Monteriggioni is, without doubt, one of the most classical and best known Italian walled town. Since the Middle Age its fame was so big that also the great poet Dante Alighieri makes sign to his ‘round enclosure‘ in the Divine Comedy (Hell, chant XXXI vv. 40-41). The town walls, nearly intact, cover a length of 570 meters and are alternated by 14 towers andtwo gates. The Senese Gate is at the base of a square tower while the Florence Gate is opened in the curtain and defended from one of the towers of the fortified perimeter.

The town was built by the Senesis in the years 1213-1219 on a hilltop overlooking of the Cassia Road. Its ideal position allowed to control the Elsa and the Staggia Valleys in direction in Florence, the historic enemy of Siena, that at that time was rapidly expanding its territory.

The front toward Florence.

The hill where Monteriggioni rises is natural, even if it could seem a great ‘motte‘ (from the name of the classical Norman castles ‘Motte-and-Bailey’ built on artificial hills and gifted of enclosure), and the circular, almost perfectly, layout of the walls was obtained simply following the sketch of the ground’s curves of level. In the planning was tried of to limit the weak points for excellence, the gates, entrusting the only connections with the outside only to a  east to west crossing road. To Monteriggioni the military building work appears physically distinguished by the inhabited area confined to its inside but well separated from the walls from a ‘territory of respect‘, although in the ancient times the inhabited area has been more intense than today and consequently with a more narrow band of separation. The hamlet that we can admire in our days is essentially authentic, being ever been object of building and tourist speculations. The only changes to its aspect happened in the first years of the 16th century when, trying to conform the fortifications to the development of the new fire weapons, were lowered the towers and accumulated earth at the base of the walls with the purpose to get a bastion effect.

Recently a part of the wall walk of the town walls has been restored and made accessible. From the top of the walled circuit, it is possible to admire the surrounding countryside towards Chianti and the Valdelsa and to enjoy a unique view of the town and its fortifications. More info:

Random Reasons Why We Love Nosara, Costa Rica

There is a reason why we choose to host our 200-hour teacher training in Nosara, Costa Rica year in and year out. And if one reason isn’t enough, we came up with 15!

  1. Monkeys are your alarm clock (sometimes they want you up and about at 4am!)
  2. Nosara is a Blue Zone meaning it is one of the healthiest places to live in the world
  3. Pristine beaches + super good swell for surfing
  4. Abundance of local fresh produce + the best avocados and pineapple I have ever devoured. Not to mention the coffee, ohhhhh the coffee!!
  5. Pollution almost doesn’t exist

Read the rest of this fantastic list in Alchemy of Yoga


Rainforest Adventures offers tranquil day trip from San José

In The Tico Times, by MICHAEL KRUMHOLTZ | JUNE 3, 2016

The aerial tram at Rainforest Adventures glides over the dense rain forest near Braulio Carrillo National Park.

The aerial tram at Rainforest Adventures glides over the dense rain forest near Braulio Carrillo National Park.  (Courtesy of Alvaro Cubero/Rainforest Adventures)

Toucans and falcons soar above the lush rain forest neighboring the Braulio Carrillo National Park as a patch of fog settles in the distance. The birds’ mating calls are the only sound coming from outside our aerial tram as my guide from Rainforest Adventures, Luis Vargas, and I roll along the tree line through the rain forest.

Sometimes the postcard scenery you see on advertisements does come to life in Costa Rica. Once you get past the traffic and pollution so prevalent in San José, places as tranquil and beautiful as the Braulio Carrillo area are not too far away. Just an hour’s drive from the capital, Rainforest Adventures, located off Route 32, offers a great day trip for those wanting to hike, zipline, or just glide through the forest in an aerial tram.

Rainforest Adventure Tree Frog

Rainforest Adventures’ tram line, which Vargas said was the first of its kind ever built inside a tropical rain forest, extends 2.6 kilometers along a track that holds 24 gondolas. Donald Perry, the man who invented the canopy zipline, was also responsible for thinking up the Rainforest Adventures’ aerial tram, built in 1994.

The hour-and-a-half tour takes riders from the forest floor, where there’s the possibility of close-ups with wildlife and tropical plants, to the tops of the canopy, where amazing views of the rain forest await.

Besides birds, some of the most notable animals roaming the area here are jaguars, pumas, tapir, deer, monkeys and a litany of poisonous reptiles.

Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica

Terciopelos grow here like rice,” Vargas said, referring to the deadly fer-de-lance snake. “We’ve seen them up to two meters long. You have to remember this is a virgin rain forest. We have a little bit of everything here.”

Vargas, who grew up on a nearby finca and has worked as a tour guide in rain forests for a variety of companies, then began to tell me a story about the time he was bitten by a highly venomous terciopelo.

He said the actual bite wasn’t as painful as one would expect, but after he saw two small bite marks on his foot he went back to identify the snake, and then he knew he had a limited amount of time to get to a hospital before serious damage would be done. Vargas calmly got himself to a hospital, where he could get antivenin and proper treatment.

(Courtesy of Alvaro Cubero/Rainforest Adventures)

However, he went on to say that the pain of the bite paled in comparison to the time he was bitten by a bullet ant when he grabbed hold of a branch in a forest in Sarapiquí. He said the intense pain lasted for days as he was hospitalized with the entire right side of his body burning from the ant’s toxins.

Bullet ants are also prevalent in the area, as suggested by an “Ant Crossing” sign near the front of the visitor’s section at Rainforest Adventures.

If creepy crawlers that can leave you on the verge of death aren’t your thing, then don’t fear. Unless you’re taking part in one of the multi-day camping trips through the forest that guides offer, you probably won’t be crossing paths with any venomous creatures.

Visitors ride the tram at Rainforest Adventures.

But, as Vargas pointed out, the abundance of these animals demonstrates the natural health of this rain forest. Unlike in a zoo, the animals could be anywhere at any time, which Vargas said points to the conservation efforts taken by the country in recent decades to help preserve national parks like Braulio Carrillo.

“Costa Rica has done a good job of conserving its forests,” Vargas said. “We’re not perfect by any means and we have room to improve, but the state has done a relatively good job.”

Vargas said the government could do a better job of forest conservation by providing better incentives to small-farm owners. As it stands now, he said, Costa Rica offers farmers $20 for every hectare of farmland where owners are reforesting, which is a figure that Vargas called embarrassingly low.

“That’s basically offensive to offer that,” he said. “It would be better if they didn’t pay them anything.”

Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica