A Week In Tuscany

My husband and I have just got back from a week in Tuscany. I usually don't have a problem talking about our travels but this time, I am rather lost for words. Nothing I can write will ever describe the heart-breaking beauty of this part of Italy. But I will try. So expect me to be raving about Tuscany well into the new year. After two years, it definitely felt good to get away. What felt even better was disconnecting from the world and ignoring all forms of social media - except Instagram. I love the positive vibes of Instagram. 

Today I will just be sharing a general overview of our trip: where we went, what we saw, where we stayed, and so on. In future I will try to translate what my eyes saw into words.

When to go

Sincerely Loree: Tuscany

Mid-autumn seems like the perfect time to visit Tuscany as the scenery is absolutely breath-taking. The trees and the vines are changing colour and an impressive artist's palette of variegated hues seems to have been smeared across the entire countryside. The strange thing is that the colours of the landscape seem to be repeated in the colours of the buildings in the medieval towns and cities we visited: a mixture of gold, ochre, peach, orange and terracotta. It made me wonder if the paintwork was specifically chosen to reflect the autumn hues or whether it was just a happy coincidence. 
Sincerely Loree: Autumn in Tuscany


We had beautiful weather: sunshine, blue skies, warm day, cool nights and not a drop of rain in sight. In reality, we were hoping it would be a bit cooler but I am definitely not complaining because we were able to explore a number of different places and spent all our time outdoors exploring the places we visited (and taking hundreds of photos). We must have walked miles everyday, up and down streets in towns clinging precariously to hilltops.

Where we went

We travelled all over, from the north of Tuscany to the south, grouping towns by their proximity so we could make the most of each day. 

Lucca

Sincerely Loree: Lucca, Tuscany

Bagni di Lucca

Sincerely Loree: Bagni di Lucca, Tuscany

Pisa

Sincerely Loree: Pisa, Tuscany

Volterra

Sincerely Loree: Volterra, Tuscany

Siena

Sincerely Loree: Siena, Tuscany

The Crete Senesi and Val d'Orcia

Sincerely Loree: Crete Senesi, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree: Val d'Orcia, Tuscany

Asciano

Sincerely Loree: Asciano, Tuscany

The chapel of  La Madonna di Vitaleta (this is the famous chapel that graces hundreds of Tuscan postcards)

Sincerely Loree: Sincerely Loree: La Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta, Tuscany

Pienza

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Tuscany

Montalcino

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, Tuscany

Monteriggioni

Sincerely Loree: Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Colle di Val d'Elsa

Sincerely Loree: Colle di Val d'Elsa, Tuscany

 San Gimignano

Sincerely Loree: San Gimignano, Tuscany

        San Miniato

Sincerely Loree: San Miniato, Tuscany


What we saw

Churches, cathedrals, towers, fortresses, walled towns, imposing gateways, elegant piazzas, medieval and Renaissance buildings ...
I will expand on this topic in future posts so I'll keep it short for now. On this trip we really spent most of our time outdoors although we did visit the duomo in Siena and the Giunigi Tower in Lucca (where I had a panic attack that I'll talk about in future). 
Besides the towns and their beautiful architecture we wanted to see the Tuscan countryside. We drove north of Lucca to enjoy the mountains. On our drive down to Siena we made sure to pass through the Chianti region. To the south of Siena we visited the typical Tuscan countryside of rounded hills that is characterized by the Crete Senesi and Val d'Orcia. 

Where we stayed

We were based first in Lucca and then in Siena and stayed in apartments in both cities. We found our apartment in Lucca, that was listed as Vintage & Chic, through AirBnB. It is located just ten minutes' walk from the historic centre of Lucca and had its own free parking space.

In Siena we stayed in an apartment at Villa il Borghetto residence. This is a really special place that dates back to the 1600s. It is managed by a young brother and sister team, Claudio and Cristina, who are very  knowledgeable and helpful and one of them is generally available at the reception in the morning and afternoon to answer any questions or to offer suggestions about places to visit or restaurants to try. Villa il Borghetto is located just 2 km away from the historical centre of Siena in a charming location overlooking the Tuscan countryside. Free parking is available in the grounds of the residence but it's better to visit Siena by taking the bus (number 56) which runs every 15 minutes stops just outside Villa il Borghetto. It will save you on parking fees and it only takes about 10 minutes to get to the centre of Siena.
Sincerely Loree: Villa il Borghetto Residence, Siena, Tuscany

Neither of these 2 apartments we stayed in was serviced by an elevator so lugging suitcases up the stairs was a bit of a nuisance but nothing we couldn't handle.

How we got around

The public transport system in Italy is excellent , even if not always exactly on time, and trains and buses will take you to the major cities and most of the bigger towns without any problem. However, if you want to visit the more out-of-the-way places or the countryside, the only way to do it is by car (or motorino). We hired a rental car from Pisa airport and it helped us to visit as many places as was humanly possible. In most places, parking between 8am and 8pm is not free and the parking costs can add up but, in some places, free parking is available if you're prepared to walk a ways (generally uphill).

What to wear

This is a bit tricky. October is one of those transitional months when you can never be sure what the weather will throw at you. As I said at the beginning we had lovely days that were more reminiscent of spring than autumn but the nights did get cool. So wearing layers is key. I also  like to take  a couple of hats or beanies with me as they work wonders keeping my head warm. The most important thing to pack is a good pair or two of walking shoes/ boots - preferably ones with good ankle support. Your legs and calves will thank you after walking up and down a few hilly streets.
Sincerely Loree: A rare photo of moi, Tuscany

Where to eat

For me, Italian cuisine is the best in the world. Ingredients are kept to a minimum but each one is allowed shine and forge an intimate relationship with your taste buds. In the whole week we spent there we didn't see a single fast-food restaurant (if they qualify for such a name). Nor was there a single Starbucks or Costa Coffee in sight. Italians are proud of their traditions and do not eagerly embrace foreign ones no matter how wonderful they seem to be. I think it is something that other countries  would do well to copy. 

