Italy Essentials

Best time to travel:

Best months to travel Tuscany would be April to June and September to October. These months offer a really pleasant weather.

The months July and August can be very hot (27 to 35 degrees)

Winter offers many sunny, mild days. However the nights are cold, particularly in hill areas.

My favourite seasons are spring and autumn. First of all, temperatures are great for riding and the landscape looks amazing. Spring brings juicy green hills and flowering. The Autumn brings this stunning golden colour.

The months September, October and November are the truffle months. At this time of year the truffles will be harvested and it is a ‘must’ to go to Taverna dell’Ozio to have a truffle menu.

 

 

Events throughout the year:

End of January:

San Gimignano – Festa del Santo Patrono:

An event you just can’t miss if you are in Tuscany this January. From morning to night you will find festive stands with crafts and food which will animate piazza della Cisterna, piazza del Duomo, piazza delle Erbe and via San Matteo. This is a great opportunity to be curious and lose yourself among the colours, the folklore and the traditions of San Gimignano.

February:

Florence – Florence Carnival:

With a grand parade of small floats through the city and an enormous puppet dragon The Florence carnival highlights diverse world of cultures.

Local tradition is represented as well with colourfully dressed characters and musicians in Renaissance costumes. In addition, you can see riders on horseback, bands and dancers. The entire program for each edition is designed by the local city council. Along with representatives of all foreign communities who live in Florence. Countries participating include: Brazil, Peru, Sweden, Bangladesh, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, China, Mexico, Germany, and the United States. The parade begins in Piazza Ognissanti and continues through the rest of the city. From Lungarno Vespucci and Lungarno Corsini, ending in Piazza della Signoria. Here prizes will be awarded to the most original costumes. The Piccolo Melograno Choir will perform here as well.

March:

Florence – Florentine New Year, March 25: 

The traditional Florentine New Year, begins in the Palazzo Vecchio. Here a morning parade will fill the streets with elaborate medieval dress and music. The celebration continues at the Piazza SS Annunziata. Here Florentines and visitors alike, feast upon Italian cuisine at an outdoor market (9 am – 5 pm). Enjoy an evening concert (9 pm), and observe the frescoes of the Annunciation featured in the church. From 1250 to 1750 the people of Florence gather to welcome the arrival of spring and to officially celebrate the Annunciation. This was when the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of Christ. Located in the Santissima Annunziata (the Most Holy Annunciation) church, a medieval fresco of the Annunciation was the centerpiece of the New Year festivities. It can still be viewed on the inner wall to the left of the entrance.

May:

Florence – Maggio Musicale Fiorentino: 

If you are planning to visit Florence in May or June, be sure to book your tickets for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino! A two month-long festival with opera, concerts and ballet featuring international artists. It’s the oldest music festival in Italy. The festival takes place in the superb Teatro dell’Opera di Firenze. To see this year’s programme check out the Maggio Fiorentino’s official site. Tickets can be hard to come by. For this reason, it is advisable to check the online schedule and purchase tickets in advance.

June:

Florence

June 24 – Patron Saint Feast Day / Calcio Storico: 

Fabulous fireworks on June 24 conclude Florence’s celebrations to St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the city. In the late afternoon, the historical football match – Calcio Storico – is played in Piazza Santa Croce. Followed by a parade through the historical centre from piazza Santa Maria Novella to piazza Santa Croce. The Calcio Storico commemorates a similar match played by a soldier trapped in the city in 1530. This Renaissance soccer game is played by teams from four neighborhoods in Florence: Santa Croce (blue), Santo Spirito (white), Santa Maria Novella (red), and San Giovanni (green). The game is a combination of soccer, rugby, and big time wrestling. In addition,  they wear 16th century costumes during the game.

Dance Festival – Estate Fiesolana: 

Every summer, the Florence Dance Festival takes place (from June through end of July) at the Teatro Romano in Fiesole. This is part of the wider Estate Fiesolana program of music, poetry and cinema. It is really a magnificent experience to enjoy a concert in a Roman amphitheatre.

Festa di San Lorenzo: 

For the feast day of San Lorenzo, Piazza San Lorenzo hosts an outdoor celebration with live music and free lasagne and watermelon for all visitors. The event begins around 7 pm. Due to this, the market stalls that line the streets of the square during the daytime, are finally rolled away to make room for the festivities. The food is served at 9 pm

 

Pisa

June 16 – La Luminara: 

If you want to enjoy an unforgettable and magical spring night, don’t miss the Luminara di San Ranieri, in Pisa. Every June 16 at sunset, they lite up thousands of candles put onto Pisa’s bridges. The Luminara (or Luminaria) di San Ranieri is a candlelight festival and is one of the most evocative events in Tuscany.

June 17 – Regatta for San Ranieri: 

Regatta for San Ranieri June 17th, for the celebration of the patron of Pisa, San Ranieri, the Arno river hosts the historic regatta. This regatta has medieval origins and boats from four Pisa’s downtown quarters take part in it. Santa Maria, San Fancesco, San Martino and Sant’ Antonio distinguish one from another by different colour combinations:

  • Santa Maria has white and blue
  • San Franceso has white and yellow
  • San Martino has white and red
  • Sant’Antonio has white and green

 

Sienna

July 2 and August 16 – The Palio di Siena: 

A horse race featured in numerous films. Its venue is the cinematic Piazza del Campo which adds a heightened level of drama to the proceedings. Taking place every year on July 2 and August 16, the Palio’s roots go back as far as the 11th century. The race was first launched to celebrate Saint Mary of the Assumption as protectress of the city in their conflicts with the Florentines.

