“La Porti un bacione a Firenze!” are lyrics from a very well-known old Italian song, about how it is inevitable to have a strong connection with Florence and to miss it when you are away. So every time you meet someone who is going there you cannot avoid telling him or her, “Give Florence a big kiss for me!” And this is so true.
What is actually more accurate is that all of Tuscany is kiss worthy… I have been there countless times and every place I have seen I wished to go back to. If you have already been to Tuscany it is quite easy to take my word, but if you haven’t let me explain my point of view with my personal “Top 10 things to do in Tuscany”!
Life is beautiful indeed! For me Arezzo is definitely the sweet golden city of Southern Tuscany; shiny goldsmith’s shop windows all over, an almost sacred respect for honey, and also the best locally-made ice cream I have ever eaten. Don’t believe me? Have a delicious ice cream in one of the closes off Corso Italia while you admire the town that had a starring role in “Life is Beautiful” (before the Nazi camp, of course), the award-winning movie of the great actor and (my favourite) Tuscan comedian, Roberto Benigni. If it’s December and you don’t feel like having an ice cream pop into the free-entry Honey Fair where you can taste the best honey from all Tuscany! Arezzo sweet Arezzo…
A beauty that makes you beautiful. In Val d’Orcia you feel like you are IN a postcard of Tuscany. It is an impressive, strange and beautiful feeling all at the same time. You, standing in a colourful painting of sunflowers and trees, like a clean brush leaned on a canvas where a freshly-painted beautiful work is lying to dry. You know you will get some paint on you even though you know you are not the painter, but you were probably looking forward to it anyway. There you can admire the landscape during a Brunello wine tasting in Montalcino or during a relaxing bath in the hot (and free) springs in the lovely Bagno Vignoni… or you can do both, like I did. After all, why choose when you can have it all?
A very inspiring walk under the Tuscan sun. Sturdy fortifying walls, steep cobblestone streets, lots of churches and palazzos that are all full of history. The Medici fortress overlooking the slopes of olive groves and vineyards, looking proudly to the bountiful Val di Chiana plain below and giving a look of approval to the hard-working farmhouses on the hillsides while, in the distance, the gleaming Lake Trasimeno gives its respects to Cortona. Are you seriously asking why this lovely hilltop town inspired Frances Mayes?
Florence – Shopping in San Lorenzo leather market
Do you need a new jacket, belt, purse, or a wallet to give to someone special as a gift? When you are in Florence take your time to go to the San Lorenzo leather market! You can find it in the streets between the Central Market and San Lorenzo, it is a great place to shop overall if you enjoy colourful noisy markets and bargaining… it won’t be that easy, most of the stall owners can manage English very well and know their job, but if you are firm and patient you will get the high-quality leather goods at the price you are willing to pay!
Siena, Palio and…Chianti!
Siena has 17 contrade (city quarters) and twice a year – on July 2 and August 16 – ten of them challenge themselves in the worldwide-known horse race, Palio. The atmosphere in the city is fantastic and even if you are a tourist you can perceive how for local people this is a really important event, with its rituals and rivalries (an example? Each citizen is ‘baptized’ in the quarter of origin and when a couple are from different quarters they usually stay separate during the days of the Palio!). Before the last race there is a really outstanding historic pageant…Treat yourself with a good Chianti and enjoy the show!
And you will see that once Tuscany is inside you, you can’t get rid of it. Culture, food, traditions, sea, cheerful festivals to appreciate company, but also beautiful isolated and inspiring landscapes when you need some time on your own. Mountains, architecture, wines, stories, beauty, sun… it is too much to let it go. And it is also the reason why I first told you that all Tuscany is kiss worthy. I hope Part 1 of my top 10 helped you to discover new aspects of this marvellous region… I just need to ask you something in exchange: if you go there, please, give Tuscany a big kiss for me!
Giulia works for Flavours Holidays – a specialist tour operator offering cooking, painting and Pilates holidays in Italy. If you want to experience the authentic Tuscany and have great fun learning a new skill click here. Follow on Twitter and Facebook.