To help assist me with my research of things to see and do for my September 2010 trip to Italy, I stopped by Chapters one day to pick up some guidebooks. Upon arriving at the travel section of the store, I was shocked by the sheer multitude of books they stocked on Italy. I’d picked up city and country guidebooks before and never seen so many books for a single country.
An hour later, after sitting on the floor of the bookstore and sifting through the piles of books, I finally made my choices. I selected guidebooks on Tuscany, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast. With a hefty bill and a big bag, I made my way home and began my intense review of the books. Many long days and late nights followed.
As expected, most suggestions included partaking in the things that Italy is famous for such as visiting cathedrals, museums, art galleries, shops, ancient sites, touring vineyards, taking cooking classes, walking through park and along hiking trails. Most certainly, one has to do all of these things while in Italy. I lost track of how many cathedrals I visited (the stunning Gothic cathedral in Orvieto was by far my favourite), how much wine I drank (much of my vacation was spent drunk), and how many art galleries I browsed through.
However, I was looking for a unique experience, something off the beaten track. Something that would be special, unforgettable, and just plain amazing. Well, imagine how excited I was when I looked through my Frommer’s Florence, Tuscany, and Umbria guidebook and saw a suggestion to take a hot air balloon over Tuscany.
Despite being deathly afraid of heights, I have always always always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon. The thought of taking one over the Tuscan countryside at sunrise while revelling in the beauty of the olive and vine covered hills makes me overwhelmingly happy. It would go down as one of the most amazing events of my life.
Luckily, a company called Ballooning In Tuscany offers such excursions.
Headquartered, in Montisi (close to Pienza, a beautiful Tuscan town famous for its Pecorino cheeses), they promise to show you “the real Tuscany, the old Tuscany, a Tuscany hardly touched by tourism”. After the crowds of Rome, Naples, or Venice, who wouldn’t want to experience the quiet peaceful life of a small Tuscan town?
Flights leave at sunrise. After a coffee/tea, you’ll begin your ascent into the Tuscan heavens. The ride lasts 1.5 hours and you’ll gaze upon hills and valleys, vineyards, castles, farmhouses, the infamous wine towns of Montalcino and Montepulciano. Upon landing, you’ll be treated to a champagne toast and then be driven back to the launch site, following your flight route so you can take in the countryside from ground level. You’ll even stop again for another coffee. Mmmm, espresso, cappuccino!
Expect to take in such beauty during your flight:
If you’re not up for a group ride, you can book exclusive use of a balloon for two and even a longer flight. This could be a very romantic way to propose to one’s boyfriend or girlfriend! If a guy proposed to me this way, I’d most likely shout out yes before he even finished uttering the question “Cheryl, will you marry me?”
Expect to pay about 200 € for the standard group flight. Check out the Ballooning in Tuscany web site for more information.
To get a better taste of life in a small Italian town, stay for a night or two in Montisi. You could use it as a base to further explore the region and visit the towns of Pienza, Montalcino, and Montepulciano. I visited these towns when in Italy and they’re beautiful. (Blog posts to come!) Go to Montisi’s web site to learn more about the town and available accommodation.
I actually tried to book a group ballooning excursion after my stay in Soriano Nel Cimino with Culture Discovery ended. I exchanged several emails with the company, but unfortunately was not able to secure a date that fit into my schedule. I vow that I will do this excursion when I return to Italy. Of all the items I have on my travel bucket list, this one is number one in my heart.