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Health & Wellbeing

Are you going on holiday or for a health kick – why not both? In Tuscany, you’ll find plenty of fun ways to reinvigorate your body and clear your mind. Practice your golf swing – Tuscany has some of the best courses in the whole of Italy. Perfect your tennis serve –we even have properties with private courts. Or just enjoy a good stretch – check out our yoga guide. We’ll show you how to keep active as you see the sights, horse-riding in the hills, pedalling along Tuscany’s famous white roads, and striding out on the paths that lace the vineyards. Plus, we’ve asked a wellness expert how to use a holiday to press pause on daily life. Taking a break can be a powerful way to interrupt your habits – follow these tips and you'll return home feeling like, well, you’ve just had a holiday.

Health & Wellbeing

15 Ways To Focus On Your Wellbeing This Holiday


Holidays are all about relaxing and escaping the daily grind – just what is needed to recharge our batteries. In reality, the sudden lack of routine means we often end up over-indulging and return home more exhausted than when we left.

So, To Tuscany has teamed up with meta-wellbeing expert, Susan Gardner, to offer tips on how to use a holiday as an opportunity to press pause on daily life and restore our equilibrium. Susan believes that stepping out of your familiar routine provides a refreshing and powerful way to interrupt daily habits. Holidays can bring a welcome new perspective, providing a different focus for your attention.

Here are 15 ways in which you can take advantage of the time you have to listen to your body and mind.
1 Every morning ,when you wake up, allow yourself 10-15 minutes of quiet contemplation, focusing your thoughts on gratitude for everything that is good in your life.
2 Regularly do a quick body scan, identifying areas of tension and concentrating on letting your muscles soften and relax.
3 Give your skin a gentle dry brush before washing and follow a hot shower with a blast of cold water.
4 Regularly sip water, preferably filtered.
5 Drink hot water with lemon 20 minutes before eating.
6 Eat protein for breakfast.
7 Ensure you fill your plate with a rainbow of coloured food.
8 Try to eat alkaline foods such as cooked tomato, fish, broccoli, spinach, mango and papaya.
9 When you have a moment, write or draw the negative thoughts that are in your head onto paper. Then destroy the paper.
10 Notice and understand your feelings, breathing in calm and breathing out tension.
11 Try to interrupt negative thoughts and focus on what you do want.
12 Be present and alert to the moment.
13 Consider your personal space and adjust it for pleasure and comfort – seeking solitude and stillness if needed.
14 Aim for a minimum of two hours of exercise a day – cardiovascular and gentle.
15 Visualise a dial that you can turn down to lower stress levels.

To Tuscany has a fantastic range of villas with wellness centres

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Fancy a round of golf? Tuscany has some of the best courses in Italy


We asked To Tuscany’s golf expert, Grant Leggate, General Manager of Chestfield Golf Club and former Assistant Secretary at Royal St George’s Golf Club, to pick his favourite golf courses in the region.
Royal Golf La Bagnaia
Just south of Siena, Royal Golf La Bagnaiawas designed by the architect Robert Trent Jones Jr, who transformed 130 hectares of land into a masterpiece of course design. He has injected American style into the raw Tuscan landscape, capturing the passion, flair and artistry of the region. Golfers must plot their way around this course, between and over the well-positioned sand traps, which provide its main protection. There are few trees, but this is not a criticism because if the wind blows they will provide a further layer of armour, as will the water hazards on no fewer than 13 of the holes. The stylish clubhouse is well run by an impressive team who show real pride and enthusiasm. 

