Florence outdoors

Alexandre Vladimir Pennese
April 9, 2009

Spring is here. It's time to play with nature's elements-the water, land, and air under the sun's fire-to enjoy the paradise around us in Florence.

 

 

Oceans are warming up causing global air displacements. Atlantic tempests and Indian Ocean desert storms meet on the Mediterranean sea only to prevail on eternally cold Northeast winds for most of another wonderful year. Today, Southwest wind Libeccio is blowing for the third consecutive day between 18 and 23 knots, mounting waves on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Forecasts show it turning to Northwest when Mistral winds leave the Côte d'Azure from France and hit the Tuscan coastline at 2pm, peaking at 25 knots a few hours later. These are ideal conditions for windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing crosswind on waves. Then, winds cool down and perfect surfing conditions keep surfers' euphoria high for another day. It sometimes gets better than in Hawaii.

 

On days such as these, calls and messages are exchanged all over Italy as people seek the windiest spot with the greatest swell. We draw our boards, cats, kites, skiffs, sails, harnesses, ships, and flock to harbours, clubs and surf spots sprinkled along the Tuscan coastline, all between one and two hours drive from Florence. Rosignano's white sand surfers beach is accessible to kites all year round, Castiglione della Pescaia has the cleanest waters, Talamone has the most reliable thermal winds, each with its characteristic and natural beauty where you can merge with the elements. Kitesurf Tuscany on Facebook tracks the spots, most accessible with trains to Follonica. Pristine and umbrella-free beaches are easier to find South of Puntone di Scarlino, where single-mast sailboats can be chartered.

Bordering with Cala Martina, Cala Violina, Cala Civette, the bay of Punta Ala is certainly the queen of them all, a world-class sailing mecca a few sailstone's throw from Corsica and Sardegna through Arcipelago Toscano's gems with a fast cutter. This is also where catamaranists from all over Europe will be racing for the Formula 18 National Championship regatta on the first three days of May. The event is hosted by Puntala Camping Resort's sailing club, Scuola Vela Cala Civette, one of the nine most prestigious clubs of the coastline that form the Comitato Circoli Velici della Costa Etrusca.

 

Spring is the start of many land-based sports. Next to Puntala Camping Resort's new adventure park, the specialised mountain bike centre is the headquarters of Maremma's hard-core bike trails. The natural lifestyle resort opens from April to October and has bungalows with A/C and all facilities. Indeed, a wide range of bike tours are available in the region. Driving back to Florence, perhaps stopping to recover in Petriolo's natural hot springs 20 minutes south of Siena, one is surrounded by the numerous Chianti bike trails. The trails in Florence's northwest border, Monte Morello, also immerse riders into the woods.

 

A wild and adventurous way of crossing the Maremma is horsebackriding from one of the many stables, also offering day treks into the countryside around Florence and in the nearby Appennino, towards Abetone, where snow trails and steep hills can challenge cowboys and cowgirls.

 

On the northeast border, next to Fiesole, Maiano's open quarry is equipped for rock climbers who wish to embrace pietra serena. Scuola Tita Piaz, the local team of instructors from the Italian Alpine Club CAI, can teach you to climb safely: they start in nearby Monsummano, then up above 1000 meters in the Apuane before taking you to granitic Alps and conclude on the Dolomites at 3000 meters. There is still snow in early spring, and CAI also teaches alpine skiing: wandering uphill in fresh white powder snow between our three main ski resorts. For those who enjoy ski lifts, Abetone is great for the view of the sea and the Alps from Monte Gomito, Corno alle Scale has an incredible off-piste called Strofinatoio running down the valley and Monte Cimone has too many slopes to explore in just one day; all three areas have snowparks. More ski lifts are installed on smaller developments as Sestola, Monte Amiata and Secchieta. However there is a third way to go uphill in Monte Cimone: fly a snowkite.

 

The city of Florence and its immediate environs is a free, open-air museum to admire effortlessly on a segway or while walking, running, rollerblading, cycling-the best mean of commuting-rowing or canoeing on the Arno, either as member of Canottieri Firenze or with Canottieri Comunali. Every Sunday there is a marathon or a race around Florence. Go trekking in the surrounding hills, valleys and mountains. Find a hidden paradise in the canyon of Orrido di Botri, or in Falterona, where Arno river's waters start their adventure. Some of its waters are stored in Lago Bilancino, one of the area's two major lakes; the other is Lago di Montedoglio. Motorcycle out of town in any direction or take shortcuts with a dirt bike to find little lakes in Casentino and Chianti. Freestyle action on a Motocross is a widespread hobby and for some locals, a profession.

Feeling limited by gravity? Venture with liberty above Chianti in a hot air balloon: ride into the sunset sky or glide above the Mugello with the local Aeroclub Volovelistico. Skydive with the parachuting association, handglide with Aero Club Firenze and paraglide in Massanera.

 

If land and air are not thrilling enough, head back to the sea. Go diving  in Elba or hold your breath to spearfish around Monte Argentario. Snorkel anywhere off the coast, and if you're lucky, you'll see dolphins and whales.

 

Wherever we look for paradise, we can see it from our doorstep.

 

 

 

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