You may have been wondering where your (fairly) regular dose of sunshine and tomatoes has got to recently. Well, dear readers, I will tell you: I have been galavanting around Italy. That’s right. Whether by plane, train, automobile or even bike, I have been discovering a lot more about this beautiful land in which I live. From a gorgeous bed and breakfast in Bari to the towers of Tuscany’s San Gimignano and the breathtakingly beautiful Dolomites, in these past few weeks I have seen and experienced so much. And I intend to tell you all about it...starting with my little road trip up to southern Tuscany.
My good friend and I simply got into her car, got hold of a couple of maps and headed in the direction of Tuscany. Why? Because we could. I had always wanted to see more of Tuscany, after having visited Florence about a year ago. I was fairly eager to escape Puglia's arid landscape for a while and immerse myself in the green-ness of Chianti and the Val d'Orcia. When we arrived, about 5 hours and several coffee stops later, the luscious landsape welcomed us with open arms. Our bed and breakfast (www.albergosangallo.it), located near the beautiful medieval hill town of Montepulicano (in the province of Siena) was simple, clean and very affordable, and offered not only amazing views but also some absolutely delicious home made croissants and cakes for breakfast. From here, we went on to climb Montepulciano's hefty slopes and discovered its yummy pici pasta. I also had a cheeky glass of Vino Nobile, which is made from the local grape.
The next day, after a nice big breakfast (which, needless to say, consisted mainly of cake) we paid a visit to the famous 'town of beautiful towers', or to use its actual name: San Gimignano. This medieval town, similarly to Montepulciano and many other towns in Tuscany, is perched on a hill. What makes it different however, is the fact that it is home to several large towers. There used to be around 70 of the things, but now only 14 remain. San Gimignano is also famous for its saffron, and you can even get saffron ice cream here! We also stopped off at Siena, which is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and marvelled at the Duomo and the grand Piazza del Campo, which is where the Siena Palio horse race is held every year. Siena is one of those wonderful cities, that is neither too big nor too small, and is steeped in medieval history. It's perfect to just wander round, stopping now and again for a coffee or a gelato. Nobody seems to be rushing about here.
|Landscape surrounding San Gimignano|
|Piazza del Campo Siena|
Our final stop was in the small town of Pienza, which is famous mainly for its Pecorino cheese. This is a lovely place to visit, especially if you want to pick up some delicious wine, cheese or other homemade products such as chutney, jam and biscuits. Easy parking, friendly people and lots of charming hanging baskets all over the place.
|Pecorino cheese in Pienza|
|Picturesque countryside surrounding Pienza|
Our little trip around Tuscany could have lasted for at least another couple of weeks; there is so much to see here. Even just gazing out over the Tuscan landscape fills you with a deep sense of peace and tranquility. My advice would be to do it all by car; it's the best way to explore the hidden gems that this region has to offer. Parking is fairly easy, even in Siena, and many small bed and breakfasts are located just outside the towns; don't miss them by heading straight into the centre.
Has anyone else had the chance to explore Tuscany? Where are your favourite spots?