Golf Ugolino, above, is the oldest course in Tuscany 
Golf Ugolino
The oldest course in Tuscany, Golf Ugolino was created in 1934. It offers stunning views around every corner and plenty of challenges, too, with narrow fairways, tricky greens and some holes blending into the landscape. Skill and accuracy are vital, but this is still a fun course for all abilities, especially on the front nine, where the 295-metre, par-4 3rd hole demands a good drive to the left on the difficult approach to the green. Even if you're fit enough to enjoy the walk, hiring a buggy is recommended to reduce the time between green and tee and to admire the views as you go. The clubhouse staff are an absolute joy – helpful, attentive and informative.
Golf Punta AlaGolf Punta Ala has an 18-hole, par-72 course, training field, pro shop, cart hire, trolleys and a bar and restaurant. But the most remarkable aspect of this golf course is its setting on the shores of the Med, overlooking the island of Elba, where Napoleon was imprisoned in the early 1800s – this is arguably the most beautiful course in Tuscany. So, no need to feel bad about enjoying a round of golf on these links because the rest of the family will be making the most of their time having fun on the beach. The course has tight tree-lined fairways, making position play important, and it’s advisable to hire a trolley because this hilly course could prove challenging to walk around.
Golf Montecatini Terme
Another natural beauty of a golf course can be found deep in the Tuscan countryside, south-west of Florence. The testing 18-hole course at Golf Montecatini Terme is hilly yet has fairways that are quite wide and not too long. Lakes, streams, trees and ditches combine to provide natural contours to this quite exposed landscape where the wind provides another obstacle. The greens are fast and undulating – an added problem to several blind drives – but if you want your skills to be tested this is a tough examination paper. The par-3 18th hole, played over a 150-metre-wide lake, is both stunning and daunting. There’s a neat and compact clubhouse with adequate facilities and the atmosphere of a family-run business with friendly staff. Club selection is critical. 
Large greens and wide fairways await at Le Pavoniere 
Le Pavoniere Golf & Country Club
This 18-hole, par-72 course near Florence was designed by Arnold Palmer's company. Hence, Le Pavoniere Golf & Country Club has a typically American feel, with large greens, vast bunkers and wide fairways. What it perhaps lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in playability – the relatively flat course has several water hazards that need sensible course management. Most of the holes are tree-lined but well-spaced and it rewards bigger hitters, particularly when playing into a head wind, with greens that are quick but fair. As well as the 18th, the best holes are the 6th and the 5th – a par-3 where confidence is needed off the tee. There’s plenty of risk and reward golf at Le Pavoniere, providing a good test for all levels of golfer. The clubhouse is set in a 19th-century villa, which has been carefully restored to provide a light, bright and cool place to relax after a game.
Poggio dei Medici Golf and Resort
This 18-hole, par-73 course near Florence is the perfect course; from its lush and immaculate fairways to its well-paced greens and hilly surroundings. The literal translation of the course's name is “Hill of the Medici” and high on 16th hole, with nothing but the sound of birds and Florentine church bells, you can’t help but feel that if The Almighty played golf, he'd choose here to pay his green fees. Poggio dei Medici Golf & Resort also provides a good test of skill with some difficult holes. The 18th is as wonderful a finishing hole you can get in golf, but the 15th hole is my favourite. At 332 metres, it's both challenging and stimulating, with a split green that allows the hole to be set up in two very different ways – not the most difficult but demanding a well-placed drive and an accurate approach. Indeed, all holes are great to play and they might take a little longer than anticipated to complete, such is the need to allow time to soak up the views and atmosphere. With its fantastic 16th-century clubhouse, this remains one of my favourite clubs in the world.

Poggio dei Medici provides a good test of skill. Photo: Andrea Getuli 
Cosmopolitan Golf and Country Club
Water is a major feature of the course at Cosmopolitan Golf and Country Club, near Pisa, where there are lots of risk and reward decisions to be made. Its undulations respect the original shape of the land, with four sets of tees on each hole enabling the staff to set up various options and provide a fair test for all abilities. Each of the 18 holes is well-defined with good-sized greens and fairways that are generally level. The greens are slow but true and not too much lip on the numerous bunkers makes escape undemanding. The 5th is the stand-out hole, requiring shots to be played over water twice before you reach the green. However, the defining shot of the round is the approach to the 9th green, again over water, making club selection crucial. This is a pretty course with good facilities, well-maintained and very playable, but it will be a tricky test when the wind gets up. Other clubs worth seeking out include Casentino Golf Club near Arezzo, Circolo Golf L’Abbadia near Colle Val d’Elsa, Antognolla Golf Club near Perugia, and Golf Club Valdichiana near Siena. 

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Cave Yoga in Tuscany


Beer Yoga, Horse Yoga, Laughter Yoga – you thought you’d heard it all. But how about Cave Yoga? Head to Grotta Giusti, near Pistoia, and you can take a class in this ancient art in the spectacular natural setting of millennia-old caves.

This Tuscan spa retreat is renowned for its underground thermal labyrinth and lake – to the 19th-century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi this place was “the eighth wonder of the world”. Rich in salt and sulphate and a soothing 34°C, the water and its vapours are prized for their curative effects on the respiratory, circulatory, osteo-muscular and nervous systems, as well as for treating skin complaints.