 

September:

Florence

September 7 – La Festa delle Rificolone (Festival of the Paper Lanterns): 

On the eve of the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. Therefore, Florentines walk through the city carrying paper lanterns illuminated by candles from within. This tradition dates back to the Renaissance. At time the pilgrims bearing lanterns, would gather in front of the Church of the Most Holy Annunciation (Santissima Annunziata). Many would arrive from outside of the city after sunset. For this reasion, a lantern was needed to light the way.

Meanwhile, the main events of the Rificolona, including a speech by Florence’s Cardinal, are held in Piazza Santissima Annunziata. The main procession starts in Piazza Santa Croce at around 8 pm. It passes through Piazza della Signoria and Piazza del Duomo. From there it goes through Via dei Servi to arrive into the Piazza S.S. Annunziata.

September 8 – Nativity of Virgin Mary: 

Florence’s Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore (St. Mary of the Flower), dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The cornerstone of the present Cathedral was laid on Sept. 8, 1296. Therefore, it became the day of the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. The terrace around the base of the Cathedral’s cupola is open to visitors. You are free to walk around and get a 270° view of Florence’s rooftops and surrounding hills.

The terrace is open from 10 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. on this day, and admission is free.

 

October

Florence

October 8 – Festa di Santa Reparata: 

Santa Reparata an ancient Florentine cathedral. It stands on the site where Santa Maria del Fiore is located today. Archaeological digs carried out from 1971 to 1972. Due to this, experts reconstructed the original floor plan, which you can visit now. After the historical parade honouring the Florentine Republic, there is a ceremony in Santa Reparata’s crypt in the evening.

 

November

San Miniato – Truffle Fair:

In addition to the Annual truffle harvest in November, San Miniato hosts the White Truffle Fair. Above all, this is the most famous truffle festival in Tuscany. In other words, the best opportunity to taste traditional recipes made with the precious white truffle. Here you can also buy traditional Tuscan products and take part in a truffle hunting.

 

Flights to Castellare di Tonda:

Best option is to fly to Florence or Pisa.

Ryan Air offers a direct flight from Stansted to Pisa. British Airways offer a direct flight from London Heathrow to Florence. In addition, airport transfers can be arranged.

 

Getting Around:

Most people don’t want to drive themselves. For this reason, we can arrange an airport transfer. If you would like to do some sightseeing in the cities, we do also offer a transfer (30 minutes’ drive) to the train station. By train it is an easy and quick way (about an hour) to get to either Florence, Pisa and Sienna. Likewise you avoid the city traffic and have a comfortable way to get to the city. The train stations are near the city centre. Within a few minutes of walking you reach the city centre of Florence, Sienna and Pisa.

 

The Riding:

You will be riding western style. Castellari di Tonda’s horses are mostly Quarter horses and Paints. In addition, they have Criollos and Fjords as well. The horses at Castellare are fit, strong and healthy.  The group size is up to 6 riders.

Tack: 

Western saddle and bridle. Waterbottles can be tight to the saddle and leather strings enable you to tighten your vest or coat.

Recommended Riding Cloths:

Jumpers, jodhpur boots or long riding boots, half or full chaps, long sleeve shirt, fleece jacket, gloves and rain protection. Adults over 18-years old do not need to wear a helmet, though highly recommended for your own safety.

Children:

Children at the age between 7 and 14 years old, can attend children’s riding camp.

Weight allowance for riders:

85kg/187lb and the maximum body height is 200cm/6.5lb.

Though as we know, an experienced rider, who may exceed the weight limit, may ride very light on the horse’s back. So, please do check with us first.

Travel Essentials:

Before you go:

Visas & Passports – Passports must be valid for at least 6 months. Visas are not necessary for EU passport holders. However, other nationalities should check with the local Italian embassy.

Insurance – We strongly recommend that you take out a policy to cover theft, loss, and medical issues.  For further information, visit our page on travel insurance. For instance, it is a good idea to photocopy and scan all relevant documents. Like passport, travel insurance policy, etc.  You can leave one copy at home and carry another copy with you. Keep safe this copy separate from the originals.

Electricity – 220v. Due to this, you will need UK-European Plug adaptors.

Health – Whilst insects aren’t a big problem it’s worth taking mosquito repellents. They can occasionally make an appearance in the evening.

Currency – Euros are easy to get in the UK and it’s worth shopping around to avoid airport rates. If you are very organised you get a pre-paid currency card, which you can use in a similar way to a debit card. Like Revolut- and Monzo card.

Clothing – The temperature varies enormously depending on the time of year. During spring and autumn the evenings tend to be a little cooler. The weather has the potential to be a little unpredictable even in mid-summer. For this reason, it is worth taking an extra layer.

Driving Licence – All car rental companies accept a UK photo driving licence. Not all companies require a Driving License Code, though I would recommend to obtaining one before you collect your car. For example, you can do this through the DVLA website (https://www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence). In addition, you will need: your driving licence number, your National Insurance numbers, the postcode on your driving licence.

 

While you are there:

Time difference – 1 hour ahead of UK time.

Telephone – Dial 0044 or +44 for a UK number.

The Italian international code is +39Vegetarian food – Well catered for!

Tipping – The standard procedure is you tip around 10% for meals at restaurants (just check that service isn’t already included). It is not necessary to tip taxis in Italy. However, local guides are usually tipped. A guideline for this would be: €10 per person for a half day tour, €15-€20 per person for a full day tour.