The Wine and Olive Oil routes which wind through the entire territory are the perfect reason to get to know, savor and admire the most well-known Italian region in the world: from Chianti to Val d'Orcia, traveling through Val di Chiana, all of it is a whirlwind of breathtaking panoramas, of villages that look like film sets - in fact many have been -of inimitable flavors, to be enjoyed at the simple tables of country trattorias. It is a true celebration for art lovers. In addition to the universally renowned cities of Florence and Siena, between golf matches, follow your nose through the streets , the squares and the monuments of Lucca and Pisa, Pistoia and Montepulciano, San Gimignano and San Giovanni Valdarno. You will never want to leave.
Tuscany is not just the cradle of the Italian language where poets Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarca were born. It is also the cradle of Italian golf. While few may be aware of it, Italy's first golf course opened right here in Florence, in the Cascine Park. It was 1889 and the colony of English diplomats and businessmen residing in the capital city of Tuscany yearned to enjoy their favorite pastime even if they were far from home. This led to the founding of the Florence Golf Club which changed seat only in the 30s - and Italianized its name so as to not arouse the disfavor of Fascism - moving its greens to the Chianti road between Grassina and Greve. The Circolo Golf Ugolino, which takes its name from the locality and carved out of the gently rolling hills as it is, is still one of Italy's most fascinating courses. English architects Blandford and Gannon, following the canons of the era, reduced intervention on the natural surroundings to a bare minimum, exploiting its features in the best manner possible: cypresses, olives, the sloping terrain, small greens defended by bunkers and natural hazards make playing difficult, leading players to resort to caution and precision rather than power. The view you can enjoy from any place on the course and the clubhouse - one of the most beautiful examples of rationalist architecture and safeguarded by laws protecting historic and architectural buildings - is one that makes you feel at peace with the world.
There are two other courses to visit in the immediate vicinities of Florence: one to the north in the middle of the Mugello region, the other to the west, just outside of Prato. The most recent is the UNA Poggio dei Medici Golf Club, in Scarperia, a par 73 18-hole course created in 1992 by the creative genius of architect Alvise Rossi Fioravanti and the experience of Baldovino Dassù, the best Italian player in the 1970s. It was designated by the Ladies European Tour to host no less than five consecutive editions of the Ladies Italian Open from 1999 to 2003. Here, the undulations of the terrain are also an important part of the course. While the spaces are more sweeping and if on the one hand, errors are more easily forgiven, on the other, the length of the holes makes for extra difficulty.
The Tavola area in Prato is home to one of the three Italian courses designed by the great Arnold Palmer (the other two are Ca' della Nave in Venice and Tolcinasco in Milan) dated 1986: the Golf Club Le Pavoniere is an 18-hole course built on the lands of an old Medici family estate. The course has a bit of an American feel, scored by many water hazards with large and undulating greens.
Not far away to the west, there is an important spa town called Montecatini where a golf course could simply not be missing. In fact, on the road climbing towards Mount Vettolini in Pievaccia locality, we find the Golf Montecatini Terme, a course which was opened in 1985. With its water hazards, deep gorges and tall trees, the course knows how to demand the best from players. The stone clubhouse overlooking the valley is also quite charming.
Travel southward for 15 kilometers to cross the city that was the birthplace of genius Leonardo da Vinci (don't miss the Leonardo da Vinci museum inside the historic walls of Vinci) and try the 9 long and demanding holes at the Golf Bellosguardo Vinci, overlooked by the ancient 14th century residence that lent its name to the club and which is known for its olive oil and wine production.
The Golf Club Castelfalfi opened more than twenty years ago in an enchanted place in the heart of Tuscany, twenty kilometers from San Gimignano. It was completely redesigned in 2010 and now boasts 27 holes, the Mountain Course and the Lake Course. The medieval hamlet overlooking the golf course together with the castle and a series of farmhouses scattered over the 1100-hectare estate have also undergone renovation, transforming the location into a complete resort where you will find everything you need to enjoy a dream holiday.
The road to the Royal Golf La Bagnaia is rather long - around 90 kilometers - but, magical and enchanting as it is, it alone is an unforgettable trip. Time will fly as you cross the rising and falling elevations of Val d'Elsa, going past Siena to your destination, in the Upper Merse River Nature Reserve where Robert Trent Jones, Jr., harmonized the 18 holes with the context of the gently rolling hills.
80 kilometers further south and 300 meters of altitude in the heart of Maremma will bring you to the Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort. This is yet another trip where the beauty of the place completely compensates for the efforts of traveling there. Gently sloping hilly areas and a few undulating fairways characterize the entire area of the course which could only be built thanks to scrupulous compliance with laws protecting nature. Here in the early morning hours, you can easily spot roe-deer, porcupines, pheasants and the many bird species that inhabit the Maremma area. Soaking in the beneficial and sulfurous thermal waters after a match will recharge the body and mind.