Top 10 in Tuscany
lastminute lovely Louise gives her top 10 things to do in Tuscany!
1. Cycle the streets of Florence
The best way to get your bearings around the unbelievably beautiful city of Florence is to enrol in a local bike tour. You’ll scoot around the cobbled laneways with a trusted tour guide who’ll deliver a fun-filled heritage talk at key sites including:
• The Duomo
• Palazzo Vecchio
• Ponte Vecchio
• The artisans district
• Local food & leather markets
2. Sample every flavour of ice cream you can get your mitts on
I recommend averaging two to three scoops of ice cream a day whilst holidaying in Tuscany. That way you’ll be able to discover all kinds of flavours. (Note: any more and you should be congratulating yourself as a serious aficionado.)
My favourite flavours:
• Fig & Mascarpone – fruity yet deliciously creamy and rich.
• Lemon sorbet – for when you’re seeking something tongue-tinglingly refreshing and icy.
• Tiramisu – Italian coffee, dark chocolate and luscious cream. Enough said.
And the granddaddy of Tuscan ice cream shops has to be the Gelataria di Piazza in San Gimignano. Join the long line-up and sample the pink grapefruit and champagne sorbet. Delicious.
3. Stay in a luxurious country retreat
Tuscan villas are parodied the world over. But you don’t get better than the real deal. And the archetypal Tuscan villa experience can be found at L’Andana in Castiglione della Pescaia, south-western Tuscany.
Cypress lined driveway – tick. Olive grove strewed hillsides – tick. Award-winning on-site restaurant set in a vineyard – tick. Stunning villa complete with exquisite antique furnishings – tick. And rejuvenating spa complex with hot pool boys – tick (woops, the gorgeous Italian staff are a nice added bonus you might not expect).
L’Andana is seriously deluxe, whilst retaining the Tuscan charm that many international resorts fail to retain. Trust me, you’ll be planning your return vacation before you depart.
4. Eat like a local
In the international bestseller Eat, Pray, Love I only really enjoyed the ‘eat’ part – you know the section where the main character eats her way around Italy and puts on like five kilos. I’m not sure what that says about me and my lack of spirituality or distaste for soppy romance, suffice to say, Italian food totally rocks my world. Whether you’re lunching in the vines or propped at a bar with a Peroni and slice, the food is so god darn good in Tuscany you’ll be hard pressed to eat badly.
5. Walk the walls of Lucca
Lucca is a very picturesque medieval town in northern Tuscany, 17 kilometres from Pisa. Encircling the town is a ginmormous brick wall that you can walk, cycle or even run around if you’re feeling that way inclined. Whichever you choose, lose a day in Lucca wandering shady streets, admiring the attractive churches and sipping limoncello in one of the many bustling squares.
6. Climb the Duomo
So you’ve marvelled at Michelangelo’s statue of ‘David’ at the Accademia and sighed at Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ at the Uffizi but you simply cannot leave Florence without tramping up the 400 odd stairs inside the Duomo. Get close to majestic frescos and then continue up a spiralling staircase for simply breathtaking rooftop views. Sigh!
7. Drink Tuscan vino
Wine making in Tuscany can be traced back almost 3,000 years so it’s fair to say they’ve got it down to a fine art. And, there are so many wineries you could spend your entire jolliday exploring the region’s varied vineyards. Sip lips at the ready!
Key regions to explore:
• Montalcino (home to the infamous Brunello vineyards)
• San Gimignano
8. Discover San Gimignano
San Gimignano is one of my favourite spots in the world. Perched on a beautiful Tuscan hillside, San Gimignano’s ancient skyscrapers mark out the town from afar. And oh boy is she a beauty. Don’t be put off by the crowds of European tourists, explore the back alleyways and marvel at the Tuscan countryside stretching for miles.
9. Take ‘that’ photo in Pisa
I’m not going to lie, Pisa isn’t my favourite spot in Tuscany. It’s busy and urban, and quite frankly, you’ve come to Tuscany to do some serious relaxing in quaint towns or beautiful countryside. But the leaning tower of Pisa is an architecture anomaly and one to tick off the bucket list. My advice is to get in, have a quick squiz, and out of the city in half a day.
10. Cheer the horses at Il Palio
Twice a year Sienna puts on an exciting horse race around the city’s main square Piazza del Campo. Thousands of spectators cram into the piazza and watch the galloping bareback racing. Doesn’t sound dangerous at all, right? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear mattresses line the corners of buildings to cushion any collisions. Oh and it is heaps of fun. Just gird your loins for the excitement and join the passionate, noisy local crowd.