It’s been a little over a month since I returned from two weeks in Tuscany. The food, weather and company was perfect. I’ve always loved Italian food, and as a vegetarian I also know that there’s enough options for me to indulge in. Between the cappuccinos, vino, pasta and gelato, there really were no bad days.
Our trip consisted of a week on the beach, Siena, Florence and Cinque Terre.
Behind the scenes:
- Go to Saturnia Hot Springs for something different. It doesn’t smell as “eggy” as people say but it is all natural (no robes or slippers here). I know it’s an odd thing to pack but people were wearing aqua shoes inside the water as it’s very stoney. I made do with my flip flops but it wasn’t ideal. There are no changing facilities so come already dressed, and try your very best to arrive before 10am. I can imagine it getting very busy. These hot springs are free – there’s another hotel replica that you have to pay for so just double check.
- Siena is beautiful. We visited a winery called La Lustra and it was a half day tour and tasting, paired with a delicious meal. The vineyard was beautiful too – so picturesque.
- We met a family that were in Siena solely for the horse racing – an annual event that attracts a lot of tourists and locals. We had no idea! We were told to join a local dinner if we could for a true authentic experience. Each ‘contrada’ (town/locale) had their own team and hosted big dinners during the lead up to the races.
- One evening we were walking around and by pure chance saw this long table down a side street, almost the entire length of the street, and immediately we knew. There was also chanting. Lots and lots of chanting and singing. We joined the dinner and it was so nice. Flowing vino, a three course meal (dessert was a fresh bombolone), and really good company. Italians are so hospitable and kind, and everyone really took care of us. We were so pleased we got to experience this dinner. The races are twice a year: July 2 and August 16. We were there at the end of June for the build up.
- Florence was nice but surprisingly not busy in the evenings. By 8pm the streets were very quiet, which is sometimes a shame when you’re on holiday and want to feel a night time buzz in the city.
- I personally enjoyed roaming the smaller streets and stopping off at a quirky cafe or bar for a cold drink. Speaking of cold drink, if you’re a coffee lover you must try a shakerato.
- La Loggia Piazzale Michelangelo is a really nice restaurant with a beautiful sunset and view of Florence from the top.
- We took a pasta making class at Vivanda and let me tell you, it’s hard. I was a little flustered at times but that was mainly because I was trying to keep up with the group and pace (and also because I couldn’t get my dough consistency right). However, it was a really enjoyable and fun experience and I’d definitely recommend.
- Go to Villa Vittoria Firenze in the evening. It’s an outdoor space with a really cool vibe. There’s a DJ, dance floor, bar and shisha.
- Cinque Terre is as beautiful in real life as the photos. You need a few days to do the hikes between villages and to enjoy them.
- The villages are Monterosso -> Vernazza -> Corniglia -> Manarola -> Riomaggiore
- You can get the trekking pass which is a coastal route, or there are also free routes but less scenic and slightly longer.
- We got the pass but we did take the free route from Corniglia to Manarola which I highly recommend. It’s through the vineyards and so beautiful! The lemon slushy en route is also so delicious and much needed. The view from inside that cafe is also well worth it.
- End the hikes with a beach day in Monterosso – so fun!
- Order a pizza, pick up a Birra Moretti and watch sunset in any village. We were staying in Riomaggiore so sat on the rocks and enjoyed.
- The best sunset for me was in Portovenere. It’s not part of Cinque Terre but accessible by bus from La Spezia.
- Book your Cinque Terre Airbnbs early. They get booked up very quickly and accommodation is generally quite basic. We were lucky with a nice view but that meant a lot of stairs each day.
- If you want to go to Florence, consider flying in and out of somewhere like Pisa (two hours away) as it’s much cheaper. If you’re not renting a car, there are coaches that go from Pisa airport to Florence.
- If you’re driving, factor in parking and cost for Cinque Terre. You will have to park your car at the top (for as long as you’re staying) and then walk into the villages.
- Don’t stay in Corniglia for practical reasons. The train station is at the very bottom and to get up to the village is via a long and tiring set of stairs. You really do just get fed up.
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa was OK – I wouldn’t make a special trip. It’s near Pisa airport (where we flew out from) so went for the afternoon. People watching was entertaining.
PS – For anyone who thinks they can wear a cute outfit and heels as they walk around the villages in Cinque Terre, it’s just not practical. Sorry.
Hike from Corniglia to Manarola
Sunset dinner at La Loggia Piazzale Michelangelo
Sunset at Portovenere