I love reliving this trip but it is definitely time consuming to write these recaps. It’ll be great to look back in a few years and be able to read about this trip though. So even though my Italy trip was two months ago (where did the time go?!) I’m still finishing these last two recaps…. but in case you missed it Rome and Positano recaps.
After leaving Rome we took a short train ride to Florence. One of the nice things about Florence is it’s pretty small so everything was walkable. We checked into our AirBnB and then headed to Accademia Gallery Museum, home of famous sculpture The David by Michelangelo. We were extremely impressed with the statue’s size- it is definitely something that must be seen in person. We checked out the rest of the museum and took some pics before heading out to explore Florence.
Next up was the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Duomo. Since had just seen the Vatican and were visiting another church the next day we opted to just appreciate the outside of it instead of going in for a tour. It was gorgeous though!
We walked around checking out the plentiful leather shops (I was on the hunt for a purse and Pat wanted shoes). I walked away with a small yellow purse that I think is real (yes I bought it off a cart instead of one of the $200 ones that were in stores) but pat was unsuccessful. We did find a cute beer bar though and relaxed a bit.
With no reservations for dinner that night we basically wondered around to the nicer area of town to see who could fit us in. We stumbled across a restaurant with good reviews called Olio that offered a chefs tasting menu. We started with salads complete with sardines, pastas, dessert, and of course, wine. After admiring the nighttime views of the Ponte Vecchio we turned in for a very full day tomorrow.
The next day was our all day Tuscany tour. Pat and I met up with a group and boarded a bus of about 20 at 8:00am. We had the most fantastic tour guide- she was funny, down to earth, and super informative- plus she had the best Italian accent.
Our first stop on the tour was Siena. We explored a church that houses some more of Michelangelo’s works and also other famous artists. One of the coolest things in the cathedral was St. John the Baptist arm- no joke. We spent about 1 hour hearing about the church and having the uniqueness pointed out to us by another tour guide who was from Siena.
One of the most interesting things about Siena is that it is divided into 17 districts and every year they have this crazy competitive horse race amongst districts called the Palio which takes place in the town square. Our tour guide considered a turtle (my favorite district animal was the shewolf) and it’s based strictly off of wear you were born, not preference or what teams your parents supported. She explained that since Pat and I were born in different areas (Philly and Pittsburgh) we would support separate teams and if we had a baby born in another district that baby would support that districts team. Apparently the Palio event is so well set up there is even childcare for parents that support a different district than their child. And yes there’s a lot of alcohol involved.
The next stop on the tour was the winery- Fattoria Poggio Alloro. We had lunch and sampled several wines after a brief your of the grounds. I was mostly impressed by the beautiful views and the Chianti Classico. Do yourself a favor and buy some- just make sure it also says Classico, it’s a special region and those grapes make extra delicious wine. Pat and I purchased 3 bottles at the winery (and another 3 at local wineshops before we left Florence).
The next tour stop was in a tiny village called San Gimignano, which was where our tour guide was from and she was able to make excellent recommendations for our couple hours of free time. We decided to check out the lookout point first and snap some pics.
Wondering our way back down to the town square we stumbled upon the cutest little wine shop. We popped and immediately deemed it authentic and non-touristy since the owner didn’t speak a word of English. We ordered by gesturing and 4 wines later complete with the best cheese board ever we headed out. Sidenote: the reason the cheeseboard was so life changing was because it had truffle honey. OMGGGG is this stuff amazing tasting! I ended up buying some to bring back (and Pat bought some of the local wild boar we also sampled) and it was $25 for tiniest jar but it transports me back to that amazing wine bar.
Obviously after delicious wines and some cheese we wanted to continue to eating. Conveniently San Gimignano houses one of the world’s most award winning gelato shops- Gelateria Dondoli. As soon as we got in line to see the flavors I could tell what made it so great. They use local ingredients such as saffron and vinsanto (which Pat had a scoop of each), and also use aromatic herbs to make flavors like raspberry with rosemary (I tried the aromatic flavors of course). It was seriously without a doubt the best gelato ever.
The tour’s last stop was the tower of Pisa. Pat and I had purchased tickets in advance to go to the top which was a really cool (and only slightly dizzying experience). We took all the funny touristy pics and relaxed a bit before heading back to the bus to complete our day.
When we got back we had some wine a couple apps at local eatery and enjoyed the sunset. It was such a packed day but Pat and I honestly felt it was our overall favorite day of the trip and that we really loved the smaller cities. We definitely would love to come back and just do wineries in the Tuscan region for another trip. The next morning we go up and had breakfast before departing for the last leg of the trip- Venice.