Thursday, December 12, 2019

Tuscany Italy in 10 Days

I thought I should hop on to write about our 10-day trip to the Tuscany region of Italy in early September. This was our fifth time back to Italy and it was by far our best Italian experience. We flew in and out of Firenze (Florence), and took multiple day trips into the Tuscan countryside. 

Picture below: view of Florence's Ponte Vecchio from the Piazzale Michelangelo

This was our 10-day itinerary: 

Day 1: arrival, connecting through Frankfurt. I highly recommend connection flights through FRA (definitely not LHR) for the following reasons: 1) we didn't have to go through airport security again for connecting flights (unlike LHR); 2) our flight landed in the same terminal as our second leg; 3) Lufthansa's Senator Lounge was super nice. 

Day 2: Uffizi (Gallerie degli Uffizi), Firenze old town. 
Day 3: Day trip to Cinque Terre. 
Day 4: Florence markets.
Day 5: Day trip to Siena, Monteriggioni, and San Gimignano, drove by Pisa on the way back to Firenze. 
Day 6: Greve, Castellina, Val d'Orcia.
Day 7: Montalcino, and Monteplciano, drove by Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia on the way back to Firenze.
Day 8:  Shopping, climb Giotto's Campanile. 
Day 9: Departure, connecting through Frankfurt. 


Weather God must really love us. We lucked out yet again throughout our trip. I was worried about the heat wave sweeping the West Europe we heard so much about, but it was actually tolerable by the time we got there. It started out pretty hot at around 35-degree Celsius on the first day - it rained overnight and it immediately cooled down to 28-30 after that. As you could see from the pictures below, it was blue sky every day for us. 

Brunelleschi's Dome from the Piazzale Michelangelo

Arno River at dusk

Vernazza, Cinque Terre in Liguria

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Vernazza's rocky beach. This was one of my favourite photos from the trip. My friend Laura was right that it's very Alex Colville-esque.

 Monterosso beach, Cinque Terre

Monterosso beach, Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore from our boat, Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre. I recommend you go there in the afternoon when the sun shines on those colourful houses. Unfortunately it was our first stop in the morning so the entire harbour was still in the shadow.

Art and Architecture

As the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence and its vicinity is undoubtedly a feast for the eyes and the souls of the artsy. My right brain was super charged throughout our stay there. 

Picture below: last time we saw this dude (Dante Alighieri) was probably 10 years ago. He still stands tall and poetic. 10 years ago he was veiled in scooter exhaust and smog. I was pleasantly surprised to see air pollution has come way down in Florence, so the statue hasn't lost any of its intricate charms to weathering. 

Uffizi Gallery was easily my first stop in Florence. It was only a couple of minutes walk from our hotel by the Arno River bank. 

The unfinished masterpiece of da Vinci's, Adoration of the Magi

Agnolo Bronzino's Eleonora di Toledo col figlio Giovanni

Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, just breathtakingly beautiful. 

Sandro Botticelli's Primavera is one of my all-time favourites. If you follow the tale behind the making of this painting (Medici on Netflix), you would feel your heart pinched a little while taking in every detail of this masterpiece.  

STIK was here? 

Bargello Museum is a fantastic place to go if you appreciate sculptures and statues. 

The marble-clad facade of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Marble facade of Duomo di Siena, with French Gothic elements. 

He requires no introduction. 

This was hubby and I having too much fun after a few tipples. 

Piazza della Signoria, how lucky of us to have to walk through the square a few times every day to go places. 

Medieval walls of Monteriggioni in Toscana. In the picture behind the fortress gate were Gina and Kim (mother and daughter) from Texas we met during our trip, definitely a highlight of our Tuscan experience. 

The fortress gate of Monteriggioni. I don't know the girl in the picture doing the back walkover but she did make my shot so much artsier. 

San Gimignano was the top of my list to visit during our Tuscan trip, but it turned out to be a big disappointment. Main streets were packed with tourists and shops, and none of the quaint medieval town charm I had in my head. Castellina, on the contrary, turned out to be one of my favourite stops. 

We stumbled upon this super posh art studio called Lucia Volentieri while we were aimless wandering around town in Castellina (the best way to explore a new place IMO). 

This was the artist Lucia holding one of her bird prints - the blueprint she drew up for her sculpture works. She was as lovely as her artworks. 

We had to drive 20 minutes off the main road and took another 15 minutes brisk walk on gravel road under 35 degree Celsius heat to get to this Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta, the world's loneliest church. My husband called it the "holy church of Instagram". 

The stunning views of the rolling Tuscan hills and fields made the trip completely worthwhile. 

Brunelleschi's dome. 

Food and Wine

One of the reasons we kept going back to Italy was food. I am convinced my husband should've been born into an Italian family. 

Picture below: pretty much my diet when in Tuscany: grilled pesce, fruitti di mare (seafood), gelato and a ton of vino. 

Hubby had no problem finding his favourite steakhouse. 

The glorious Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the t-bone steak Florence style. 

Summer truffle galore at the restaurant, which they used in almost all their food. 

While in Monterosso, Cinque Terre, we stayed in line for about 40 minutes at this fried seafood joint right outside the train station. 

It's overrated if you asked me, and definitely not worthwhile waiting 40 minutes for. If you can walk right up, sure, give it a try. It's a very "hygge" thing to do devouring these greasy and crunchy deep-fried calamaris over a bear on the beach. 

Trippa Alla Fiorentina, beef tripe Florence style, sounds intimidating but you must try it.  

Outside of Florence into the Tuscan wine country, food gets more rustic and earthier with a lot of cured meats and cheeses. 

During this trip we visited 5 wineries throughout the Tuscan countryside. We learnt so much about wine making and gained a whole new appreciation of Italian wines and cuisine. 

This was 20-year balsamic vinegar drizzled on a thin slice of sheep milk cheese, simply heaven when paired with Brunello! 

Our best experience was at the Tornesi winery. It's not as grandeur as Poggio Amorelli, or young and lively as Palagetto, but Tornesi has the most heart and soul when it comes to their wines, food and heritage. So I encourage to make a stop for them. You'd be so inspired after you speak with the little boss Elise. 

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