There’s more to do under the Tuscan sun than gallery-hop with the masses. Sarah Reid heads outdoors to explore the region’s largely untapped adventure potential.

Scuttling through a low, narrow cave passage on my back like a crab missing a few legs, I begin to regret my, er, third glass of Chianti the evening before.

But deeper into the darkness I go, squeezing through calcareous speleothems (mineral deposits) and weaving around the path of a subterranean waterfall that gives the UNESCO-listed ‘Howling Cave’ its name. After nearly an hour of this, my caving group arrives at the end of the karst maze—as far as we can go without diving equipment, at least—before clambering back towards the entrance.

Suffice to say, northern Tuscany’s Apuan Alps Geopark isn’t the kind of experience most people would associate with central Italy. Let’s face it: Tuscany doesn’t exactly scream ‘adventure’. But as it turns out, with its famously balmy summers and incredibly varied terrain, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance doubles up as a cracking outdoor playground. And as the region’s cities become ever more crowded—with Florence alone now receiving more than 10 million visitors each year—there has never been a better time to explore it.