Tuscany: One Day, Three Italian cities, One Organic Wine Farm for $100.
We always made fun of the tour groups; you know, the ones wearing the voice headsets around their neck and following the guide with the umbrella? Well, we have a different opinion now! Walkabout Tours, Best of Tuscany tour was one of the highlights of our trip. It was so nice to sit back and relax and let someone else tell us what to do and where to go for 12 hours. And although we thought we’d be exhausted at the end of the day, we found that actually we were energized by the entire experience. We started by meeting a mom and her two college-aged students while we were waiting for the bus to show up. Just getting to the bus was a tad un-easy as we had to make sure we got on the right bus to get to the meeting spot. Once on the bus though, we made more friends, some from LA, a family from DC , and a couple from Arkansas.
We had a tour guide on the bus with us talking and teaching as we drove out of Florence and into the city. She was fantastic and I felt such relief and relaxation NOT being in charge and being led by someone else.
Our first stop was Sienna. This place is so rich in history that I cannot begin to go into it you can read about it HERE. The most interesting part about Sienna is the districts in which it is divided. There are 17 districts and they are very special to the people of the district. There are tiles notating which district you are located. This is tied to the Paleo horse race that is run twice a year in the summer. We just missed the last race and they were cleaning up after it in the Campo.
One step in to the shell-shaped Piazza and you feel transported to medieval times. It looks different than any other piazza or square we have been in thus far. The whole tour was fascinating and I kept thinking to myself, I only paid $100 for a day trip with all of this information, three locations, food, wine and transportation? WHY have we not been doing this all along. To be honest, it was fear and lack of trust. I am SO over that now!
Next stop, the organic wine farm which may have been a favorite for both of us as we both agreed we needed to stay longer. We toured the vineyard and then had a fabulous wine tasting and lunch consisting of the best olive oil I’ve had, penne pasta with meat sauce and then a plate of cheese and prosciutto. I LOVE real Italian prosciutto! There was biscotti with a very strong dessert wine and tradition is that you dip the biscotti in the dessert wine. With just a dip it was delicious!
Next stop, San Gimignano, yet another city so rich in history that I must attach a website. Cam has always wanted to see this medieval walled town. This is where he toured the “Museum of Torture” while I shopped. San Gimignano is famous for porcelain, which in the US doesn’t particularly interest me so I had to be careful to not buy something in the moment that I would later regret. I decided on a salt and pepper shaker because frankly, I have been looking for one for a long time.
We met our bus and off to Pisa we went. Each bus ride from place to place was only about an hour which was the perfect amount to just relax in between. This is probably why we weren’t so tired at the end of the day as opposed to the other days where we thought our legs would fall off! We also got lucky with cloud cover and a nice breeze.
We weren’t all that excited about Pisa but once we were there we realized that actually this would be a great place for a picnic! The lawn out front reminded me of a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower lawn. So we walked around for about 10 minutes looking for a good place for take away sandwiches and drinks. We were patient and we found the perfect place. We got our favorite prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich and a couple of sodas and went to the lawn below the tower. There was a sweet family there with the cutest little 16 month old boy who was wanting to interact with us. It really made the experience fun. You could climb the tower but in my opinion, unless you end up with a fabulous view at the end, don’t bother! Plus is was $20.
After our hour or so in Pisa we were on our way back home. We were both energized after this day just loving the fact that we weren’t completely exhausted thanks to the tour.
When we got back to our little hotel haven, Cam and I played chess; well, Cam tried to teach me HOW to play chess and I lasted for one sad game. Then he went to the room to do the shower/talk to his friends thing and I stayed downstairs watching the World Cup game with a few others from the hotel and started writing this blog post with a glass of wine from the “honor system” bar at the hotel. Actually, you buy an entire bottle of wine, they provide a nice glass and you just write down what you bought on a paper by the bar. The bottle I bought was only 7 euro so about $9 and it was fantastic! The best part is that I have 2 more nights to have a glass from the same bottle. Best bargain so far! Yes, the Hotel David was ranked #1 by Trip Advisor and it was pricey at about $200 a night, and it was NOT in the heart of the city, but it was such a quaint nice little place.
I’m typing the last part of this blog sitting outside at breakfast where they made me a wonderful cappuccino. The food choices are completely European; eggs, croissants, meats and cheeses and the best fresh fruit salad around. They cut up the fruit into tiny pieces and it’s fresh so it blends really well. I will be doing this at home when I have the time to cup up that much fruit! The orange juice is actually a pink grapefruit in color, but is delicious and probably a blood orange juice. Sitting outside writing in this courtyard is bliss.
Today is the day we finish off seeing any of the museums and attractions on our Firenze card. With this card we get free transportation on busses (which is great since we have a bus stop just outside the hotel) and entry into a ton of places while skipping the line. Today we will enjoy that as we are going to the Accademia Museum to see the David.
Enjoy some additional photos below....
This is Sienna. What a beautiful city and like nothing I've ever experienced.
We were able to stop by the stall where the district's horse is kept before the Paleo race. It is just this door, like a garage, along the street. There is a "drawing' to see which horse the district gets and it's a big deal to draw a good horse. The district chooses the jockey. If the jockey falls off and the horse still wins, then the district wins.
The winning district flag is flown for that year. This year (2014) it was the Dragon. Each district is named after an animal .(Our tour guide was part of the Turtle district:)
The cathedral and chapel of Sienna is done is typical medieval style. This chapel's carvings were done by Michelangelo (seen in top row), but he never finished it as seen in the upper right hand side. The bottom right (which i don't think you can see here, is actually a self portrait of him)