This post was produced in partnership with Essenza Escapes.
Few places in the world generate such unequivocal wanderlust as Tuscany. When you tell anyone that you’ve been to Tuscany, they’ll look at you with stars in their eyes, dreaming of the landscapes they’ve seen in books, movies, and travel shows that highlight the beauty and magic of this beloved region. Tuscany evokes images of the golden hour sun spreading over yellow and green rolling hills. A gorgeously restored villa featuring a driveway lined with cypress trees. Sun-warmed fig trees, 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.
Wellness & Slow Travel
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. It’s an opportunity to gently remind ourselves that rushing through life does not make us better or more successful people. Slowing down provides a sense of wellness. When we intentionally take care of ourselves in our daily lives, our routines carry over into who we are on vacation.
What is wellness in this case? Wellness is precisely that: allowing yourself to slow down. It involves 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 and a glass of regional wine. Not to mention delicious conversation with one of your closest and most inspiring friends.
Wellness in Tuscany
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 reshaping 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 Chianti’s vineyards. The other part, however, wanted to encourage people to leave behind their strict diets and regimes. And instead, have an extra glass of wine with lunch. In both cases, the message is the same: live a little slower, pack a little less, and be with ourselves a little more. For too long, wellness by popular definition meant a life of asceticism and sobriety. It meant 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.
Workation: An Exploration
I set off on my 10-day exploration of wellness with a luxurious stay at Le Pratola near Gaiole in Chianti, hoping that I would get work done. I also hoped to find time to write and finish other side projects. 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. There, they can set up shop 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. Especially as more and more people realize they can be just as productive when working remotely. I must confess, I was not one of ‘those people’ at least not in the traditional sense. However, I trust that you’ll be able to accomplish all your tasks on your workation and 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 was, to put it lightly, different.
Most days, we generally had one or two activities; 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 the golden hour sun streaked across the windows, I found myself floating around the kitchen preparing food. I admired the landscape and 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 spent 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. 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. A multi-talented woman who runs Tuscany Bicycle where I found myself sipping a glass of white wine on an empty stomach at 10:30 am, knowing my e-bike would carry me if my legs decided not to. I loved visiting the organic farm at Podere Il Casale. Listening to Sandra’s stories about managing an organic farm after working in the music industry was a wonderful experience.
Chatting with Mary from Querceto di Castellina was a delightful reflection on the holistic concept of wellness and ex-pat life. Needless to say, we agreed that a glass of perfectly balanced wine with lunch adds to the experience of savoring Tuscany slowly. I was stupefied by the sheer amount of nature that surrounded us. The strade bianche (gravel roads) 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, most importantly, 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 and 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.