Italian fast food exists in the form of pizza al taglio (pizza slices) and panini (sandwiches). Generally, a good rule of thumb is to check out where the locals eat or which outlet has the longest lines. This served us very well a number of times. Of course, asking our hosts for recommendations also helped. I'm listing our most favourite places for anyone that might be planning a visit to Tuscany (and as an aide-memoir for myself for the future).

  • Da Umberto in Lucca (pizza)
  • Panineria al Vicolino in Volterra (panini)
  • Pummaro` in Pienza (pizza)
  • La Grotta di Santa Caterina - more popularly known as Bagoga -  in Siena (Tuscan cuisine)
  • Osteria Boccon del Prete in Siena (Tuscan cuisine)
  • Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano (ice-cream) - a popular gelateria that has won several prestigious awards, including the ice-cream World Championships in 2006/2007and 2008/2009 editions and has some of the most unique flavours I have ever seen (for example chestnut and rosemary, pumpkin cream and many others).
  • La Trofea in Siena (pizza al taglio)
Sincerely Loree: Pizzeria Pummaro`, Tuscany

Tuscan specialties

All the different regions in Italy have their specialties but I think that Tuscany has some of the best. Traditional Tuscan food is based on peasant cooking (sometimes know as 'la cucina povera') that makes use of just a few ingredients that are grown off the land, like tomatoes and olive oil, and pecorino cheese. Tuscany has also given us the Florentine steak, cinghiale (wild boar) which is used to make stews and salami and a variety of truffles. Pastries like panforte di Siena and cantucci are popular in many countries and I cannot fail to mention the wines of Tuscany which are renowned all over the world, like the Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Vin Santo (a sweet dessert wine that somehow found its way into my suitcase).
Sincerely Loree: Nino & Friends, Siena, Tuscany

In a (rather large) nutshell that summarizes our week in Tuscany. I am feeling a bit like a tour guide but one of the reasons I write this blog is to have an online diary that I can look back on when the memories start to fade. Right now they are fresh in my mind and, by writing about them, I want to make sure they remain that way for the longest time possible.  Hopefully, I didn't bore any of you and you'll come back to read future posts about la bella Toscana. Maybe it will encourage some of you to spend a week in Tuscany too.

Location: Tuscany
October 2021
La Contessa said...

THIS CONTESSA has been to EVERY TOWN you MENTIONED!
TRA......LA!
You just took me back in Time like 30 years ago!How I loved LOVED LOVED LIVING THERE how things DROVE ME CRAZY and HOW BEAUTIFUL IT ALL WAS AND OLD!I could NEVER get ENOUGH!
I haven't been back in years............I think its almost been 9 years since I was there..........SHAMEFUL!!
KEEP writing and SHARING as YOU are making me VERY HAPPY!
SO SORRY about the PANIC ATTACK!I have never had one that I'm aware of but have had moments OF OH MY GOSH I WILL PASS OUT!NOT A FUN EXPERIENCE BY ANY MEANS..............
YOU LOOK GREAT!!!
BIG HUGS,
Elizabeth
XXX

Loree said...

@Elizabeth, I am so glad I brought back so many memories. I can never get enough either. I think I'd move there in a heartbeat if I could.

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Wonderful trip and photos. Thank you for your fabulous tips.You fill in gaps that travel shows miss.

Parnassus said...

Hello Loree, Your photos are almost too beautiful to be real. I think what attracted me the most was the rocky river flowing through Bagni di Lucca. I can never resist exploring the edge of a river, especially a small one like this. I wonder what the water quality is like.
--Jim

Debbie Nolan said...

Dear Loree, what a fabulous post. Your photos are wonderful and as always your description of what you seen is filled with the experience of a place. When I think of Tuscany - fairy tale place comes to mind. Am looking forward to reading about your trip in the upcoming posts. Have a lovely week. Hugs!

Henrike said...

Yeah Loree,
that sounds great. It is super you had a good time. To see other colours and scenery is always good. I liked Tuscany also very much. Next time I have to visit Lucca.
Welcome back home!
Henni

kim at northerncalstyle. said...

Loree, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this post. I love how you began with the photos and gave information after. I ladore Italy so much and can't wait to get back... I will be saving this post !! Just seeing the slices of Pizza make me long for that Italian cuisine. Isn't it wonderful there are no fast food spots?? Or Starbucks? Italy is still such a precious gem and I hope it remains that way! I can't wait to hear more about this trip. You look adorable in that cap! Thank you for sharing. xo Kim

Gattina said...

You had the same reeacton as I had when I went for the first time to Italy ! It's beautiful from the top to the tip of the boot ! When I had been for the first time at the Garda lake where my husbnd is coming from it took my breath away.
The very first time I was in Sicily when there was no tourists at all but still the Mafia, it was in 1964 !!

Loree said...

First of all, thank you all SO much for the lovely comments that I truly appreciate.
Maywyn: I am happy to fill any gaps.

Jim: the water seemed really clean and clear. Bagni di Lucca is not a very popular place anymore but the scenery is quite spectacular.

Debbie: thank you. More posts coming soon.

Henni: I will try to be happy that I am back home ;) Lucca is nice and not crowded with tourists.

Kim: I adore Italy too and never want to leave. U am glad you found this post useful.

Gattina: I know what you mean. Italy is just wonderful.

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