Another “first” in this odd year that is 2020: my first time glamping… at one of Tuscany’s finest “glampsites!”
Finally, free from Italy’s lockdown, but with the pandemic still lurking in the shadows, my wife and I decided to take our 9-year-old nephew on an adventure. We needed a place where we could get offline, without huge crowds, but where we could relax and shake off some of the stress of the past few months… and so a glamping trip it was!!
We jumped in our car and slowly wound our way through vineyard-laced wooded hills, up and up, as far as we could possibly delve into the depths of Chianti. As we approached the town of Radda in Chianti, our city-dwelling nephew commented “Wow, this town is really in the middle of nowhere!” He was right, and that’s the beauty of exploring the bel paese.
Growing up in California, my experiences with camping had always been on the rugged side. You drive as far as you possibly can from “civilization,” leave the car, and set up shop. A week’s worth of food was brought from home and stored in a thermo cooler along with a giant ice block. Restrooms were outhouses, baths taken in lakes, and the only semblances of electricity were emitted from gas lanterns or transistor AM radios.
I had never been camping in Italy before, but I already knew that Italians have a bit of a different take on things. You are never THAT far from a village here, and campsites offer more services and amenities. Bathrooms are a must, and bars and restaurants are staples. So, when glamping came into fashion a few years ago, the transition from camping to “glamping” was probably quite smooth.
Now, you may be wondering – what the heck is “glamping?” Essentially, it’s luxury camping. You get most of the amenities of a resort or hotel room, but you are still in the middle of nature.
Our research for “glampsites” yielded quite a few options: everything from tree houses in Tuscany, to yurts in olive groves in Abruzzo, or even staying in a bubble (!?) in Basilicata. In the end we chose to stay close to home at Orlando Glamping, nestled high in the Chianti region’s forested hills.
Upon arrival, we noted the license plates on the cars: half from Italy and half from the Netherlands, an interesting mix. Our accommodation was known as an “Air Lodge,” a sort of two-story wooden structure with tent walls and roof. The loft has a tent ceiling that could be unzipped, yielding a skylight. Very quaint, but complete with bathroom, a tiny kitchen reminiscent of Ikea’s eco-house, and even an electric “BBQ.”
This resort had various types of accommodations at different price points: cabins, RV parking, tents, and something that looked like a rustic version of a Japanese capsule hotel which they call a “cube.” Something for everyone.
Most guests were families with children aged 12 and under, and this was the target age for most activities. The entertainment schedule featured balloon animals, kiddy water gym, and a disco. In addition, there was an off-road driving course with baby quads for kids under 10.
In the end, most of our time was dedicated to the pool, switching from waterslide to jacuzzi to pool to lounge chairs… just what the doctor ordered! A great way to soak up the Tuscan sun, this is how many of the “glampers” spent their days. Social distancing was in effect by the guests… somewhat.
Food will always be a central theme of my travels. If you know me, you know I tend to be skeptical (rightly or wrongly) about culinary quality in all-inclusive type resorts (Especially Italian locations frequented by high numbers of foreigners). However, I was pleasantly surprised by both the quality of the meals (the typical Sienese “pici” pasta with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomato sauce, and hot pepper and sauce was superb) and their presentation (truly works of art).
And when the food is right, you can’t go wrong, so all in all, I was quite pleased with my first Italian glamping experience. Great fun and great food for the family!!