We woke up bright and early the next day, ready for our tour of the Tuscan countryside. This tour, ‘The Best of Tuscany’ would turn out to be my favorite of the trip and I would highly recommend it (and the ArtViva Tour Company) for anyone looking for a fun day trip from Florence. The tour took us through three Tuscan hilltop towns; San Gimignano (My favorite!), Monteriggioni and Sienna and a winery tour, tasting and lunch…talk about bang for your buck!
San Gimignano was our first stop, surrounded by walls and famous for its many towers it was utterly charming.
Walking through it’s medieval gate felt a bit like stepping back in time.
Adorable shops lined the streets, including one that sold the most delicious wild boar salami that we couldn’t resist sampling.
We explored the small town’s architecture and took in the incredible views from it’s highest point.
On our way back through town we stopped for a gelato from the shop that had won “Best Gelato” in all of Italy for several years running!
After leaving San Gimignano we headed for the Palagetto Winery Estate.
There we toured the vinyards, learned all about the wine making process and then sat down for a tasting of their olive oils and wines followed by lunch.
Delicious and informative.
Monteriggioni was our next stop. It was a smaller, sleepier version of San Gimignano. Lovely to visit but too tiny to stay for too long.
Our next and final stop, Sienna, was significantly larger and more bustling than the previous two towns. The hilly roads were steep so if you go, watch your step!
Sienna is best known for it’s cathedral and the Palio, a horse race that takes place in the main square twice a year. Much like the football matches in Florence, the different neighborhoods/teams each have unique colors/mascot and a fierce rivalry!
The Sienna Cathedral was stunning, the most beautiful of all the churches we visited.
The colored marble inside was equally as impressive as the ornate exterior.
We returned to Florence that night and joined our first roommate from the hostel, Juhi, for dinner at La Giostra.
Juhi is an art history professor in Delhi and was traveling alone to “see for herself the works she taught about”. She was a lovely person and we enjoyed the few days we spent with her.
I mentioned before that Haley and I had been somewhat nervous about sharing a room with a stranger for a week (two different strangers as it turned out) but Juhi was so wonderful and interesting that she totally changed our minds. One of the best parts of travelling is learning about cultures and peoples lives that are different from your own, so what better way to do it than get to know a roommate from across the world? Juhi had lots of questions about what it was like to be a young American woman and we were equally curious about India. We shared many stories over meals and all answered endless questions from one another during sight seeing over the next few days. Thanks to Juhi not only did we experience Italy, but we also got a firsthand look at India!
We were sad to see Juhi go when it was time to say goodbye, but excited to meet our new roommate, and excited for our next day trip, Pisa!