Monthly Archives: September 2012

Castles and monasteries on horseback

One of the highlights of a horse riding week in this area is that the surrounding Tuscan hills are full of ancient castles and monastic ruins.
This week we visited the impressive San Vivaldo Monastery – one of the best preserved monasteries and grounds of the 14th century that still has monks living onsite.  On another horseback trail we explored the ruins of a medieval settlement hidden in the woods.

The horseback trail to San Vivaldo convent takes 6 hours. This special ‘sacred hill’ and monastery was built when the ottoman empires expansion made long pilgrimages to Jerusalem dangerous to Christians. It was considered the Italian Jerusalem, and has a series of pretty chapels that can be visited during the weekend.

One of the monks here is a lovely man, and always tells me interesting stories about the area in the past. On this particular ride he looked over smiling at our two cheeky fjord horses, and said he loved horses (and all animals) but was a little scared of them. Then he told us how as a child he had gone with the priest in horse and cart to make visits all over … but that it was the priest who dealt with the horses.

Last week we had two journalists from Colorado here for an equestrian  magazine in the US. Luckily the weather was great during their stay (apart from one day of torrential storms… where fortunately they had opted for a day in Florence).  It was very sad saying goodbye to them both last Sunday, but I hope we will see them both again in the future!


Photo workshop Christiane Slawik

We have had a very busy week with Christiane Slawik who was here on a photo workshop. We were flat out with shootings of horses in liberty, portraits, ridden shots and panoramic shoots. The photos have made the work well worth it, and finally I think we have a portfolio of photos that really show the quality of Castellare di Tonda’s horses, as well as the beauty of our location.

This year we are working on a good marketing campaign to really showcase one of Castellare’s strongest features ;the equestrian center. This morning the weather is a bit grey, and Christiane and friends have headed to Pisa for the morning. Hopefully this afternoon we can resume shooting on the vineyards… but the forecast is not especially fantastic.  No worries however, as we have already managed to snap the horses in a great range of settings and situations.

It has been hugely informative watching the master at work – and very funny at times keeping a smile on while trying to ride the horses in trying terrain or…water. These are a few pics I took of Christiane shooting the girls at Castelfalfi castle yesterday morning. It was an unplanned shooting, so in the name of color Ailsa is actually wearing Christiane’s shirt, while Christiane is wearing mine (I had two luckily). The builders were granted a laugh as Christiane stripped off in the name of photography – but the finished product (which I saw last night) was well worth the effort. The castle provided a wonderfully Tuscan background – and as this is one of our riding destinations, it was especially relevant.

Poor Christiane has a sore knee, but as you can see -Banderas made an excellent tripod when she needed to get a shot from higher up!

Is summer over already??

Its been a strange couple of weeks. We have had a full 3 months of savage heat. Savage in the sense that it has been unrelenting, with no rain at all. Not even the odd thunderstorm.

The land is parched. Dust rises everywhere, and the grass has turned to yellow straw. It has been a tough year on farmers already in the midst of economic crisis. Now the crops are poor, and the water shortage is on everyones mind.

Then, out of the blue. We had a week of rain, wind, storms and cool temperatures. Not enough to make a huge difference in the water supplies – but relief in the form of cooler evenings and mornings.

Just as we all pulled out our winter clothes, locked away for the past three months… the weather turned again. Now we are back up to the 30’s, and summer is back again.


This week we have Christiane Slawik and her husband Thomas here. Already we are planning all the interesting shoots we can manage with the horses, and hopefully we should get some really interesting photos for the website, and 2013’s new horse brochure.