On the primary morning, I lean out of my resort window in Florence and admire the backyard beneath. Whose can it’s? There’s a beautiful curving greenhouse that leans on an historical wall. There are palms and lemon timber, fragments of time-worn statuary, a chic wrought-iron desk with a chair. On the desk is a folded newspaper and a steaming espresso espresso, however no gardener seen. It’s all a bit untidy and overgrown, enclosed by tawny partitions capped with pan tiles, many apparently prepared to slip off on to the artfully deserted terracotta urns beneath. That is precisely what I anticipated and wished from Tuscany: a spot that regarded carelessly civilised, and had been that method for a really very long time.
Once I arrived the earlier night time on the Resort Loggiato dei Serviti, I’d requested the barman how outdated the constructing was. “It was in-built 1492,” he instructed me, “the yr of Columbus.”
In that very same yr, native artist Leonardo da Vinci turned 40, whereas up-and-coming teenage rival Michelangelo was nursing a damaged nostril after a combat within the Carmine Chapel. The Florentine Renaissance was properly beneath method, however the begin of the broader European Renaissance is normally dated to 1519, the yr of Leonardo’s loss of life and the delivery of Catherine de’ Medici (in Florence). That anniversary is the explanation I’ve come to stroll between town and its neighbour, Siena, the second one-time powerhouse of western civilisation. Can there be a greater second to trumpet the information that darkish ages can provide strategy to renaissance?

Pleasure dome … Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral
After breakfast, a brief taxi experience takes me to my start line at Greve in Chianti – at first I stroll previous vineyards and olive groves however am quickly within the forest. From a excessive level, I get an concept of what lies forward: a panorama divided equally by forest and cultivation, the latter principally within the valleys or decrease slopes, the previous cloaking ridges and rounded peaks. The paths are gravel tracks, rising and falling gently as I head south. Often, a motor bike passes. In any other case, I see nobody. I’m glad I crammed my espresso flask earlier than leaving Florence.
It’s a lot wilder than I’d anticipated: deer tracks pepper the mud and the grassy forest glades have been roughed up by gangs of untamed boar. I spot the print of a really massive paw: canine or wolf? The Tuscan wolf has been making a comeback lately, however they’re extraordinarily shy. I decide up porcupine quills, too. Italy is the one European residence to this animal, an introduction by the Romans, who preferred to eat them. The porcupine, which grows to a whopping metre lengthy, has taken revenge ever since by devouring the sangiovese grapes that make chianti wines.
Within the late afternoon, I climb the ridge atop which Radda in Chianti is sited and immediately emerge in a beautiful Tuscan city: slim stone streets, tiny outlets, and prospers of historical ornamentation in stone.

Coronary heart of stone … Volpaia village, on the primary day’s strolling. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby/The Guardian
On the far finish, I discover the Resort Vignale, residence to an excellent restaurant, a type of temple devoted to the steak. Earlier than dinner I swim within the unheated outside pool. “Are you loopy? It’s beneath 20 levels!” says Luigi, the eating room’s excessive priest. Dinner arrives scorching on a trolley and Luigi wields the knife. It’s merely the very best steak I’ve ever tasted, though definitely not the most cost effective. On the subsequent desk, Luigi gently persuades a pair of American guests that ordering it “properly achieved” is not going to be a good suggestion.
The following morning, I proceed southwards. The vineyards are all fortified with hefty excessive obstacles and electrical fences. 5 wolves had been sighted three days in the past, I’m knowledgeable, however these defences are towards deer and boar. I go lovely church buildings, all locked, and a few farmhouses, however then enter an oak forest. Porcupine quills are scattered among the many acorns and I can hear a deep grunting noise from up the valley. Porcupine social gathering? Wild boar? I hear. Every episode of grunts is adopted by a fragile rattling, like sticks clashing. The deer are combating.
I go away the trail and creep up the hillside, weaving by means of dense thickets of coppiced timber. I spot a nostril, a rump, a large antler, a leg. The breeze is on my face. I am going on all fours, inching my method forwards right into a place behind a log the place I crouch, unmoving, for a very long time. The forest is so thick that I’ve but to see a complete deer. Out of the blue a giant black male is charging by means of the timber in direction of me. I attempt to rise up, however my left leg has gone to sleep and I roll sideways. The massive male thunders previous. Has he seen me? Then I hear the rival someplace down beneath. The massive male pauses, respiratory closely, then sprints away downhill. The twenty-strong herd melts silently into the forest. My coronary heart charge returns to regular and I hobble again to the footpath.

