Travel Tuscany

A Week in Tuscany – Part 1

7th November 2013

It’s been a long time coming, but finally I am about to go on my honeymoon (exactly 14 months after getting married)! Tomorrow night we will start our journey to Australia and New Zealand (via Singapore and Dubai) and I can’t contain my excitement!

As I was getting ready for my next travel adventure, I thought it was time to stop procrastinating and finally share the photos of Tuscan holiday I took in spring.

Last May, I spent a week in a beautiful villa in Colli Fiorentini, a 30-minute drive from Florence. It was the perfect base to explore the north of the region! The holiday villa was a prize for winning the Tuscany Now cooking competition last year (see the winning recipe for Courgette Baskets with Fried Mozzarella Balls).

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Colli Fiorentini is a very pretty stone farmhouse with sweeping views of hills blanketed with vineyards and olive groves. With walls dating back to the 17th century, the house’s interiors have been thoroughly modernised in a style that blends traditional elements with modern preferences for space and light. A well-kept garden with lawns leads down to a swimming pool and hot tub set on a terracotta terrace facing the sunset over the Chianti hills. [Tuscany Now]

Unfortunately my husband was waiting for his passport to come back from the British immigration office and was unable to join me. Tuscany Now have a very strict policy and don’t allow changes to the bookings (which are also non-refundable), so we couldn’t postpone the trip.

It was upsetting at the time, because I had been dreaming about our romantic mini-honeymoon in Tuscany for a year, but in the end I had to go without him. Luckily, Florence is only a few hours’ drive from my hometown Rome, so my family came up to keep me company and enjoy the beautiful accomodation. I spent the first weekend with my brother Paolo and his girlfriend Mia (it was my brother’s birthday and we celebrated with my mum’s homemade Wild Strawberry Cheesecake) and then my parents took over.

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We were really unlucky with the weather, which was unseasonably cold and rainy, so we couldn’t use either the villa’s swimming pool or the outdoor BBQ and pizza oven (I was obviously devastated)! :P

Despite the rain, Tuscany was gorgeous and offered us plenty of things to do! I had been to Florence and other cities several times before, but this time my aim was to discover the gastronomy traditions of the region. The whole week was just about food and I came back to London with my bags full of local produce as well as a few extra kilos around my waist!

We started off the first day with a visit to the nearby agricultural estate Fattoria San Michele a Torri, which produces and sells Tuscan wine and olive oil. The owner of the villa where we were staying, Francesco, took us to the farm and together we did the tour, followed by a wine and olive oil tasting.

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Extended over 200 hectares of land, of which 50 cultivated as vineyards, 30 as olive groves and the remainder given over to cereal crops and woodland, Fattoria di San Michele lies astride the Chianti Colli Fiorentini and the Chianti Classico wine zones. A habitat particularly suited to winemaking, which produces smooth, aromatic red wines of great character. [Official Website]

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There are many vineyards in Tuscany, in the Chianti region in particular, so you are never too far from an agriturismo. They offer free tours and tastings, so make sure to visit one if you are in the region (also see my other post about Le Poggiola agriturismo in Pistoia).

In the evening we drove to Lastra a Signi, a small town on the outskirts of Florence, to have dinner at Trattoria Sanesi which is specialized in grilled meats. We celebrated my brother’s birthday with a bottle of Chianti wine and a delicious Bistecca alla Fiorentina (rich and tender rare steak of Chianina beef) with a side dish of Fagioli all’Uccelletto (one of the most classic Tuscan dishes, these are beans with a light tomato sauce).

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On Sunday we drove through the Chianti region to San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. San Gimignano is a classic medieval walled hill town in Tuscany, famous for its 14 surviving medieval towers creating a beautiful skyline visible from the surrounding countryside.

While driving towards San Gimignano, you can spot the city’s skyline from afar, a breathtaking and unique view.

