WALKING IN TUSCANY

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

The incredible view that greeted us at the top of Pania Della Croce - stunning mountain peaks swathed in fluffy clouds stretching off towards the horizon and views out across the sea to Sardinia and Corsica. Breathtaking.   The Monte Prado walk. The whole day was inspirational - emerging from golden and russet beech forests, with a deep blue sky overhead, to walk along the undulating Apennine ridge, dressed in shades of red, orange, yellow and green from the bilberry bushes, still covered in ripe berries. Views as far as the Alps, glistening in fresh snow cover.

What did you think of your group leader?

Fantastic. Sara is so passionate about these mountains and about nature and her passion is contagious! She is fully committed to her clients, working hard for us, both on and off the hill. Sara has vast experience of guiding in this area and worldwide, and I would trust her judgement 100%. She doesn't herd the group, but allows people to walk at their own pace much of the time, with plenty of opportunities to rest and regroup. However, in trickier sections of a walk, or if there is poor visibility, she keeps the group together and supports people appropriately. Sara will quickly assess the abilities and fitness levels of her clients and adjust the walks and her approach accordingly. The ascents and terrain took a few people out of their comfort zone, but it was worth it and Sara provided as much or as little support as was needed. She is also a mine of useful information about places to visit on the free day, local produce, medical ailments and herbal remedies!

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

This trip involves proper mountain walking above the treeline on most days. Don't underestimate the terrain - it is not the rolling hills that people associate with typical Tuscan countryside. It is more like walking to the tops of mountains in the Lake District or in Scotland. Paths are generally not exposed and there was only one tiny section of rocky ground to negotiate (which everyone managed fine), so you are not in any danger. However, the terrain did surprise some of our group and quite a few people found it more challenging than they expected. Don't let that put you off though - the mountains and the views are absolutely wonderful. Sara is also adept at choosing walks 'with options' - e.g. some of our group opted to lie in the sun on a beautiful ridge while others continued a little further on to a summit.   The weather is very unpredictable in this area and at this time of year (October). We were lucky, with mostly warm and sunny weather, but it did rain for one whole day and was cold on some of the mountain tops, so it's worth being prepared. I would recommend taking waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers, hat and gloves.   Wear proper walking boots with ankle support. Although approach shoes might be suitable for some walks, most of the paths are rough and some of the terrain is rocky, so proper walking boots are more suitable.   Walking poles are very helpful on this trip.     Sara will give you lots of tips and advice for the free day - they are worth listening too. The restaurant she recommended in Lucca was excellent. (Lucca is also a great place to buy leather handbags!!)   If you're travelling from Scotland, consider flying Ryanair from Edinburgh to Pisa. This worked out best for me on price, timings and convenience.    The Braccicorti dogs, Dora and Elvis, walked with us every day. I am not usually that keen on dogs, but these two won me over, so don't be put off! They look out for the group too. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

This was a perfect way to spend my October half-term. Thank you Sara, Braccicorti and Exodus.