Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson once said
“The Best Things in Life are Free” and I wouldn’t be surprised if a trip to
Tuscany was used as their inspiration. We are all feeling the pinch at the
moment but far be it for us to let that mean we have to go without a holiday,
and why should it? However, having used most of the money you’ve saved up to
physically get your family to the beautiful region of Tuscany and find the
perfect Tuscan villa for you all to stay in, wouldn’t it be nice if you could
enjoy what it has to offer without dipping into your pockets too often. Well
you can! Here are just a few ways to get the most from your Tuscan adventure
for niente, as the Italians would say.
Florence is a great place for the tourist
on a budget because of its natural beauty, so why not start by exploring some
of the beautiful scenery and architecture that’s on offer. Right in the city
centre is one of the most famous piazzas in Florence, the Piazza della Signoria.
Here you will find a replica of Michelangelo’s iconic statue of David, amongst
other sculptures, in a free open-air exhibit. There is also an attractive
fountain to see. Conversely, if you like your attractions to be less serene
then why not visit the local market. Located by walking through the Piazza dell
Mercato and only open in the mornings, the San Lorenzo market is the perfect
place to experience a true taste of Tuscany.
The city of Siena is among the most magical
and intriguing in Europe and holds lots to be discovered. For a real adventure,
why not explore the 17 different districts and try to spot each of their
Contrada. A district’s Contrada is their unique clan that forms part of the
foundation for promoting of the city’s community led, relaxed way of life and
are characterised by a particular set of symbols, colours and flags. The
symbols are a caterpillar,
dragon, eagle, forest, giraffe, goose, owl, panther, porcupine, ram, shell,
snail, tortoise, tower, unicorn, wave and wolf. Why not make a check list and
tick them off as you spot them. If you are lucky enough to be in Siena on
either the 2 July or 16 August then make your way to the Piazza del Campo for a
must see event. Il Palio is one of Italy’s most exciting festivals and involves
representatives from the 17 Contrada partaking in a breath taking horse race around
the square. The best spots can go for up to three hundred euros but it’s
completely free to join the locals on the ground. A word of warning however,
the large crowds means this is probably not one for small children.
everybody is aware of the most famous attraction in
Pisa, the eponymous Leaning Tower, but there’s a lot more to see whilst you are
in this amazing city. A great place to start is the Duomo di Pisa, the main
cathedral in the city. Situated opposite the tower, it is free to enter between
the months of November and February so why not take advantage of this and enjoy
the magnificent decorated ceilings and intricate stained glass windows. Alternatively,
if you are visiting outside these months, you can always join in with Sunday
morning mass in order to view its stunning interior. Another place to put on
your list should be the Giardino Scotto Park. There are often outdoor concerts
and movie showings held here, helping to create the perfect atmosphere for a
lovely romantic evening. There are also mini trampolines scattered throughout
the park to keep children of all ages interested while you take a well-earned
break. Another good way to stay refreshed during your time in Pisa is to keep
hydrated by using the various drinking fountains around the city. It can get
expensive to keep buying bottles of water so keep hold of your bottle and save
the environment and your euros by topping up for free. The most popular of
these drinking fountains can be found in the Piazza del Duomo.
March is the season of the Camelias & the historic Villas in the Lucca region are open for viewing these beautiful flowers (which love the local climate). Alongside the Camelia Villas tours there are also music, art exhibitions, cultural events & tastings of Camelia tea. Events take place in the Pieve di Compiti & San Andrea di Compiti locations on 9-10, 16-17 & 23-24 March.
Our accommodation, which cost less than £800 for the week, is in a converted stone farmhouse next to a 12th Century Franciscan chapel. There is a pergola shaded by vines round the back here we quickly settle into a rhythm of eating long pasta suppers while the shadows lengthen.