This post was produced in partnership with Essenza Escapes.
There are few places in the world that generate such unequivocal wanderlust as Tuscany. Anyone you tell that you have spent time in Tuscany will look at you with stars in their eyes, dreaming of the landscapes they’ve read about in books, seen in movies and watched in travel shows that constantly highlight the magic and the beauty of this beloved Italian region. Tuscany invokes images of golden hour sun spreading over yellow and green rolling hills. A gorgeously restored villa featuring a driveway lined with cypress trees. Fig trees warmed from the sun or sunflowers or wisteria blooming everywhere, vineyards with fat, juicy grapes.
For many travelers before 2020, Tuscany was an experience limited to a day or two (or even a quick day trip before heading to your next bucket-list destination). But travel has changed – and will continue to change. Thank goodness.
Like everything else in the last year and a half, travel has become slower paced. I welcome this new wave of travel with open arms and a warm embrace: approaching travel from the viewpoint of slowing down rather than fast-forwarding through an entire vacation. I welcome the arrival of slow travel like I welcome the arrival of slow living: an opportunity to gently remind ourselves that rushing through life does not make us better or more successful people. It is slowing down that provides a sense of wellness. When we take care of ourselves more deliberately in our daily lives, our routines then spread into who we become when we are on vacation.
What is wellness in this case? Wellness is precisely that: allowing yourself to slow down. Wellness is embracing the full experience of being present wherever you are. Wellness is yoga and digital detoxes and long walks through empty Tuscan villages. Wellness is a plate of homemade pasta with a glass of regional wine and delicious conversation with one of your closest and most inspiring friends.
In a beautiful series of events, coordinated by my dear friend Livia (who is behind the magic that is The Italy Edit) I was invited to write about wellness in Tuscany. Over the past year, I’ve learned to embrace that my definition of wellness is constantly re-shaping itself and that my preconceived notions are best shelved. I invite you to do the same. Wellness is a broad term, so bear with me.
Part of me wanted to write about doing yoga by the pool, swimming in hot springs or biking through vineyards in Chianti, while the other wanted to encourage people to leave behind their strict diets and regimes and have an extra glass of wine with lunch. In both cases, the message is the same: to live a little slower, pack a little less in and be with ourselves a little more. For too long, wellness by popular definition meant a life of asceticism and sobriety, of trying to be “good” and not succumbing to life’s multitude of delicious pleasures. But Tuscany, like Italy itself, is a place where wellness and pleasure intersect – where a morning yoga practice and an evening Chianti Classico dance together in a perfect symbiotic relationship.
I set off on my 10-day exploration of wellness with a luxurious stay at Le Pratola near Gaiole in Chianti. I was hoping that I would get work done. I hoped to find time to write on my computer and to finish other side projects, because the idea of the trip was that it was a workation in Tuscany. The workation concept is that anyone, whether they have a traditional office job or live a freelance life, can find a villa in Tuscany with friends, family or anyone who might be looking for a mini-getaway and they can set up shop there and use their free time to explore the region.
When I first heard the word workation, I fell in love with it. It’s a word that will become part of our societal vernacular post-pandemic, as more and more people realize they can be just as productive when they work remotely. I must confess, I was not one of ‘those people’ at least not in the traditional sense. I trust that on your workation you’ll be able to accomplish all your tasks and then enjoy a sense of wellness in Tuscany. Trust me, I can still get behind the meaning of the word. It’s just that my experience with workations and wellness in Tuscany were, to put it lightly, different.
We had an activity or two most days, a visit to a winery, a meal or something cultural. The rest of our day was dedicated to working, or it was supposed to be. I found myself lost in daydreams – lying in the grass or by the pool, practicing yoga and teaching a few classes online. Right on schedule, as golden hour sun streaked across the windows, I found myself floating around the kitchen preparing food. I admired the landscape, I watched my life slow down, I exhaled after a long winter passed in one state of lockdown or another. Most of all, I found myself resistant to getting my other work done, and yet I found myself calmer than ever. My desire for wellness, like always, was an inside job. I let go of strict to-do lists and realized that time in good company was bringing me more inspiration than I could possibly quantify or tally.
When I dropped my to-do lists, I released the expectation that this experience with Essenza Escapes needed to be anything more than a homecoming, a personal revolution, a deeper understanding that wellness as defined by modern culture is a superficial term and that true well-being comes, almost spontaneously, when we allow ourselves to live in the moment.
Because here’s the thing: my individual experiences were magical. I cannot say enough nice things about Elizabeth, the multi-talented woman who runs Tuscany Bicycle where I found myself sipping a glass of white wine on an empty stomach at 10:30am, knowing that my e-bike would carry me if my legs decided not to. I loved visiting the organic farm at Podere Il Casale and hearing Sandra’s stories about running an organic farm after a long career working in the music industry. Our chat with Mary, from Querceto di Castellina, was a delightful reflection on the holistic concept of wellness and expat life. Needless to say, we all agreed that a glass of perfectly balanced wine with lunch adds to the experience of savouring Tuscany slowly. I was stupefied by the sheer amount of nature that surrounded us and the ‘strade bianche’ (gravel roads) that wound us through picture-perfect landscapes that felt painted around us. Essenza Escapes gave me the sense that Tuscany was mine to be uncovered and discovered, and that time was my greatest luxury.
And so, we come back to Italy, the ultimate wellness destination. Living in Italy has taught me so much during this global pandemic. It has taught me to slow down. It has taught me to release expectations of what things should look like. It has taught me that a workation is still ‘productive’ even if what you produce is not tangible. I recommend a workation, that goes without saying. But I also recommend and truly hope that the way we travel in this post-pandemic world will look a lot more like my experience in Tuscany – soaking in the beauty of our world and relishing in the sheer joy of being alive at this place, in this time.
Learn how Essenza Escapes can help you experience your next wellness getaway in the Tuscan countryside.