After exploring Crete Senesi (if you missed read A week in Tuscany-part 1: Asciano) we installed ourselves in a wonderful Agriturismo just outside Florence. For the next five days this would be our home base to explore some must-see (and yes, crowded) city highlights along with some picturesque smaller villages. Andiamo!
First up: Siena
With Siena on our route driving from south to north Tuscany, this was a logical choice as first city to visit. We parked outside city centre in the Santa Caterina parcheggio and used the Fontebranda escalators. Twelve escalator ramps ( well minus one which was difetto at our time of visit) carry you right into the heart of the city at a stone’s throw of the Duomo and Piazza del Campo. With my mobility still reduced this was an excellent way to cover some distance with rather minimum effort.
We spent about five hours in Siena, enough to stroll from terrace to terrace, from caffè to aperitivo and admire most of its highlights.
The Duomo is not to be missed of course and is both impressive as aesthetic with its white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes
The area around Piazza del Campo is perfect to people-watch or watch people people-watch…
And we also liked the lively no-nonsense vibe around Santa Maria della Scala
Second city to visit and from our agriturismo reachable in less than half an hour by car. A bit more challenging when it came to walkability (well for me that is, healthwise) as on both banks of the river interesting sites to explore and thus more distance to cover. Ancient rival of Siena with multiple historical battles for economical, territorial and overall power. Nowadays it seams more ‘the battle for the tourist’ as both cities appear as must-see in every guidebook or blog article.
Lots of free outdoor art to admire at Piazza della Signoria and you have the Medici family to thank for that (who else?!) From a copy of Michelangelo’s David to Cellini’s Perseus. From Hercules and Cacus to the equestrian ( Cosimo de Medici) statue and I think he looks even more proud with those Italian colours behind him, no?
Around Duomo and Ponte Vecchio there truly is no escaping the crowds though an Aperol Spritz makes everything enjoyable…
And before you start thinking we only drank, this wonderful pasta vongole at Ristorante Caffè Pitti should prove otherwise…
You’ll notice there are no interior Duomo (or other church or museum) photos. I have visited both Siena and Florence before, on a school trip when 17y old. Must admit that trip has left me a bit with an aversion to everything that says ‘guided museum tour’ as we probably visited 15 Tuscan museums and churches in 5 days back then 😉 I can however still very much appreciate every historical aspect and love to admire any city’s architectural marvels and spirit.
Next: San Gimignano
We almost skipped this one due to limited time which would have been close to a capital sin! Of the three main cities we explored on this trip medieval San Gimignano was probably my favorite. Also the smallest of the three, which probably added to its charm. There was a spacious parking area outside city centre and an elevator to cover most of the altitude to city entrance, so again some bonus points in my book for that!
Naming San Gimignano the Manhattan of Italy is perhaps somewhat exagerated with only 13 towers still intact of the once over 70, though, you must admit, it must have been (and still is) quite an impressive sight!
On culinary level enough choice whether small snack or top-notch dining with a view. Multiple award-winning artisan gelaterie and lovely original boutiques. We especially enjoyed Photo studio Fontanelli where since 1928 the same-named family sells their photos taken in and around the city highlighting its history, charm and spirit as well as the little boutique (Vittoria_handmade) selling yes, you guessed, handmade polymer clay jewels. There’s also a lovely little shop selling Italian-made calenders and paperware and so much more to discover…
Maybe that’s a thing? In blue-flagged street wear blues, in red-flagged red…
During this whole second part of our Tuscany trip we stayed in wonderful Fattoria La Presura. A farm nestled in Chianti hills that produces extra vergin olive oil and Chianti Classico wines. Its assets besides that? The close location to Florence, the spacious apartments, most of them with private garden or terrace, the large swimming pool with ample seating and spectacular views and of course the private little lake. You can rent walking sticks and mountain bikes to explore the estate and beyond and winery tours are organised upon reservation. A lovely well-kept property with versatile holiday possibilities whether for couples or families. And who would get tired of those stunning sunset views? If you are looking for lodging in the region this is definitely an affordable place to consider!
On our last day we explored the Chianti region south of La Presura following part of La Chiantignana the, so-called, picturesque SR222.
We enjoyed morning coffee with sweets in Greve in Chianti, and there’s a lovely shop with ceramics there too and if we weren’t by plane I definitely would have brought home a handmade turquoise and red vase! (reminder to self for next time!)
We then deviated to Radda in Chianti to drive again northwards afterwards and thus making a little loop tour.
For an unforgettable lunch or dinner with a even more unforgettable view I can highly recommend Ristorante Oltre il Giardino in Panzano in Chianti and same goes for Il Guerrino in Castello di Montefioralle (once the home of Amerigo Vespucci) where we enjoyed our last evening. The drive to and from is already a treat but seated outside with Chianti revealing all its splendours before your eyes…
Tuscany, you were magic!