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After a lazy morning and late breakfast in our Colli Fiorentini villa, we arrived at San Gimignano around 14:30 and all the restaurants had just finished serving lunch. Luckily Enoteca Gustavo serves food all day long and is located right in the centre of town. We had a fantastic lunch with Tuscan bruschetta, an amazing toast with Lardo di Colonnata, and a mixed cheese and charcuterie platter. We even made friends with the owner and I took a photo of him and my brother!

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The gelato from Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano is a must, so we couldn’t leave without trying it. We then walked to the city’s walls to enjoy the view of the Tuscan hills surrounding San Gimignano.

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We arrived in Monteriggioni on a Sunday afternoon, the main square was busy with families strolling around after their Sunday family feasts. We walked on the circular wall and then stopped at a cafe in the main piazza (dominated by a Romanesque church) for a drink and a spot of people-watching.

Monteriggioni is also famous for its weekly farmers’ market, which unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to visit (read about it on Miss Foodwise blog).

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We spent the evening at the villa, cooking a simple meal and reading a book in front of the fireplace!

The next morning it was Paolo and Mia’s last day in Tuscany and we decided to spend it visiting the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. I have been to the capital city of Tuscany many times before, as it’s one of my favourites Italian cities. The city’s architecture is just so beautiful and the Duomo – with the Brunelleschi’s Cupola and the Giotto’s Campanile – is always been my all time favourite church.

I also love Florence for the food, shopping and friendly people; the unique Uffizi Museum; the Boboli Garden and the view from Piazzale Michelangelo.

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We stopped for lunch at Cantinetta dei Verrazzano, a cafe and bakery in the city centre where you can eat traditional stuffed focacce, chickpea cake (cecina) and amazing pastries (like cantucci and sbriciolona). Thanks to Emiko Davies for recommending this place on her blog!

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I went back to Florence on the last day of my Tuscan holiday to meet Chocolate/Tea Taster and Cocoa Expert Monica Meschini. Florence is Monica’s hometown, so she obviously knows everyone in the local food industry. She took me and my parents for dinner at Buca dell’Orafo, a tiny cellar located under an alley next to Ponte Vecchio and close to Piazza Della Signoria. Higly recommended, but book in advance!

Since 1945 Buca dell’Orafo offers traditional Tuscan dishes recreating the same atmosphere of an old style Florentine restaurant. The menu changes regularly and on their website you can see their specialties according to the seasons.

We had a fantastic dinner with, among other things, Finocchiona (a kind of salami flavored with fennel seeds), Pappa al Pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), Fagioli Zolfini all’Uccelletto, Groppa scaloppata al Pecorino (steak covered with Pecorino cheese), Torta della Nonna (traditional custard and pine nuts cake) and a delicious Valrhona Chocolate Tart.

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Ponte Vecchio at night.

So this completes the first part of my Week in Tuscany. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, when I will share my visits to Livorno, Lucca, Siena and Certaldo Alto.

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  • Maria Cristina

    Definitely nobody can go to Florence without first reading the precious advice from Mondomulia!!! The photos are fantastic, as usual!

  • Oh Giulia – what a fabulous post. Your pictures make me want to pack my bag and fly to Italy right now! How sad that immigration red tape prevented your husband from joining you – really hate dealing with immigration authorities as they are always so incredibly unsympathetic to your personal circumstances. I need to spend more time in Tuscany, specifically San Gimignano (and I adore Finocchiona!).

  • Adam

    Fabulous blog and pictures thanks.

  • Wonderful pix as always! What is the bread with melted cheese at enoteca gustavo? Was that the lardo toast?? It looks amazingly delicious!!!

  • Yes the melted cheese and aubergines’ bruschetta was from enoteca Gustavo! It didn’t post a photo of the lard toast.

  • Thanks Jeanne! Have you ever been to Certaldo Alto? I’ll blog about it next week: charming medieval Tuscan hill town!

  • So glad you made it to Verazzano and it looks like you enjoyed it! A great spot to know about in Florence ;)

  • So, as you suggested, I have had a look. And I am very impressed…. in fact I am getting hungry for my two trips to Tuscany this year!

  • I’m sure you’re going to love Tuscany! There’s so much more than what I was able to see and blog about!

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