Strike a yoga pose at one of Grotta Giusti’s new classes, led by a qualified instructor, and you won’t just enjoy a good stretch and shot of serenity, it’s claimed you’ll also benefit from the natural warmth of the caves, which enhance sensations, aid concentration and raise body temperature.

For places to stay near Grotta Giusti, explore our collection of villas near Pistoia.

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Why snow-sports fans should head to Tuscany this winter


Snow sports fans aren’t confined to the Dolomites in Italy. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to play in the mountains of Tuscany, too, whether you want to ski, snowboard or just pull on a pair of snowshoes and stride out into wintry woods. Plus, passes can cost half the price of those in Alpine resorts and you’re more likely to rub shoulders with an Italian crowd. Here’s our quick guide to Tuscany’s slopes.
Abetone
Tuscany’s best-known ski resort is Abetone, spread across four valleys in the Apennines, north-west of Florence and close to the border with Emilia-Romagna. The terrain reaches heights of 1,950 metres, with 80km of cross-country action and blue, red and black runs to put your skills to the test (the Black Diamond piste, Zeno One, was designed by the downhill racer Zeno Colo, an Olympic gold medal-winner). There are a couple of snow parks, too. Go to abetone.com.
Doganaccia di Cutigliano
The whole family will be kept amused at this resort, south-east of Abetone. There’s snow tubing and sledging, bobsleigh riding and snow kiting among the activities on offer. As for skiing, there are 15km of pistes to try, almost a third of which are illuminated at night. A link to Corno alle Scale in neighbouring Emilia Romagna, scheduled to be completed in 2020, should open up more than 50km of slopes. Go to doganaccia2000.it.
Zum Zeri 
A recently added snow park makes Zum Zeri, close to the borders of Liguria and Emilia Romagna, a good choice for snowboarders. There are also 6km of blues and reds and a couple of Black Diamond runs – one appropriately named Cinghiale, or “wild boar”. Zum Zeri’s highest peak, Monte Fabei, at about 1,600m, is famed for fabulous views that can reach as far as the Med. Go to zumzeri.eu.

Follow the cross-country trails through the woods in Garfagnana
Garfagnana
Get off the beaten track in the lesser-explored mountainous province of Garfagnana in north-west Tuscany. There are some satisfying runs for intermediate skiers at three resorts here – Careggine, Casone di Profecchia and Passo delle Radici – as well as cross-country trails through the woods. Go to garfagnana.eu.
Monte Amiata
This extinct volcano, south of Siena, offers snow sports enthusiasts more than 10km of slopes and a picturesque route through beech forests that’s beloved by cross-country skiers. Beware, snow cover can be sparse at times, so check the forecast. There’s a treat nearby for tired bodies, which can be soothed in the thermal waters at Bagno Vignoni.

For villas in the Garfagnana, check out Il Lonfo and L’Ormasso, both at La Locanda Del Moro. Casa CerraltaCasa Carlino and Case Bianchi are close to Monte Amiata.

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The best yoga studios in Tuscany


Imagine placing your yoga mat next to an old olive tree or at the top of a hill overlooking a vineyard. With such beauty in your midst, and the slow pace of life here, Tuscany provides the perfect conditions to relax body and mind using the power of yoga. 

Centro Yoga Grosseto di Ilaria Serini
Centro Yoga runs 90-minute sessions at its base in Grosseto that are suitable for all abilities. The helpful and attentive teachers at this yoga school keep the atmosphere relaxed and friendly.

Cintamani Yoga
Cintamani Yoga offers classes in the heart of the Chianti hills. This studio’s mission is to ‘leave you with a new-won spirit of internal bliss, tranquility and more determination to conquer the objectives in your life’. Choose from private sessions or group classes.

Yoga Garage
Florence-based Yoga Garage holds classes just a few steps from the Duomo, San Lorenzo and Santa Croce. Sessions are offered in both English and Italian and they provide everything so all you have to do is show up.

Studio Yoga Maya
You’ll find Studio Yoga Maya just minutes from the Boboli gardens in Florence. The 75-minute sessions run here aim to provide a cosy , silent and elegant ambience where you can ‘unplug the spine and realign it towards a new centre’.

Centro Yoga Nisargadatta Ashram
Centro Yoga Nisargadatta Ashram in Pisa holds hour-long classes for different levels of ability, including pre-natal sessions. Courses for teachers are also on the timetable.

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