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Trail running in Tuscany: Brunello Crossing

Run - or walk - through this vineyard route, enjoying wine and local delicacies on the way - plus, other wine runs to try...

Many wine lovers have heard of – and some even completed – the Marathon du Médoc, the so-called ‘longest marathon in the world’ thanks to its 23 wine tasting stops as well as food stations that feature oysters and steak.

But there’s another event where you can meander through vineyards and enjoy a few vinous tipples and local delicacies.

In early February, I joined five others from the UK as part of Team Banfi – one of the sponsors of the event – for the third edition of the increasingly popular Brunello Crossing event. Brunello Crossing was created in 2017 by a group of Italian sports enthusiasts who wanted a running event for all abilities. The first event in 2017 attracted a few hundred enthusiasts but this year more than 1,500 signed up.

The competitive races start and finish by the iconic clock tower of the Palazzo dei Priori town hall in the Piazza del Popolo central square, with huge climbs and steep descents – between 120m and 680m – through woods, vineyards and the scenic La Maremmana strada bianca (gravel road) that goes past the Banfi winery itself.

Trail running Tuscany Palazzo dei Priori

The Palazzo dei Priori marked the start and finish lines. Credit: Tina Gellie / Decanter

This year’s winner of the 44km (27.3 miles) distance finished in 3:26:11, while first past the tape in the 23km (14.3 miles) distance stopped the clock in 1:38:53. The 13km (eight miles) winner ran in 57:18.

We joined about 500 people at the start of the non-competitive route in the village of Torrenieri (conveniently located eight miles from Montalcino), where we received our plastic wine glasses and race bibs, ready for the four refreshment stops along the way.

The route undulates through vineyards and rolling hills, as well as part of the Via Francigena – the ancient pilgrim route between Canterbury and Rome –offering spectacular views of the countryside, with the hill of Montalcino an ever-present beacon in the distance.

Col di Lamo was our first winery stop at just under three km, soon followed by Siro Pacenti, then a long seven km stretch before reaching Canalicchio di Sopra at the base of the hill, and then Franco Pacenti.

Each served their latest Rosso di Montalcino wines, as well as some local dishes such as minestra di faro (a simple grain broth), bread, cheese and cured meats, followed by castagnaccio – a flat cake made from chestnut flour, olive oil, rosemary and pine nuts, served with ricotta and honey.

Up to 12km of the 13km route, the terrain and elevation had been pretty gentle, but several people warned us of the steep climb to the finish.

A shuttle bus at the fourth winery stop will take those unwilling or unable to tackle it up the hill, but we persevered, scrambling up, up and up through forest tracks and then finally into civilisation itself, where we could hear the tannoy calls and cheers for those finishing the competitive races.

Just when we hoped our hearts could stop pounding and legs stop aching, a seemingly never-ending set of vertiginous stairs appeared from nowhere.

After 560m of elevation gain – most in the last half-mile – we crossed the finish line in about 3.5 hours. We took full advantage of each refreshment stop, but if you wanted to walk straight through, someone with average fitness could easily do it in under three hours.

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Accommodation in Montalcino is scarce, and tickets to the event (€20 for our walk) sell out weeks before the event, so make sure you book early.

See also: Montalcino wine tour: Wineries, restaurants and hotels

How to get there

The easiest way to get there is to fly to Pisa and then hire a car for the 2.5-hour drive to Montalcino.

You can book bus transfers to the start of the walk in Torrenieri, as well as runner’s lunches on Saturday and Sunday – and of course winery tours too.

For more information, visit brunellocrossing.it/en/.

Brunello Crossing: Need to know

Competitive trail running with various routes of 13km, 23km and a gruelling 44km through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Val d’Orcia, Tuscany.

There’s also a non-competitive route for runners, Nordic walkers and those – including children – who prefer a slower amble.

The routes are located in the Sienese hills between Val d’Orcia and Valle dell’Ombrone, culminating in Montalcino.

The event is always held on the second Sunday of February, the week before Benvenuto Brunello (the first tasting of the latest vintage releases of Brunello di Montalcino) – a great excuse to extend your trip.

Seven other vineyard runs to try:

Lanzarote Wine Run
La Geria, Spain
15-16 June 2019
Walking option: 12km (7.45 miles)

Australia Winery Running Festival
Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
20-21 July 2019
Walking option: 10km and 6km (6.2 miles and 3.7 miles)

Run Bacchus
Surrey, England, UK
8 September 2019
Walking option: 21km and 10km (13 miles and 6.2 miles)

Trail del Moscato
Santo Stefano Belbo, Piedmont, Italy
29 September 2019
Walking option: 21km and 10km (13 miles and 6.2 miles)

Chianti Ecomarathon
Mercatale in Val di Pesa, Tuscany, Italy
18-21 October 2019
Walking option: 21km, 10km and 8km (13 miles, 6.2 miles and 5 miles)

Marathon du Cognac
Jarnac, France
9-11 November 2019
Walking option: 21km and 11.5km (13 miles and 7.1 miles)

Wine Country Runs
Paso Robles, California, USA
March 2020
Walking option: 21km and 5km (13 miles and 3.1 miles)

Cycling in Tuscany: Exploring Chianti country by bike

Travel inspiration: 8 of the best Italy wine holidays

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