to go back to the rhythms of modern life, follow the Via Leopoldina to the walled village of Paganico and get back onto highway E78. But if it’s too stressful, turn around and get lost in the countryside of this beautiful area again!

Please visit the website of the tourism council of Civitella Paganico for more information on this gorgeous route.

About this week’s guest writer
Gloria CasinadirosaGloria Casinadirosa was born and bred in Tuscany and divides her time between the small village of Civitella Marittima near Siena, and the town of Pisa where she works as a teacher. Gloria shares with us her passion for everything Tuscan via her blog At Home in Tuscany.

Follow Gloria on Twitter.

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