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Photo © David Bonaventuri
Photo © David Bonaventuri

The thrill of running along the river

High-walled canyons and rushing rivers

by  Ciclica

Let yourselves be guided by the current as you’re surrounded by thick, incredible greenery, running alongside the rivers, or sometimes even through them, that make Tuscany a lush land and the ideal place for water sports.

The Tuscan landscape is characterized by mountainous elevations home to bountiful springs. The waters that flow downhill from these sources have carved through the land over time, bestowing both peaceful and wild landscapes. It’s difficult to resist the temptation to explore these rivers and streams, and much easier to abandon yourself to such natural elements, which man has long grown used to, diving into this splashy adventure.

Orrido di Botri
Orrido di Botri - Credit: Rik & Ste
Stretti di Giaredo
Stretti di Giaredo - Credit: We Live we explore

Canyoning is a fully engaging experience: head up river as you fight the current, discovering the spectacular gorges that have been dug out by these waterways, so deep you can hardly see the sky when you’re inside them. Take, for example, the canyon that inspired Dante and his infernal landscapes, which we can find at the foot of the Apennines near Lucca: the Orrido di Botri, a canyon that’s super narrow at a few points, surrounded by rugged environs where man has never intervened and infused with a magical atmosphere. The deepest canyon in Tuscany, whose rocky walls rise up 200 metres in height in some parts, is covered in dense vegetation, and climbing up the slopes in search of light are beech trees with unusual forms. The narrow points make it difficult for light to filter deep into the gorge, creating a unique climate that’s particularly cool and wet, which allows the beech trees to grow in a lower climate than what is natural for the species. This is an unusual landscape, but it’s definitely not the only one in Tuscany with such characteristics.

The Lunigiana also hides an equally wild and spectacular place, perfect for exploring with the water up to your knees and waist, your face pointed to the sky: the Stretti di Giaredo and its liver-coloured walls. Amidst jumps and slides, the Rio Selvano and the Serra in the Garfagnana lead you on a canyoning experience through the fresh, cool waters in one of the most beautiful areas in the Region. Some waterways have created wider valleys and are perfect for traversing in sturdy rafts for the thrilling experience of rafting.

Rafting on the Lima
Rafting on the Lima - Credit: David Bonaventuri

Also in the Garfagnana, there are many paddling adventures, each suitable for varying skill levels, for a light experience down the river Serchio, perfect for your first attempt at the sport, while there are lively descents to be had on the Lima, where you can’t ignore its canyons.

The waters that come down from the Apennines flow all the way to the centre of Tuscany: the river Elsa in the Siena territory and the Ombrone in the Maremma boast unexpected adventures, including on foot along their banks and in a canoe or kayak on the water.

If you prefer calm waters, Bilancino Lake is the perfect option. With a canoe or a kayak, you can indulge in your love of sports and the outdoors. The largest artificial lake in Italy, Bilancino is located in the Mugello. On the north-eastern shore, there’s as natural a nature reserve as you’ll ever find: a priceless treasure chest of biodiversity, the Gabbianello WWF Oasis is a wetland that’s home to rare bird species, like the white stork, pink flamingo, crane and osprey, making it a paradise for birdwatching. Lovers of water sports will also fall in love with the Oasis, as there are a few small beaches throughout the reserve where you can go sunbathing.

With a paddle in hand, and following the flow of nature, you’ll cross through unspoilt areas whilst also catching sight of historic villages or even passing through major cities: in a kayak, canoe or raft, you can float down the river Arno, enjoying surprising views and never-before-seen panoramas of the Giglio City. It’s a completely new way to get to know Florence: “against the current” and outdoors. Try SUP for an experience that’s accessible to all, even the mobility impaired. Tuscany’s waterways flow from north the south and can be enjoyed and explored by SUP, the perfect way of experiencing the rivers and discovering the most refreshing ravines.