What do you picture in your mind when you think of Tuscany? Is it images of green rolling hills, towering cypress trees, curvy roadways, fortified farms, vineyards and sun-soaked hilltop towns? The quintessential Italian experience is just that – it is rustic, laid-back, scenic and peaceful. It is where you escape to; to slow down and appreciate great food, wine and lifestyle. The best part of Tuscany is that you can plan your trip around your passions and let that be your guide. Whether you are a foodie and want to enjoy simple yet delicious cuisine and wine, or maybe you are a history or architecture buff and want to see where the Italian Renaissance all started, or love art history, or cycling; or are a sun worshipper and want to experience the Tuscan coastline. Whatever the reason, you will find it and more. We decided to somewhat abandon our itinerary and just slow down. Let me share.
For us, it always starts with finding the perfect home base. I love finding those special properties that often become the highlight of our trip. The Siena House did just that. It is a large villa property beautifully restored to accentuate the authentic Tuscan features both inside and out. The modern interior is light, bright and airy. Every window is strategically placed to highlight the mesmerizing panoramic views. Our wonderful hosts, Malvin and Amanda, were incredibly welcoming and make staying at their property not just an accommodation but an experience. We were provided a tour of the property which encompasses 4 guest rooms (ours was called Siena), a large lounge, a mezzanine, a pool and an outdoor summer kitchen. Depending on the weather, your delicious breakfast prepared by Malvin, will be served outside or inside in the large dining space.
Siena House is well-situated in making many of the sought-after towns a short drive away. Some of our best memories were driving those super-scenic small roads that linked together the views, villages and vineyards. Here were some of the towns we were fortunate enough to visit.
Closest to Siena House, only a short 10 minutes away, is a lovely small village that offers a few traditional shops, restaurants and wine tasting cellars (we liked La Gatta Vecchia). This area is known for its full-bodied red grapes, and there are many varieties to sample. The Piazza Grande shines bright with marble and travertine, it is small but worth seeing.
About 20 minutes from Siena House, this small hilltop town and a UNESCO World Heritage site is infamous for its Pecorino di Pienza, a hard sheep’s milk cheese. I immediately fell in love with this small, quiet, romantic town. Wander the delightful narrow stone streets, its inviting piazzas and breathtaking views, this is definitely a town you need to visit. Click here to read my post on Pienza.
Just over 30 minutes away from Siena House, it looks and feels a bit different than the other towns we visited. It is a stone-clad town – with one magnificent medieval tower, a larger and busier piazza, perfect for people watching, chock full of winding alleyways to wander and many stylish shops (I eyed a leather jacket in the window, and still to this day, regret not buying it). Under the Tuscan Sun, first the book and then the movie, put this town on the map; and for good reason, you will definitely want to visit here.
A bit farther from Siena House, at about 45 minutes away, is a larger city full of museums, art galleries, antique markets, fine shops, monuments, and historical buildings. This city was the backdrop to the movie Life is Beautiful where in the historic city center you will instantly recognize some of the locations like the piazza, the Palazzo delle Logge and a couple of the churches or basilica. Although we did prefered the smaller towns, we understand why many will add this city to their must-visit list.
The farthest away from Siena House, by almost an hour, is the city of Siena. This large medieval and gothic city cannot be missed. At its center, is the incredible Piazza Il Campo, the red palazzo pubblico and its tower, but then venture off and get lost in the winding alleyways, as there is a lot to discover. Of all the cities, this was the most touristy, but how could you not come to this area and see it.
Tuscany is definitely one of those destinations that you are sad to leave and you long to return to. Our short visit of 4 days was not nearly enough. Do we wish to return? Absolutely…hopefully one day soon.