I returned to my desk from a recent trip abroad to find, among the mail, a letter from a lady in Wolverhampton whose husband is an enthusiastic walker. She, though happy enough to accompany him on an occasional Sunday morning stroll, does not share that enthusiasm, and was asking me about holidays that would be suitable for both of them.
She didn’t tell me where her interests lie, but it so happens that my trip was to Tuscany and the holiday I sampled was designed to suit people with different interests – though walking was at its core.
We were based in a delightful hotel in San Marcello, a small town located some 2,000 feet up in the foothills of the Appenines. Owned and run by a married couple, it thoroughly deserved its three-star rating, being unpretentious but very welcoming.
But the main point about the holiday – and one which the Wolverhampton lady and many other spouses will doubtless appreciate – was that it offered more than walking. On three afternoons of the week we were there, members of our group were invited to brush up their culinary skills under the benevolent eye of Cinzia Bonacchi who, with husband Rudy, owns the Hotel Giardini.
We also took one day off to make an excursion to Florence, and there were plenty of opportunities on other days for non-walkers to find themselves a small cafe, sit with a coffee at a pavement table and simply enjoy the passing scene.
At the end of the trip I could not find a single member of the group who had not enjoyed the experience. Of the score or so who made up our party, the enthusiastic ramblers had enjoyed every rural mile they had covered along the trails that snaked up and down the wooded hillsides, along the banks of rushing rivers and into steep-sided valleys. A different walk every day, except for that day when we went to Florence.
Others had only covered one, two or three of the walks, preferring to spend time at a more leisurely pace. Some declared the cookery lessons to be the highlight of the trip. Others simply praised the food, the wine and the company they had enjoyed.
The point is that there was something in this holiday mixture for everyone to enjoy, and it struck me that such a “combination” holiday would be ideal for couples whose enthusiasms vary.
Without losing the “rambling” element which so many people enjoy, a holiday can combine walking with cookery, as ours did, or with activities such as painting, sketching, horse riding or cycling. For those of a sedentary nature, a good option might be Bridge, with someone on hand to deliver lectures or lessons and, to round off the week, a friendly competition with a local club. Cards, after all, have no language barrier!
One of the ladies in the San Marcello group mentioned that she was a keen bird watcher, so another holiday option instantly presented itself. Given the right location and the right time of year, bird-watchers would get as much enjoyment from their holiday as the most enthusiastic ramblers. The same goes for those with an interest in animals, especially as Africa is now featured in walking holiday brochures.
The more I thought about it, the more it struck me that “combination” holidays would be perfect for those couples who do not share the same degree of enthusiasm for a hobby or pastime.
As a result of my recent trip to Tuscany, I met a really excellent group of people, did a little walking, enjoyed the historic and architectural wonders of Florence and brushed up my culinary skills. Before my encounter with Cinzia Bonacchi I did not know how to spell Tiramisu. Now I can make it.
www.ramblersholidays.co.uk 01707 331133
offer a one week, half-board walking and cooking holiday based at Hotel Giardini in San Marcello, Italy from £710 per person includes return flights, transfers and the services of a tour leader.