Vineyards round San Sano. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby/The Guardian
This forest is the supply of many Tuscan delicacies: white truffles – one of many rarest, most costly fungi on the planet – and different specialities corresponding to wild capers, asparagus, chicory and fennel. Once I attain San Sano, the tiny village the place I’m staying, the proprietor of the Resort Residence, Maurizio, fills me in on the wildlife with a communicative combination of Italian, English and expressive gestures. “The lupo [wolf] is a part of the ecosistema right here, and we want them. There are such a lot of cervi [deer].” He mimes antlers. “One night time, three of them jumped in my piscina.”
I ponder if the wolf had prompted this midnight swim?
“No, the lupi by no means come to the village.”
He pours me a glass of chianti classico and I take it to the terrace of my floor ground room that opens out on a stunning backyard and pool. The village is surrounded by vineyards and is completely peaceable. That night, Maurizio serves me and a pair of his mates a typical Tuscan dinner in his cave of a eating room: bruschetta, bean soup, meat course and dessert, adopted by “a bit of grappa”. It appears like I’ve been absorbed into Tuscan household life. The resort’s dachshund trots in with a stick. Maurizio gestures despairingly: “Chloe!? What number of occasions should I inform you?” Chloe trots out, leaving the stick on the stone-flagged ground.
Later, Maurizio reveals me a e book concerning the palio, the Siena horse race that dates again to medieval occasions, however our discussions are hampered as a result of, after a number of glasses of chianti and the grappa, I can solely communicate a mongrel commerce language stewed up from substandard Spanish, schoolboy French and half-witted Arabic. Not solely that, Maurizio is forgetting his English. Chloe trots in with a stick. “Chloe! Quante volte devo dirti?” Chloe trots out.
Subsequent day, I reluctantly drag myself away from San Sano for the ultimate part into Siena. Now the deep, silent forests are changed with extra vineyards, olive groves and swish homes. I attain my resort, the elegant Villa Scacciapensieri, however it’s nonetheless a 3km stroll to the centre. I resolve to borrow a motorbike.

Piazza del Campo, Siena
It’s a new bike, hardly used, and I quickly uncover why: Siena is constructed on a number of steep-sided hills that defy pedalling. Having stated that, I do suppose a motorbike is a time-saver because the free-wheeling descents are fast, and exhilarating.
Within the centre of the city, I come throughout enormous crowds of individuals, everybody sporting a brightly colored neckerchief and clutching a glass. I ask what’s occurring. “It’s the palio,” a person informs me.
“However I believed it was solely in July and August?” I’m right here in October.
The person grins. “It’s a particular one – to commemorate the top of the primary world conflict. Most of us haven’t even sobered up from August.” Solely now do I realise what Maurizio had been making an attempt to inform me: the palio is on immediately.
I can hear the roar of the gang and, over heads, spot a blur of motion. The palio, I’m certain, is value seeing, however anybody with no ticket must be in place very early to get any type of view. Later, as I discover the slim streets, I hear the clip-clop of hooves on cobbles and a horse is led previous me adopted by a crowd of excited followers. In a small sq., tables are laid out for a feast. Every space of town is decked with its flags and delivers full-blooded assist for its horse and rider.

Towering achievement … the Duomo in Siena. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby/The Guardian
Each bar and restaurant is packed. I stand in a nook with an espresso and soak up the feverish pleasure. It’s value being in Siena on palio day simply to be a part of this: an environment that Renaissance greats like da Vinci and Michaelangelo should have identified intimately.
Once I’ve had sufficient, I push the bike to the cathedral, an beautiful masterpiece of marble and mosaic full of sculpted gentle, a worthy finale to a Renaissance stroll.• The journey was offered by Inn Journey, which has an eight-night strolling vacation between Florence and Siena from £1,295, together with lodging, breakfasts, three dinners, a picnic, transfers and strolling notes however not flights. Ryanair flies to each Pisa and Bologna from numerous UK airports