I spent a week this summer in Tuscany and Cinque Terre traveling with a large group of extended family members. I am used to solo travel or traveling with my husband and dog, so moving around with a group of eight other people in a large van was a new adventure for me. I arrived in Tuscany from Rome via Florence on the train and bus. We rented a house through Airbnb for the nine of us. We made our home base in Poggibonsi, a little city in the heart of Tuscany in the Siena province.
We had a lovely Tuscan villa outside of town, complete with a swimming pool and views of the city below hugged by olive trees. We spent the next few days exploring the surrounding towns, wineries and a day in Florence.
The fertile area of Tuscany is a culinary lovers and gardeners dream vacation destination. The food is unbelievable, the opportunity for agritourism pitstops are everywhere and tucked away little gardens are all around. As a farmer I loved exploring the different farming methods and sampling the amazing produce around every corner.
Our first day of exploring the surrounding towns included a day trip to Volterra and San Gimignano. We stopped along the way at a lovely little restaurant with amazing views and incredible food.
Volterra is a lovely town far enough from Tuscany that it isn’t overrun with tourists. It is a sweet little town with great shops, a rich history and wonderful views. We wondered around getting engulfed in the narrow passageways and old streets enjoying the views. On the outside of the 13th-century city wall are the ruins of the Roman theatre and baths. On the wall there are great aerial views of the ruins. In the Middle Ages the theatre was reduced by the construction of the defensive wall in the 13th century and was abandoned at the end of the 3rd century. Excavations were carried out in the 50’s which uncovered one of the finest and most well-preserved Roman theatre in Italy.
Volterra’s main square, Piazza dei Priori houses city hall and the Duomo church. The main square is complete with shops and fine views. A easy afternoon is Volterra is a great choice for a tour of Tuscan small towns.
After a few hours touring Volterra we made our way to San Gimignano; after a pit stop at a winery of course. San Gimignano is larger than Volterra and has many more tourists and is known as the medieval Manhattan. The 14 towers of this walled town peak up over the Tuscan countryside and draw tourists in to explore the narrow streets and ancient history.
We found ourselves in San Gimignano towards the later afternoon so we ate dinner and walked around town, watching the sunset of the city wall. Once the sun went down the restaurants had musicians playing for their customers and a truly romantic scene was set.
Florence- The next day we headed to Florence from Poggibonsi on the train, an easy hour ride. This is my second trip to Florence and I was still breath taken turning the corner and seeing the Duomo surrounding the square. My favorite view of the Duomo is climbing the bell tower and getting a full view of the massive marble complex. We made our way around the city hitting the main highlights and taking in all that we could in the single afternoon we where there. A single day in Florence is never enough and this amazing city deserves more than a day to truly appreciate.
Our final day in Tuscany was spent by the pool, making lunch in the outdoor pizza oven, a personal piano concert from our Airbnb host and ended with a epic rainstorm. It was a peaceful relaxing day that any trip to Tuscany wouldn’t be complete without.
On our way to Cinque Terre we stopped off for a quick trip to Lucca. Lucca is known for its surrounding Renaissance-era city wall and is the capital of the province of Lucca. We parked by the train station and rented bikes in the tourism information shop and biked around the city wall and through the city streets. The wall is above the city and is perfect for biking and walking and is a simple flat ride around. It is a great way to see the city from above and allows several entrances to flow into the city streets for exploring. Lucca has a number of public squares, churches, shops, museums and historical sights. Lucca is also known for hosting a internationally known summer music festival. It is a sweet little city that is a great day trip from Florence.
After leaving Lucca we made our way to Cinque Terre which will be coming up next in part III of this series followed by Switzerland.