After a whirlwind weekend of horseback riding through Tuscan countryside, poolside sunbathing, wine tasting, rich food, and adventures in ancient cities, 35 Umbra Institute students climbed out of the private bus at Piazza Italia Sunday evening, happily exhausted.
Early Friday morning, just days earlier, the students were piling onto the bus, ready for the long-awaited optional trip. The first stop was Siena, where longtime guide Margarita led the group from contrada to contrada (historic neighborhoods that participate in the infamous horse race, il Palio), concluding the tour at the elaborately-decorated Duomo.
A few short hours later, the students checked into their rooms at Fattoria Voltrona, a rustic farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside. The agriturismo welcomed the group with a home-cooked meal of traditional Tuscan dishes with an outdoor dining room served with views of the farm that stretch into the Tuscan hills.
Saturday morning, small groups of students mounted short and stocky Icelandic horses for a ride through the farmland and surrounding hills and villages under the tutelage of Marie, a young Swedish woman who has been riding horses since she was three years old.
The group then spent the afternoon wandering around the nearby San Gimignano, a medieval Tuscan town known for its many towers, free wine tastings, and creative gelato flavors (white wine gelato, anyone?).
The students returned to the agriturismo with time to play in the pool, relax, or explore the farm before reconvening for another delicious dinner. Saturday evening ended with stargazing and wine from Fattoria Voltrona’s own cantina beside a pond surrounded by grape vines and olive trees.
Sunday morning, students packed up their belongings, said their goodbyes to the friendly agriturismo staff, and drove to Cortona, the town featured in the book and film “Under the Tuscan Sun.” The group strolled through the hilly streets, browsing the weekly vintage market, eating good food, and soaking up the last of the Tuscan sun.