Uncovering San Gimignano

Friday, December 30, 2016

Uncovering San Gimignano

Posted by Kiri (30/12/2016)

Of all the medieval hilltop towns in Tuscany, San Gimignano is possibly the most well-known. It’s famous for its 13th century walls and medieval towers and houses. Naturally it was on the top of my to do list for our Tuscan trip. I had done my research and browsed pictures of San Gimignano online. I had a pretty good idea of what it might look like, but the reality surpassed my expectations.

I was first captivated by this charming town when we were driving through the bendy Tuscan roads and I caught a glimpse of San Gimignano in the distance. Seeing it from afar definitely entices you to get closer. Once you get to the top of the road that leads to the town, you will instantly notice the towering walls.

I would recommend going early in the morning, rather than just before lunch time like we did. Parking is a bit of a struggle. If you are feeling active you may want to park outside the town at the bottom of the hill, but be prepared for a climb.

Once inside, you can admire the architecture and really start to uncover the town. It felt like we were inside some sort of medieval castle or village, especially when you are walk along the cobbled streets and notice all the buildings. You won’t fail to notice the distinctive The Duomo di San Gimignano, a 12th century church in the centre.

One thing I particularly remember about San Gimignano is the quirky shops. If you want to buy some traditional Tuscan goods such as pottery, pasta, Tuscan sausages, olive oil and wine then you will be spoilt for choice here. I also remember the two torture museums which unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore, but they definitely added to the medieval atmosphere of the town.

There’s also plenty of restaurants to try, but some are tucked in hidden corners and up cobbled paths. You have to investigate the backstreets properly in order to find some of the really local restaurants.

We settled for a traditional pizza place run by a local family. We tried the Tuscan sausage and spinach pizza, which didn’t have tomato sauce, but was delicious nonetheless. The spinach in Tuscany has so much flavour, I have tried to recreate it back home b8ut it never tastes the same.

Make sure you save some time to walk to the highest point in San Gimignano where you can enjoy spectacular views. You can see right into the Tuscan countryside and beyond. Some of the restaurants also boast amazing panoramic views so you can take in the scenery whilst tucking into your meal.

I made a video of our time in San Gimignano. Unfortunately it was raining, but that didn’t stop us from really appreciating this unique medieval town. Check out the video here and see what we got up to. Thinking of booking a holiday to Tuscany? Take a look at some of our luxurious private villas we have in and around San Gimignano and find out more about the town here. 
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Stay In A Private Tuscan Villa

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What Is It Like To Stay In A Private Tuscan Villa?

Posted by Kiri (23/12/2016)

I had all sorts of ideas about what it might be like to stay in a traditional Tuscan villa in the middle of the countryside. For me, that’s my ideal place to stay. I’d much rather stay somewhere with character and charm than a fancy hotel.

Every apartment you stay in is different, and has it’s own defining features. It’s the interior decor and the attention to detail that makes an apartment very special. That’s what you get when you stay in a private villa or apartment with To Tuscany. They have hand picked all their villas, personally visiting each and every one of them. We were lucky enough to stay in one of their stunning villas, and I want to share with you what it was really like.

Our apartment was way off the beaten track, not far from Lecchi in Chianti, which meant we got to stay in the depths of the Tuscany countryside. It didn’t matter that we were out of the way a little, because we hired a car. Radda in Chianti, a lovely hilltop town, was only around 15 minutes away. I think being in this location really added to the magic of this place, because we felt like we could really switch off.

It was so quiet. We couldn’t hear any cars, people or noise. Instead, the only things we could here were the melodic and soothing sounds of the birds singing, and the sound of bees buzzing around the beautiful flowers.

I think the best thing about our villa was the spectacular view from the balcony. If you picture a dreamy Tuscan view with rolling hills, olive groves and vineyards, then you can imagine what our view was like. Sitting out on the balcony with a glass of wine in the sunshine was blissful.

Inside the villa had character features such as a fireplace and oak beamed and terracotta ceilings. We had a kitchen with all the amenities we needed plus TV and of course, Wi-Fi.

