It’s just after 7am and our naturalist guide Giulia Ghinassi points out fresh deer and boar hoofprints in the thick mud alongside the trail. Fresh mountain air fills our lungs while expansive oaks, beeches and chestnuts shade us from the rising sun. We continue walking through the thicket and discover another imprint, this time a giant paw. As our guide reaches down to see if the sign is fresh, we hear a howl. Ghinassi shoots her head up and her eyes widen. “We’re not supposed to see the wolves this morning,” she says. We all turn and scan the forest, knowing we’re surrounded.
Another morning on safari in Italy.
Deep in the Apennines, about an hour northwest of Florence, in an area long avoided by Italy’s tourist hordes, a steep drive through hairpin bends conjures up images of Lake Tahoe or the Rocky Mountains. The destination: Oasyhotel in the heart of Tuscany, which opened last spring in a pristine forest teeming with wildlife – a kind of oasis, as the name suggests. In a former hunting ground now converted into a protected retreat in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, the luxury eco-lodge combines pristine views with a safari experience unrivaled in Italy.
“Welcome to Jurassic Park,” says General Manager Federico Galligani. We have arrived far from the crowded canals of Venice and the glittering resorts of the Amalfi Coast.
Once you have made the trip to Oasy, the idea is to stay at the Oasy. “The Oasyhotel doesn’t behave like any other hotel,” says Galligani. “Our goal is to welcome and follow guests in an exclusive and secluded natural oasis.” There are countless ways to spend a stay on the 2,500-acre expanse, from leisurely kayaking excursions to more active horseback riding activities. Guests are encouraged to take one of the property’s e-bikes for a spin and glide along a pristine lake, through valleys dotted with ferns, and over hills with views across Tuscany — often passing wildlife that are more curious about humans are as people on it.
And it’s not just guests who stay nearby: The lush grounds are teeming with fresh produce that the resort’s two restaurants rely on. The casual Trattoria Casa Luigi, where seating extends to an open field, serves homemade cheeses and desserts with honey and homegrown berries. At Le Felci, housed in a stone farmhouse, the seasonal tasting menu often includes artfully presented dishes like soup with mushrooms picked that same morning, or rabbit from the estate served with a decadent cream sauce.
Millions of stars light the way as you return to your lodge after a busy day – there is virtually no light pollution in this area – and amidst the all-encompassing silence, all you hear is the wind howling through the trees and the howling of wolves somewhere in the distance. The 16 self-contained lodges with a minimalist flair promise absolute privacy and a wide forest and mountain view. Don’t look for club sandwiches and soggy fries on the room service menu — instead, an elaborate picnic box arrives at your door, overflowing with savory supplies like locally made mortadella, cheese made at the estate’s dairy, and unsalted Tuscan bread to soak up the rich local butter and olive oil.
Oasyhotel is not necessarily what many people associate with an Italian escape. But a night hike deep into the woods to get to a little cabin with a roaring fireplace, where wine, bourbon and chocolate await by candlelight is enough to make you want to stay.
Oasyhotel rates start at $420 per night.