San Gimignano, Province of Siena, Italy
7 days - September 2018
After an amazing week eating as many pizzas as we could, we headed south to the Tuscany region for a week. (Unfortunately not with a fiat 500, it would have been the perfect cliche !)
We rented a room in an Airbnb in a small village called Certaldo. Coincidence: our good friends Laurene & Seb got married there 2 years ago!
Cédric discovered what was it like to live with a cat (nicknamed « le vilain matou »): need for constant attention, always play with plugs and always lay on the computer keyboard !
We started our discoveries by buying local specialities: truffles pasta and sauce. A delight!
On the visits front this is what we did in a week: a common point of our visits: medieval villages, cathedral, ice cream, orange tiles and walls , wineries and olive trees and pizzas of course !
- Certaldo Alto: a lovely little village surrounded by walls and not as touristy as the other village. Perched on a hill and surmounting wineries, time has stopped in this village and locals hide from the sun shutting down their shutters, the walls are decorated with coat of arms from medieval time. We had a good pizza and red wine in a lovely garden, at sunset. Beautiful!
- San Gimignano:
The most touristy village in Tuscany but we got why: wherever you are in Tuscany, it’s easy to see it as perched on a hill with its many walls and towers. Part of the Unesco Heritage List, the little village used to have 72 tower-houses built as symbol of wealth and powers. We loved wandering around, looking at the surrounding wineries from the walls, getting lost in the little streets and eating the best ice cream in town ! (One per day ;) )
- Volterra: close to San Gimignano is Volterra another medieval village with a specialty: a museum of torture ! We loved driving around it on the many little roads flirting with the wineries. We visited the fortress dated back to the 12th century, which became a prison . The main plaza is impressive and the cathedral is made of white and green marbles.
- Monteriggioni: our least favorite village. Way too touristy and we didn’t find it as authentic as the others despite the intact medieval walls and towers. We spent 30 minutes and found it enough.
- Montefioralle: in the Chianti, an unknown gem ! Going there was already an adventure as the roads were not paved and we didn’t have a 4x4, but we did worst in Latin America!
We loved walking around the castle (the village is built inside the castle!) the ancient stone buildings with brown and green shutters, many flowers on the balconies, narrow cobblestone paved streets.
- Greve in Chianti: we drove past it but didn't leave the car when we saw many tourist buses ...
- Driving around Chianti at sunset and looking at the wineries, the colours, the many villages. Just driving is already an experience !
- Sienna: our favorite ! We loved the Duomo (cathedral not a pasta dish!). It’s huge, the white, pink and white marbles are impressive (they already had the three-colours rule ;) ) and we got in we couldn’t stop looking up for 2 hours. There are many paintings, frescoes, mosaic on the floor, the black and white columns stand proudly, the stained-glass windows filter the light. It’s amazing and can’t be missed ! Second best cathedral in the world for us after St Isaac in St Petersburg. We also loved the green shutters, the stone buildings, the sunset on the duomo, the impressive main plaza and the local defile we attended. Best visit in Tuscany we did!
# finally the beautiful Florence ! We couldn’t wait to visit the cathedral built in the 13th century and climbed up to the duomo. The exterior is again grandiose ! All the details, the marbles, the size, how can you come up with this idea?
Unfortunately we realised when we arrived that we had to book in advance to go to the top and it was sold out. Lucky us: a French couple in front of us had an extra ticket so I have been lucky to climb to the top and see close the 42 meters large duomo and 3,600 sqm of paintings !
Besides arrived to the top, I had an amazing view on the city and the French guy who offered me the ticket gave me a private tour on all the cities buildings, history etc! Amazing!
Then we entered the cathedral and we were surprised how plain it was compared to the domo details, the exterior and to Siena cathedral.
We then spent the afternoon getting in all the others churches (Basilica of Santa Maria Novella , Chiesa di santa maria maggiore -lovely interior design, Chiesa di santa trinita and finally the Chiesa dei Santi Michele e gaetano where we attended a wedding! ) We also went to the San Lorenzo market to have more truffle pastas, the famous vecchio Bridge and got in the Palacio Vecchio. There are so many things to do from museums to churches to little back streets. It’s beautiful but be prepared you won’t be alone!
End of our stay in Tuscany, we just loved it ! Beautiful authentic villages, good food, amazing landscapes, what we could expect more ?
# rent a car, easier to get around. Just be prepared: there is a speed camera every 2 kilometres ...
# we stayed in Certaldo and found it really convenient to get around
# don’t miss Sienna , it’s amazing !
# driving in Italy is something: they drive soooo fast and the cities are not accessible by cars (ETL areas) but the signs are not clear so we crossed one accidentally and are facing a 100 euros fine! Waiting to receive it now ...
# to park in Italy: - blue lines = you have to pay; white lines= free; yellow lines= for residents only
# we rented a car in Milan Linate, 6 euros a day with Carigami broker. Just be careful and return it on the time written on the contract (even if you paid for the full day or you face a penalty of 100 euros… true story, we didn’t laugh at all when it happened)
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Oct 19, 2018 - 01:27 AM
Bravo! Thoroughly enjoyable review of some of the towns and cities of Tuscany. Beautiful photos :) Your travel blog is absolutely fantastic! Keep up the great travels! X
Christelle & Cedric
Oct 22, 2018 - 09:59 AM
Thanks Ruth ! And congrats again on the pregnancy :)