The bedroom had an enormous hand-made iron bed and views out to the vineyards. The villa also had air conditioning and heating, neither of which we used because we visited at the end of March, when it was just beginning to warm up for spring.

There are a total of 14 villas situated in the heart of Chianti wine country. We were able to walk to the local farm for a wonderful wine tasting experience. The villas have a shared pool which looked lovely, but it was off season so it wasn’t open when we went. There’s only a few villas clustered together here, but it feels a bit like a Tuscan hilltop village on a very small scale. I would highly recommend staying here if you want to experience a real piece of Tuscany and truly get away from it all in picturesque surroundings. Click here to view the villa and book online today with To Tuscany.

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A Day In Florence

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Holiday Highlights - A Day In Florence

Posted by Kiri (16/12/2016)

Another of my favourite holiday highlights was the time we spent in Florence. I have wanted to visit this charismatic city for quite some time now, so on our road trip through Tuscany, I made sure we stopped off in Florence. Unfortunately we didn’t have a much time there as I would have liked, so we had to go on a whistle stop tour.

If you only have a few hours in Florence, what are the most important things to see? This was the tough decision we faced, but we managed to narrow it down. When we got there the queues for all the museums and galleries were very long, a little tip, try and arrive early in the morning rather than near midday like we did.

It’s also a good idea to get the train into Florence rather than drive if you can. The city has some restricted areas where cars aren’t allowed to go, if you enter them you will be fined. However, we had no option but to drive, and parked in the train station car park in the city centre for about 3 euros an hour.

We then wandered around the city, trying to take in all of the main sights. There’s plenty of shops in Florence, so if you have time you can indulge in a spot of retail therapy. If you are heading to Florence for the day, the main sights you should at least see and snap a photo of (if you aren’t able to get inside) include the Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile,  Palazzo Vecchio, The Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio and the  Palazzo Pitti.

We discovered that apparently the Palazzo Pitti was originally home to the government, and they built the Ponte Vecchio in order to be able to walk to their offices without coming into contact with the general public.

By far my favourite moment in Florence was taking in the views of the city at the Piazzale Michelangelo. Half way up the steps there are some lovely gardens with equally amazing views, and then you make your way to the top to enjoy what I think is the most impressive spot in the city. We had a nice buffet lunch on the way down which included all you can eat meatballs, veg and salad for just 8 euros.

You can’t really go to Florence without trying the famous ice cream, there’s literally an ice cream shop on every corner. It was impossible to choose which shop to go to, but the ones on the back streets and away from the main crowds tend to be better. 

If you head over the bridge you will find some quirkier shops and lots of jewellery stores. It’s slightly less crowded here, and there’s a few sandwich shops where you can grab some light bites.

I wish I had more time in Florence, ideally you need a couple of days if you want to see the city in all its glory. We will definitely be stopping by again on our next Tuscan adventure to uncover more of this magical city.
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7 Moments In Tuscany

Friday, December 9, 2016

7 Moments In Tuscany That Will Make You Feel Like You Are In A Dreamland

Posted by Dympna (09/12/2016)

There’s nowhere on earth like Tuscany, it’s a region that captivates your imagination and sends your senses into overload. Sometimes, you will wonder if what you are experiencing really is reality, or whether in fact, you are dreaming. A lot of Tuscany looks like a place from your imagination.

When you drive past the cascading hills, spectacular sunsets and breathtaking countryside views, you will realise that you are in one of the most special places on earth. Tuscany is the perfect place to escape the pressures of the modern world, as it’s so peaceful and beautiful, and when you are in the middle of the countryside, you really can get away from it all.

Here’s seven moments you might experience in Tuscany that will make you feel like you are living in a dreamland.

1. When the mist falls over the mountains
If you head to Tuscany’s mountainous area, or visit somewhere like Casentino National Park, you might just wake one morning to a mist covering the hills. These mystical views will make you feel like you are stuck in beautiful dream.

