Oh man did I love Tuscany! What’s not to love? Wine, steak, sunflowers, and more wine! Seriously, the wine!!! So I’m sure you guessed by now one of the central themes of our time in Tuscany…WINE! But that wasn’t all that the region had to offer…
After our days in Rome, we picked up the rental car and headed up to our home base in Siena. I picked Siena because of it’s proximity to the different wine areas in the region. We also decided to spend the night in Florence so that we could get more time in the city and be closer to Pisa the next morning.
Day 1: Montepulciano
By the time we got out of Rome, we had about 1.5 hours to spend in Monetpulciano which was not nearly enough time. Our quick stop included a wine tasting at a local shop where we got to try some delicious (expensive) wine for only a couple of Euros a tasting. A lot of the towns in Tuscany have wine shops that offer wine tastings and they are really fun and a great way to experience multiple wineries. This town is super cool and a place that I’d like to return to be able to spend more time.
After the pit stop in Montepulciano we headed to our first winery tour at Avignonesi vineyards. The cool thing about this winery is their innovation mixed with tradition. The tasting after the tour was so good and we were treated to an impromptu concert by Ryan (he needed to practice for the wedding the following week).
That evening we had a delightful dinner in the main piazza in Siena. The food was delicious and we got to enjoy a band concert during our meal.
Day 2: San Gimignano
I think if you ask Ryan what his favorite medieval town that we visited was, he’d tell you that he loved this day. San Gimignano is known for it’s medieval towers that prominent citizens built to show off their wealth. On this day, we had no plans, no appointments other than dinner, and were free to wander the stone streets. We shopped in the linen shops, art galleries, wine shops, and just took our time. We also got some award winning gelato. I don’t remember the name, but you’ll see it in the main piazza…it’s the one with the wine.
For dinner, I made reservations at Agriturismo Taverna di Bibbiano. We were seated at a table with a great view of the sun setting over the hills and were treated to some delicious Tuscan fare.
Day 3: Chianti
Day 3 was all about Chianti. We started with a “private” tour at Viticcio and enjoyed hearing about their process and tasting the delicious wine. Oh man was it good!
We then went to Greve in Chianti for lunch and gelato. There wasn’t much to see, but we did get a picture with the symbol of Chianti…a black rooster (I enjoyed much more than I probably should have).
The afternoon we had another winery tour at Castello di Verrazzano, probably the most gorgeous winery we visited (and that’s saying a lot). Like the other tours we did, it was cool seeing what made them unique and just admiring the gorgeous castle and views.
Dinner this evening was at Ristorante Montabuccio based on a recommendation by our hostess at Fullino Nero. This restaurant is why you ask locals where to eat. Holy crap it was good (yes, almost all of meals were good)…and not expensive.
Day 4: Florence
Florence started off rocky but made a spectacular recovery to being one of the best of days of our trip. After getting lost, we finally made it to the old part of town and spent a good portion of the day exploring the Duomo, climbing the bell tower, visiting the Baptisty, and clock tower. This is one of the attractions that you want to plan for ahead of time. Get your tickets ahead of time, especially if you want to go to the top of the bell tower. We had our reserved time for the bell tower at 10am, which allowed us to avoid the long lines for the cathedral at the same time. After lunch in the square, we were able to visit all of the other Duomo attractions with just about no line.
After the Duomo, we hit up the other highlights of Florence: rubbing the pig snout for luck at Il Porcellino, seeing the Medici house, and walking along the gold shops on the Ponte Vecchio.
And then…it was time for our reservation at the Galleria Academia to see the masterpiece, “The David”. Holy crap! This piece of art is not over-hyped…it is incredible…it is in air conditioning. It is so beautiful that I kept making excuses on why we needed to go back and look at it one more time.
If you want to see this masterpiece, make a reservation online before. Then 15 minutes before your time, go to the ticket office next to the bookshop to get your actual ticket. Do not get in line until you have done this – your online reservation is not your ticket!
That evening we had (on the recommendation of one of my students) one of the best steak dinners ever at the Ristorante Academia. Get the filet and save room for dessert.
Day 5: Pisa
Pisa is one of those places where you go once and that’s all you really need to do. Get the picture, walk around, and go on. So that’s what we did.
I do recommend getting the ticket and going to the Baptistry. On every half hour one of the employees sings some notes to show the acoustics. It is pretty amazing.
But that’s about it for Pisa. The lunch we had was sub-par and there’s nothing else to look at (to my knowledge).
It is pretty entertaining watching everyone get their picture with the tower.
All in all, I’d say Tuscany was a huge success! We left we 6 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of olive oil, 2 bottles of balsalmic vinegar, and more! I will confess, planning this part of the trip was a little overwhelming, there are so many wineries and it is hard to know where to go. We had a lot more planned that we couldn’t get to. For Tuscany, pick a couple of key spots and then leave yourselves open to explore – it is a lot slower of a pace compared to Rome and you don’t want to miss out on that.