Show-off holiday post: Italy part 2 (Florence and the Tuscany region)

“One doesn’t come to Italy for niceness…one comes for life. Buon giorno! Buon giorno!”

I was busting to get to Florence (years of Forster playing in my mind). It did not disappoint.

The Duomo and views from the Campanile – it’s nothing short of breathtaking. We didn’t get to see all the monuments included in the ticket however I’ll be the last person to grizzle about queues. Sure, the queues for things in Florence are long (can’t imagine what it’s like in summer – maybe I would grizzle then!) however, once inside, the experience is pleasant. I compare it to visits to other attractions (I’m looking at you, Louvre) where there are such crowds that it’s unbearable. We used our queueing time wisely – taking turns to explore the surrounds and eat gelato.

Soccer – I always love going to sports events when I’m somewhere foreign, so we headed to Empoli to watch a game of football (soccer). Told the kids to make sure they cheered whenever the people around them cheered – turns out we were sitting with the Inter Milan supporters (who won 1-0).

Gelato Day – my parents took me to Europe when I was twelve. We were in Italy for just a few days and the stand-out memory was ‘gelato day’, when my dad declared that only gelato would be eaten for an entire day and night. To the delight of my children, I continued the tradition. Highlights: mandarin gelato from Vivoli; pretty flower cones from Amorino; and the Nutella (with cream) from Don Nino.

Sunset over the Arno – have I even seen such a wide river so glassy and still? I don’t think so. We stood on the Ponte Vecchio watching the sunset and it was one of those holiday moments where you pinch yourself and think “How lucky am I? Very.”

Florence from afar – is there a prettier city skyline? Probably not.

The other bits that made me happy in Florence – a pizza and gelato making class; making sure I had bought enough fluoro David fridge magnets for friends; the calm of the Galleria dell’Accademia; the flashbacks to my urban planning history class when crossing the Piazza della Signoria; and the much-needed (post-gelato-day) protein hit from a delicious bistecca (tried a few but the best was at Mangiafuoco).

From Florence we drove through the Val d’Orcia region – Siena, Montalcino, glorious countryside and finishing in Montepulciano.

Special mentions:

The countryside – green rolling hills that looked more like artfully draped velvet than the course grass that it actually was. And the obligatory stop at the picturesque Capella di Vitaleta.

Bagno Vignoni – if only we could swim at these hot springs *sigh*. Never mind, the history of the town’s water use and infrastructure was interesting (alas, despite extensive information about the water use at the site, there is little online).

15 responses

  1. Ex Mrs Legend and I skipped straight from the south of France to Venice. We had hoped to visit Florence but, well, scheduling issues… Not sure I’m game to show her your photos.

    • I always reckon it’s best to visit a place for a bit longer, than try to squeeze two places in… Which is why when my parents took me to Europe we went to Venice but not Florence… which is why I’ve been itching to go there. I will certainly visit Florence again – it was magical (and yes, I would return in winter to avoid the peak crowds).

  2. Youve brought back many happy memories for me with these photos. Florence is one city I would happily return to. I like your strategy for dealing with queues. We booked our Uffizi tixkts in advance and still had to queue….

  3. Thanks for another gorgeous post and for bringing back memories! I spent a wet November week in Florence a long time ago but I still remember the gelato parlour. My memories of Tuscany include the local deli owner who was the image of Robert de Niro sparking an earworm (you’ll know which song I mean) plus the little muttish pup who came with us on all our walks.

  4. We explored Tuscany in spring 2014 when my husband attended a conference in Florence. It was a magical trip, and we certainly did our best to try all the best examples of gelato. It was also when I first got into drinking coffee (via espressos!). How did you find the driving in Italy?? We vowed never again!

    • Yay for conferences in Tuscany!

      I say ‘drive’ loosely because I had decided before we left Australia that we would drive ourselves in Germany but not Italy or Greece (we’re a family of six and a people-mover in those narrow streets combined with CRAZY traffic was not something that said ‘relaxing holiday’ to me!). So, in Italy, although we did a lot of driving, we had a driver (again, with six people, hiring a driver and a car in the low season ends up being relatively economical). Fortunately for us, the drivers we had were essentially private tour guides, and really made our trip fantastic.

      • Ah, that sounds like a wise decision. Roads are not signposted very well, at least in that part of Italy, and drivers are rather…assertive, shall we say, so driving was very stressful for my husband. In future we’d do it all by train, though of course that limits exploration of the countryside.

  5. This looks like a great trip! We went to Florence/Tuscany about five years ago. Our favorites were Sienna and we did an amazing wine tour, where thankfully we did none of the driving. I would definitely like to go back. Glad you had a good time!

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