We spent a good five days in lovely Tuscany, driving through the beautiful countryside and popping by charming little villages here and there. Despite facing a couple of accommodation issues (choosing not to book beforehand for flexibility purposes), I honestly cannot imagine exploring the region properly without a car.
As the capital city of Tuscany, Florence had much to excite us about. Arriving late afternoon in heavy rain (after consuming a whole pack of gum in an effort to stay awake during the long drive), our spirits were low and we had little expectations of our first Tuscan sunset.
Boy did Florence prove us wrong.
A walk through centro storico with the other million tourists immediately revealed the beauty this art, culture and gelato centre had to offer. Large piazzas scattered with beautiful renaissance architecture, fountains and sculptures really overwhelm you in the first few minutes. The next few minutes are spent appreciating the gelato stores which almost outnumber the tourists (note, I make this numerical comparison loosely).
Pisa was undoubtedly a compulsory stop solely for a peek at the iconic monument of Italy. Aside from the Duomo which shares the same piazza, the city really offers nothing else too spectacular. We arrived with a million tourist buses (I realise I have over-mentioned and slightly exaggerated the tourist count), unloading tourists for the perfect tower photograph.
Correction. Apparently we have completely overlooked Pisa and it does have a great deal more to offer. So apologies Pisa.
Siena is unfortunately another over-touristic city which relies heavily on tourism. Its main square, the giant Piazza del Campo, is slightly tilted, uniquely shaped, and absolutely stunning, though, unfortunately lined with expensive restaurants and overpriced menus. A great chill spot and people-watching point otherwise.
Perched atop a hill, San Gimignano, from memory, is a little gelato heaven (not to strip it of the aesthetic appreciation this beautiful medieval walled-town deserves). Within the main square, Piazza della Cisterna, the main attraction is easily the two competing gelato stores which each drew massive queues with their claims of gelato championship titles. Not surprisingly, we got caught up in the heat of the battle and succumbed to our third gelato serving of the day.
Montalcino is very famous for its wine, the Brunello di Montalcino. That’s about all I remember.
Pienza is apparently the first city the Pope introduced planning concepts, and so often described as a city with a small town feel. I didn’t quite feel the city part but good work Pope. There are some amazing almost-panoramic views (shaded by trees) when you take a stroll down Via Gozzante.
Arrived in Pitigliano late at night and after a quick scout-out of accommodation options, made the arguably-wise decision to buy a panini and sleep in the car. Parked within the walls for another night of free accommodation with a view. Besides the incredible views at night, Pitigliano is an attractive, quaint town with a rich Jewish history.
Not all nights were spent without proper accommodation. Saving on accommodation one night normally ends up being our justification for splurging the next. On one occasion we stumbled upon this amazing place.
Saturnia is most famous for this hot spring at Casacate del Gorello. Unlike the expensive spa resorts in the area, entry here is free and the area is incredibly scenic. We rubbed the sulphurous mud over ourselves, soaked for a good half hour or so, and walked out of there smelling like eggs. Hopefully it’s done wonders for our skin.
Other random stops were made in between towns where we hit the hazard light switch and jumped out of the car for some photo-snapping..