Tuscany generally summons up images of honey colored fields of wheat, pretty roads lined with cyprus tree, and perfect rows of San Giovanni grapes. Lesser known, is the wild side of Tuscany. The dense woods, deep rivers, spectacular canyons and rock faces, and wonderful array of fauna and flora. Tuscany is also the most thickly wooded region in Italy with approximately 1 million hectares of forests.
Over the last decade, their has been a controversial return of Tuscany’s biggest predator – the wolf. These wonderful animals have been spotted on the hills around Florence, and recently in Montaione. The local shepherds and cattle farmers have reported losses, and out on rides I have come across animal carcasses more than once. Sheep and deer that have been polished off in a manner that seems very wolf-like.
The Castellare estate was also home to a herd of Mouflon. A sub species of the wild sheep that is commonly spotted in Sardinia and Corsica. These wild sheep were released by the Scotti family decades ago, and now run free in the area. I spotted a small group in Castelfalfi a month back, and I am unsure if these stem from the original Mouflon too….
Riding at Castellare you will often come across deer. At night, if you take a wander into the countryside, you will often come across porcupines, badgers, foxes, martens and weasels and it is very likely you will see or hear a family of wild boar searching for food or having a mud bath. Birdlife is everywhere, from the pheasants to the woodpeckers, right through to the rare golden eagle.
The horses take these animals in their stride. They live in fields that border the forest, and are used to meeting wild animals after the sun goes down.
Horse riding in the wild countryside around Castellare allows visitors the chance to discover the animals habitat in a non destructive way. The perspective is different on the back of a horse, and this form of travel is an environmentally friendly way to cover land, view scenery and experience nature and wildlife without disturbing them.