30 Oct 2009

Urban trekking is an excellent way to discover the lesser-known parts of the most beautiful cities in Italy. It is a way to slow down and experience the local life and one of the most sustainable forms of tourism. Here is the program of the National Urban Trekking Day in Tuscany (October 31, 2009).

Urban Trekking: not just empty words

urban trekking in tuscany

Urban trekking has been popular in Siena for quite some time, but it is a recent discovery in Pisa (I am talking about these two cities because that’s where we live… well, near one on the weekends and in the other during the weekdays).

Urban trekking is an excellent way to discover the lesser-known parts of the most beautiful cities in Italy. It is a way to slow down and experience the local life and it is the most sustainable of all forms of tourism.

When it was “invented” (well… walking around is certainly not a new thing, but the “label” is), urban trekking was meant for tourists and locals alike. Through this activity, tourists would discover spots off-the-beaten-path, and establish a deeper emotional connection with the destination. For residents, urban trekking was supposed to be “a healthy lifestyle and a way to regain possession of their spaces, and to get to know them better“.

These might seem a bunch of empty words, the rhetoric of a project outline, but if you live in a city like Florence, Siena or Pisa, you’ll understand very well what feeling the need to “regain possession of your spaces” means.

Sometimes I have to walk through Piazza dei Miracoli to go to work (yeah, I know, poor me…) and from March to October it can be challenging. I much prefer walking through the teaching hospital buildings where I don’t have to watch out for people suddenly stopping to take a photo, or those shopping for some tacky souvenir, or those walking ssssllllooooooowwwwwwwwwwly while wondering how the heck that tower is still standing. The walk back from the office, generally after dark, when the crowds have left, is much, much nicer. In the evening, when I walk through Piazza dei Miracoli I can enjoy the beauty of the place. And I understand why so many people make me late for work every morning!

The other thing is that when you live in a place, you often don’t get to visit it as well as tourists do. There are many exhibitions that I haven’t seen, galleries and museums I have never visited. And listen to this: I have never climbed up to the top of the Tower. I know, it’s unforgivable. I don’t even have a photo of me holding it up. Just sad, I know.

Urban Trekking is indeed a good way to make your city your own space again and certainly to get to know it better. There is another part that I really like in the definition of Urban Trekking: it says that it is an activity that everybody can do in order to tone up one’s muscles, heart and brain.

Tomorrow, October 31st, is national urban trekking day. Obviously, the itineraries will be Halloween-themed. The official name of the event is “dolcetti e scherzetti camminando in città“, meaning “tricks and treats walking in the city“. I think it’s a fantastic idea, really entertaining. Professional tour guides will lead trekkers through the mysterious sites of the cities of Tuscany, telling stories about real, or supposedly real, dark events set in the various buildings and places touched by the itinerary. Here are the programs in the Tuscan cities:

  • Arezzo: from Piazza della Liberta to the Medicean Fortress, trekkers will have to be really brave to put up with the spooky stories they will be told by their guides! If they resist, the treat is a plate of roasted chestnuts in the Neighbourhood of Porta Crucifera! Download the brochure (in Italian only, sorry).
  • Lucca: a real ghost tour of the city. Not to be missed. Download the brochure (in Italian only, sorry). The perfect weekend to go to Lucca if you like comics as well: check Lucca Comics.
  • Massa: a scary walk through the narrowest alley of the center to the old castle. Mystery stories will be told along the way by mysterious characters… Download the brochure (in Italian only, sorry).
  • Pisa: an itinerary entirely devoted to the macabre story of Count Ugolino, whose sad tale is told in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The legend says that, left to starve with his children in a tower, he ate them to survive and for this reason his house was destroyed and the ground where it once stood was cursed and never built on again. Today it’s still the only garden that opens onto the Lungarno. Treats available at Dolcemente, a fabulous exhibition of locally produced sweets. Download the brochure (in Italian only, sorry).
  • Prato: the itinerary is devoted to the most beautiful cloisters in the city and to an exhibition about Italian and Russian fashion between the 14th and the 18th century. Download the brochure (in Italian only, sorry).
  • Siena: an itinerary to discover 6 mysteries in the city, with legends and spooky stories. Siena is indeed always a magic place. Download the brochure (in Italian only, sorry).

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