2. When the sun sets over the Tuscan hills
Tuscany is world famous for its spectacular sunsets. During your visit, if you are out and about at the right time in the evening, you just might catch a few breathtaking dreamy sunsets. If you can, wake up early to catch the sunrise over the olive groves and vineyards.

3. When you wander through a medieval castle
There’s a huge selection of medieval castles to uncover in and around Tuscany, you won’t go far without seeing signs for one. A castle with some of the most amazing views that you absolutely have to visit is Brolio Castle. Walk around the outside of the castle and the views will make you feel like you have been transported into another world.

4. When you uncover the dreamiest of hilltop towns
Tuscany’s hilltop towns really are the stuff of dreams. As you approach a hilltop town like San Gimignano or Montalcino from a distance, you will be taken aback by how magical they look. The views from some of the hilltop towns are jaw-dropping, you can see miles out into the countryside and surrounding mountains. Pitigliano (also known as Little Jerusalem), a quaint town in Grosseto, will make you feel like you have stepped back in time.

5. When you stumble up Tuscan wildlife
A lot of people aren’t aware of the wonderful wildlife that you can see in Tuscany. You might be trekking through the countryside and come across a few deer, some hares, a red fox, or maybe even a porcupine!

6. When you bathe in the natural hot springs
There’s something magical about bathing in natural hot springs in the middle of the woods. It feels like you are in a mystical world filled with waterfalls and bright blue pools of water.

7. When you are sitting on the balcony of your Tuscan villa
Finally, you will be impressed by the amazing views from many of our apartments. Sit on the balcony with a glass of wine, take in the beautiful scenery and let your imagination run wild.

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Photos in Tuscany

Friday, December 2, 2016

Photos in Tuscany - 2016 Photo Competition Winners

Posted by Mikolaj (02/12/2016)

One of the most special things about a holiday to Tuscany is the scenery. There are endless opportunities to capture the most stunning photos whilst on your travels. It often feels like every corner you turn there’s something new and awe-inspiring to photograph.

We love to see creative and inspiring pictures of Tuscany, and that’s why we decided to run a photo competition. We asked our clients to submit their competition entries via the client login area, and then we had the impossible task of choosing a winner. The prizes included an iPad mini for the winner, and a beautiful Food Hamper direct from the Chianti region for second and third place.

The entries we got were excellent, and they showed all aspects of Tuscany, including the rolling hills, vineyards, luxurious villas, wildlife, architecture, culture, food and even the beaches.
Take a look at all the entries here, and you will see why it was so hard to pick just three photos.

The winning photos

First place
We were totally blown away by Olaf Schumacher’s picture ‘morgenröte’ which means dawn or red sky. This image truly captures the real beauty and magic of Tuscany. You really can wake up to a mesmerising sunrise that looks just like this.

The fog that engulfs the land portrays the mysterious side of Tuscany and the colours depicted in the photo are gorgeous. It’s hard not to be wowed by this impressive picture. Congratulations to Olaf for winning our 2016 photo competition.

Second place
In second place, Justyna Baran’s photo titled ‘look ahead Tuscany’. This charming photo features two kids gazing out at the magnificent views in front of them. We love it because it shows how Tuscany can captivate and wow children, to them it’s a mysterious land that’s perfect for exploring. The kids are looking out on a vineyard with the mountains in the distance on what looks to be a beautiful sunny day. The little girl’s sun hat is adorable and really pops out of the photo.

Third place
Finally, in third place we have Linda Dion’s image ‘Borratella Spirit’. This picture shows the laid- back Tuscan lifestyle at its best. We love how they have managed to really capture the scene with the pool and gorgeous villa in the background. It makes us want to jump on a plane so we too can sit poolside and drink Tuscan wine with some fresh locally made Anti pasti. The sunlight and shadows that cascade over the building make this image even more impressive.

Heading to Tuscany next year? Be sure to snap some beautiful photos during your travels and you could win our 2017 photo competition. Feel free to send us any pictures you take whilst on holiday in Tuscany, we really enjoy seeing our clients having a fantastic time. Click here to see a list of all the competitions we are running.

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