|2012 photocompetition entry - by Isabelle Preclin|
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.
I’m sure 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.