Monday, 30 April 2012 7:15 AM
Family walking holidays are a wonderful way to bring everyone together, discover new places and have plenty of fun along the way. Italy is a fantastic destination for an active break, with Chianti's countryside providing a stunning backdrop to any walks.
While Chianti may be best known for its wine, it is dotted with pretty villages and fascinating historical sites that are a delight to explore, making it an excellent candidate for walking holidays in Italy. Travelling by foot on a pre-organised, independent, hotel-to-hotel break gives you the opportunity to take things at your own pace, as well as see much more than you would on a single-centre trip.
Here are just a few of the highlights that will keep you and your children entertained as you stroll through the picturesque Chianti countryside.
This will be the start and end point of your trip and it is well worth taking the time to explore this stunning town that dates back to the time of the Etruscans. In fact, Volterra is home to Italy's oldest public building - Palazzo dei Priori, which has had various uses over the years - as well as a large Roman theatre. Another feature you cannot fail to notice as you wander around the town is its walls, which were constructed to defend the settlement hundreds of years ago.
From Volterra, you will begin your walking holiday in earnest, following the route of an ancient Etruscan trail to the nearby hamlet of Mazzolla. The hilltop location of this small village makes it the perfect place to stop for lunch and enjoy the beauty of the Tuscan countryside.
Orgialia is a charming rural retreat where you and your little ones can rest after a day's walking and explore the surrounding Berignone Forest the following morning. Nature lovers will be at home wandering the lovely woodland paths, as the whole area is a protected reserve thanks to the wide range of flora and fauna that live in the region.
Among the creatures you and your children could spot while you are out walking are hares, weasels, wild boars and porcupines, as well as a diverse selection of birds. There are numerous trails you can follow, so simply choose one that suits your mood and the rest of your family.
Colle di Val d'Elsa
Leaving the peaceful Orgialia behind, the next stop on a relaxed activity holiday in Chianti will be Colle di Val d'Elsa. This medieval town is backed by hills on one side and the River Elsa on the other and has developed a reputation as an artistic and cultural centre over the years. Among the establishments you can visit to get a taste of its heritage are the Bianchi Bandin Archaeological Museum and the Civic Museum of Sacred Art.
The town is just half an hour's bus ride from Siena and around one hour's drive from Florence, making it the perfect base if you wish to explore some of Tuscany's most famous cities.
San Donato and San Gimignano
Your next stop will be the stunning village of San Donato - although it is likely to be the nearby town of San Gimignano that really grabs your attention. Its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its 14 towers are the most striking landmarks in the settlement. There were once around 70 such structures in San Gimignano, built by the rich families as a symbol of their wealth.
Take some time to wander around its pretty cobbled streets, admiring the architecture as you go. It is well worth visiting the cathedral, which is home to several frescos by Italian artists from the 14th and 15th centuries.