Tuscany, described with one word, is a true oasis. If you are done with problems, your job and stress, pack your bags and visit the most beautiful part of Tuscany. It is going to hold you, spoil you and won’t let go until you are full of energy and completely relaxed. Tuscany offers the most beautiful views, tasty local cuisine, kind people and in a second you will be thinking of moving here. The singing of Italian language and casual way of life will enchant and completely overwhelm you.
Florence are gorgeous. However, I wouldn’t agree they are the heart and soul of Tuscany. The heart are definitely miles long and wide vineyards, old and traditional wine shops, restaurants with amazing cuisine and typical Tuscan villas on a lonely hill. The soul are the people living here. You shouldn’t be in a rush when visiting Tuscany. Here life takes a different turn. So what, if you spend the entire day chilling in a small village? So what, if you sit in a “enoteca” for 5 hours tasting wine and enjoying the view? So what, if you throw a picnic in the middle of the meadow and watch the sun sets? This is Tuscany, a place where time passes more slowly and is completely out of the ordinary.
The best thing to get you around in this fascinating place is a car. You can get from one place to another in an hour through beautiful roads. My only advice is to plan your trip carefully, especially if you plan to stay more than 5 days. Don’t stay and sleep in one location, but move around. Make a plan of what you want to see or do and book the hotel/apartment or, the most beautiful option, a Tuscan villa there. That way you can explore all the hidden corners of Tuscany.
- Enjoy the Tuscan cuisine. Please don’t order pizza right away because, honestly, it’s no better than the one you order at home. Instead of that you should order their cold cut, where you can try some of their sausages, cheeses, spreads and similar. Also, don’t forget about the soup or at least that’s what they call it. Ribollitais a vegetable soup without any liquid. It’s really hard to explain the taste if you are not Slovene because it can be described as a mix of sarma and vegetable minestrone. Tuscany is also known for its dished made out of wild boar, whether its plain piece of meat, sausages or pasta dressing. Though people are trying to eat less meat, it would really be a shame not to try it. If you are a meat lover, the Tuscan T-bone steak, which weights from 1,2 kg on, awaits. Lastly, Tuscany won’t disappoint even the ones with sweet tooth. It will offer you their special cake called Castagnaccioand delicious ice cream. But beware, not every ice cream is good ice cream. To get a good one, a word artigianalehas to be written under gelato, which means that a scoop of ice cream is fresh, yummy and the right one.
- Wine tasting. You can take part in wine tasting and learn about the tradition of one the oldest vintner’s family. They are going to show you around the vineyard, explain how the wine is produced and at the end show you the wine cellar, where you can try many flavors of their wine. However, there is another option here. If you decide to sleep in one of the typical Tuscan villas (We stayed in villa Le Centinelle in Greve in Chianti), there is 90% chance that the owners will have their own vineyard and consequently wine. You and your friends can get a different bottle every night and by the end of your vacations you will find out which one is your favorite.
- Visit little cities. We stayed in Greve in Chianti for 4 days. From here we discovered all the hidden corners that Tuscany has. We took a whole day to drive around, enjoy the landscape and see places, such as Radda in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti and many others – next one more beautiful than the previous one. Here you can find majestic churches, excellent restaurants (ones with normal prices – 10,15 euros and ones with a little bit higher price – from 60 euros and up), endless vineyards and tight, little Italian streets. There is one thing you shouldn’t forget about in some parts of Italy – siesta. A good way to plan your day is to get an early lunch and late dinner. Restaurants and some cafes are closed from 13.00-16.00 (some close earlier or open later, depends on the owners).
- Spend a day in Florence or Siena. Forget about peace and tranquility and get ready for crowd and craziness. The golden rule, when visiting a big city, is “get there early”. Of course, we forgot about the rule, got there at 11 o’clock and entered the city in a rush hour. The city offers a lot and one day is definitely not enough. The most famous Florence Cathedral or in Italian Duomo di Firenze includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. The mightiness of the cathedral really stands out, but so does the enormous waiting line. The ticket includes the entrance of the whole complex and costs 18 euros. Unfortunately, it is not possible to buy ticket only for cathedral or bell tower, but the good thing is it is valid for a week. Therefore, if you didn’t manage to visit what you wanted because of the waiting line, you could do it another day. We visited Giotto’s bell tower because the waiting line was the shortest and we still waited for around 2 hours. When you are in Florence act like a true Italian – drink an espresso and eat something sweet in 10 minutes standing up. I am Slovene, so I am used to drinking my coffee for an hour in the sun, talking to my friends. However, if you do that anywhere in Italy it’s a bit unusual and you are going to pay more. Having an espresso is simply a shot of energy people need to go on with their day. Another symbol of Florence is also bridge Ponte Vecchio, known for having shops built along it. The walk pass is golden, literally, because it is filled with jeweler’s that have mountains of earrings, necklaces, bracelets and many more. A beautiful view on the bridge can be seen from another bridges or side streets. However, be careful – like in all large cities there are many pickpockets, so don’t leave your purse, backpack or wallet out of your sight. Anyhow, when in Florence, you can also visit Gallery Uffizi, town hall Palazza Vecchio, Michaengelo’s David in gallery Accademia, Basilica di Santa Croce, Boboli gardens, Piazza della Republica and many more.
- Places such as Pisa and Lucca were to far from Chianti area, but are definitely staying on our places-to-visit list. Instead of that, we drove to San Gimignano and Volterra. San Gimignano is a true medieval story. With its mighty towers and stony wall it attracts tourists from the entire area. The city is full of wineries, restaurants, marketplaces and gift shops, where beside souvenirs you can also get Italian goods, such as olive oil, wine, sausages, cheese, soaps, pottery and products made of wood. The last stop was Volterra or a place as many of you may know it as a place where a scene from twilight was filmed. It is a true paradise for historic enthusiasts because of its archaeological site, old roman theatre, cathedral, palace and old roman water cistern. Even thought visiting Volterra was not part of our plan, we are truly happy we did it. It is beyond beautiful.
- One of the things we couldn’t do because of lack of time and really bad weather was visiting natural hot spring. So if you have the time and good weather, go there early in the morning and enjoy.
P.S. for women: You are going to find many shops with purses for affordable price in Tuscany. I bet two or at least one will come with you home.