Right, so as the rain and dreary weather returns to the UK, today we get to be transported back to the lovely rolling hills and beautiful towns of Tuscany for the second part for Anita’s Tuscan tour.
The photos she took whilst there are just stunning, so without further ado, I’ll hand her over to tell you all about The Where To Go.
I hope you enjoy reading about what we actually did on our honeymoon –and I apologise for the photos, even my trusty GHDs were no match for the heat and humidity of Italy in the summer so I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse my mad/frizzy hair!!
After the hectic few days around our wedding, albeit with our lovely friends and family, we enjoyed spending a couple of relaxing days just wandering around San Gimignano and Volterra (only about 20-30 minutes apart). They are both beautiful little Tuscan hill towns with stunning views over the countryside from the old city walls (some of my favourites of our wedding photos were taken on the city walls of San Gimignano).
In San Gimignano – Palazzo del Popolo is the formal name for the Comune or town hall. It has a tower (Torre Grosso) which you can climb for beautiful views over the town and countryside, and a very interesting museum downstairs with history and artwork relating to medieval Tuscany. Make sure you look at the Sala Dante which is a gorgeous room with absolutely stunning frescoes all over the walls (but I am biased as the Sala Dante is the room we chose to get married in!)
Gelateria di Piazza is a must visit – it’s on Piazza della Cisterna, the main square, and is always heaving with people no matter what time of day! They have over 70 flavours, ice cream heaven!
The Rocca is the old ruined fortress up at the top of the town, part of it is now a lovely garden with fig and olive trees, there’s also a small Wine Museum dedicated to Vernaccia, the white wine produced in and around San Gimignano.
Volterra is famous for its mention in the Twilight books but unfortunately the famous town square with the fountain which Bella runs through doesn’t actually exist!! (I think that scene was actually filmed in a different town nearby). The town is still lovely though with lots of marble and alabaster carvings and a couple of small museums.
Siena is a beautiful, beautiful city which centres around the semicircular Piazza del Campo –which if it doesn’t make you go ‘wow’ the minute you step into it, there’s something wrong with you!! One of the most famous events in the Sienese calendar is the Palio, a horse race held twice each summer, in which ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen Contrade or city wards. They race 3 times around the Campo at speed!! We weren’t there on the day of the Palio itself but were there a couple of days beforehand so we got to see the horses being presented in the main square and also to see some of the parades which happen to celebrate the Palio, with music, dancing and flag twirling.
The impressive buildings which overlook the Piazza del Campo are the Palazzo Pubblico (containing the very interesting Museo Civico) and the Torre del Mangia, which we climbed and enjoyed some lovely views from the top. Then it was off to the spectacular Duomo (Cathedral). We refreshed ourselves at a fabulous cafe called Nannini’s (cake, coffee, icecream and wine all under one roof, heaven). The best restaurant we found was Osteria Le Logge just off Piazza del Campo, an old converted pharmacy with an amazing Tuscan menu (quails egg risotto was my favourite).
As we drove from Siena towards Greve and Vignamaggio the countryside got more and more picturesque and we kept stopping every few miles for photos!! We finally arrived at Vignamaggio which was even more stunning. There is a main building which has rooms in it and also 3 converted farmhouses with suites –we were staying in one of these.
For most of our 2 days at Vignamaggio we did, well, not a lot! The majority of our time was spent lounging around the pool and enjoying the lovely views! We did go for a couple of walks in the gorgeous countryside and we went into Greve (about 15-20 minutes drive) for an early evening stroll and then dinner (and of course an ice cream!) in the pretty main square.
However by far the highlight of our stay at Vignamaggio was the 5 course gourmet food and wine tasting – and it was only 45 euros each, bargain! Mike and I are big foodies, we love going to restaurants and trying out new cuisines – our birthday presents to each other are usually a meal somewhere special! One of our reasons for choosing Italy as a wedding and honeymoon venue was the food. We didn’t actually realise that Vignamaggio did food and wine tasting evenings, it was just mentioned to us when we checked in and it was brilliant.
The evening started with a wander around the vineyards and then seeing where the wine is matured before sitting down to a fabulous meal with, naturally, each course paired with a matching wine produced there at Vignamaggio. The food was some of the best we have ever eaten and the matching wines superb. However they don’t do tastings every day, so if you end up going to Vignamaggio, I would thoroughly recommend contacting them in advance and finding out when they have one on and trying to coordinate your visit with that.
Similarly, when they aren’t doing a food and wine tasting, they don’t do proper meals (there’s no restaurant, only a bar serving light snacks) and there’s nothing within walking distance, so you’ll need to be organised and either stock up so you can self cater in your room/suite, or go into Greve for dinner.
Florence really hardly needs recommendations from me –it is so beautiful and spectacular that all you really need to do is wander around and you will find another amazing landmark or gorgeous square. We did all the stuff you have to do in Florence –went to the Duomo (and climbed to the top of the dome in blistering heat – I made Mike buy me a cocktail afterwards to help me recover!), marvelled at the artwork in the Uffizi Gallery and in the Palazzo Vecchio, wandered across the Ponte Vecchio (where I lusted at the jewellery in the tiny shops and Mike made me keep walking!), took a bus out to Fiesole for an afternoon drink and a gaze out to the distant skyline of Florence, went to the Galileo museum (Mike and I are closet science geeks I’m afraid), and, well, just soaked up the atmosphere really.
On the corner of Piazza della Reppublica is a cafe called Caffe Gilli – fantastic coffee and cakes during the day, fantastic cocktails in the evening. The best restaurants we ate at were Lobs, a seafood place just around the corner from our hotel, and a fantastic place called Osteria di Giovanni, where we had an amazing Fiorentina bistecca (basically giant steak!)
I’d also recommend the gelateria on Piazza San Pier Maggiore – every possible flavour of chocolate and mixed with things like pepper, chilli, cinnamon and cumin!
Lucca is a very cute, almost pocket-sized little town –or at least that’s how it felt after the glories of Florence and Siena! We were lucky enough to be there during their annual music festival and spent a blissful afternoon sitting outside in the sunshine listening to a really good jazz band (sadly no photos as my camera died that afternoon!)
Apart from that we walked round the city walls, went to the Duomo and climbed the bell tower (are you sensing a theme here?!) We also visited Piazza della Anfiteatro, an old converted theatre, which is gorgeous. We ate amazing grilled ribs at Trattoria da Leo, and drank fabulous cocktails at a little bar on Via Elisa. Mainly we enjoyed the last couple of days of our blissful Tuscan honeymoon.
Wow. I have absolutely loved putting this together, and thank you so much to Anita for taking the time to write this and also put the images together for us.
Have you been to any of the places in question and can you recommend anywhere to visit or things to do? I’m making a list right now for my summer holiday!