Holidays usually involve the seaside, especially if you have children. The Tuscan coast is within reach from Montisi but it could make for a long day and there is a wonderful alternative closer by if you are looking for things to do and places to visit whilst you are here.

The River Merse is not like going to the seaside but many think it’s better than the beach. Imagine a shady spot on a bank gently sloping down to a slow moving river. The water is crystal clear and pools haves formed, some where you can paddle, others where you can swim. All sorts of little fish play in the shallows and large boulders offer places to sit and contemplate the beauty of nature.

This is the river Merse, near Brenna and it is part of the Reserva Naturale Alto Merse. From Montisi you need to travel across country first to Buonconvento then across country again via Vescavado. A few kilometres further on towards Siena you will see on the right the sign to ‘ Orgia ‘ and ‘ Brenna’ Follow the road to Brenna, keep left around the village and just past it go down into the valley. Park on the left, cross the bridge and turn right. Find your own sandy spot and enjoy.

You and your children can fish the old fashioned way, build bridges and dams or simply splash around. Hopefully the sun will shine and you will have many sun dappled memories to take home.

Don’t expect facilities as there are no toilets, no cafe, no visitors centre. That though is part of the fun, this is really off the beaten track and your children (and you) can enjoy a real Swallows and Amazon experience. You might even get the place to yourself.

So our best advice is to pop into the bakery and the alimentari, pack a picnic, take a blanket and find this little piece of paradise. It’s very special and secret. Don’t tell anyone.