“In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine.” – Robin Leach
Walking through the big archways leading into the town of Montepulciano was like stepping into a preserved, ancient world. We wandered up steep, cobblestone, storybook streets where laundry and flower baskets hung from windows. There were duomos (churches) en mass, beautiful wine cellars hidden beneath ancient structures and spectacular encompassing views. This was our first stop in Tuscany, en route to the villa where we would spend the night.
We wasted no time tucking into a slice of authentic Italian pizza, washing it down with some delicious lemon beer. AJ was on a mission to eat gelato at least once a day while we were in Italy – so we rewarded ourselves after a very non-strenuous stroll through the village. Real gelato tastes so rich that after one bite you’re convinced you’ll never finish it. And then, an easy 10 minutes later you find yourself staring into an empty cup.
Tuscany is the perfect spot to take an unhurried afternoon stroll whilst enjoying some spectacular views of the surrounding areas.
For me, the next best thing to actually arriving in Tuscany was waking up in Tuscany for sunrise. The sky was on fire as I walked through vines and olive trees. In the distance dust rose above the hills uniting with the sun’s flares, as farmers competed with the noise of their tractors, shouting instructions (in Italian) to their workers.
Along the way I bumped into two Swiss students wandering along the dirt road eating grapes – freshly picked from a local farmer’s produce. They told me they were adventuring through Tuscany for next 5 days and had just spent the night camping in between someone’s vines.
There are lots of quaint towns in Tuscany but Sienna is not one of them. From the moment we entered this city, the stateliness of the architecture and walls alluded to a well-established central hub.
In other parts of the world heritage buildings are untouchable. You have to exercise your imagination when you hear the site’s story. But in Siena you’re smack dab in the middle of frozen time – imaginations aren’t necessary – the surroundings naturally bring childhood medieval movies and stories to life.
We arrived around 10am before busloads of tourists, and experienced a touch of local life, joining the residents and college students as they went about their morning routines – many cruising the streets on bicycles. It only felt right to pop into a nearby cafe for a croissant and cappuccino before we wandered on through the city, popping into stores and exploring quiet side streets as we went.
Don’t miss the piazza (it’s hard to miss) where the world’s wildest horse races are held to this day. Also the Duomo di Siena – a breathtaking piece of architecture.
After Sienna, we stopped for lunch at this magnificent walled-in town perched on top of a hill. It was tiny, but significant, with its medieval towers and walls. (If only these walls could talk – what stories we would hear!)
To this day, we have non-buyers remorse, and still dream about those beautiful handmade leather brogues, which we ignored as they called to us from the shop windows.
San Gimignano is known for it’s medieval towers of which 14 remain (there used to be 70!) Back in the day every rich family tried to outdo the next by building a bigger and higher tower. The majority fell prey to wars and earthquakes.
We arrived in San Gimignano in the late afternoon, sadly at the same time as tour buses. In comparison to the other spots we visited that day the town felt crowded, but we soon got lost in the beautiful architecture and escaped to the side streets.
We were on the hunt for a few sketches/prints and found some really cool ones in a 2nd generation artist’s studio, which the owner’s Father printed over 40 years ago. They now hang in our lounge, constantly reminding us of the beautiful architecture of San Gimignano.
Don’t repeat our mistake of gobbling gelato too early, before coming across the award-winning gelato at Gelateria Dondoli.
In these Tuscan towns we experienced a way of life and a pace that felt so foreign to us, yet was so desirable. A steady slowness steeped in history and culture. A way of life we thought didn’t exist amidst the flurry of busyness, careers and activity. To see this in our day and age was to see history preserved. In Tuscany it feels like time was created for family, food and feasting. We will be back!