Italy Vacation - Part I - Tuscany

Fashion & Lifestyle, Travel & Leisure

For those of us who love to travel, when visiting a new place, we hope to get the most out of our time and money. Undoubtedly, social media is a convenient and helpful resource that can make a huge difference on a traveler’s wallet and itinerary. Personally, I refuse to travel before reading the typically-reliable reviews, on websites such as tripadvisor, of those who have already “been there and done that”.

Scott and I went to Italy in August 2013. I had spent months planning an itinerary, reading reviews, as well as dialoguing and negotiating (via email) with Italian hotel managers and excursion tour guides. I wasn’t in the best health when we traveled, and we could only go in August (the hottest month of the year in Italy); so I was extra careful, in the planning stages, to do as much homework as possible so as to make best use of our time and energy, as well as our budget.

I’m happy to say that we had an extraordinary experience! We visited the regions of Tuscany (Siena, Florence, Lucca, Pisa, San Gimignan), Campania (Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, Capri), and Lazio (Rome).

Sure, there were a few mishaps along the way (excursions and restaurants not worth our time or patronage, getting lost on very small and confusing roads with mopeds zipping by at ridiculous speeds, giving me near heart failure, especially when driving along the coastline,and having to cross off a few things from our list due to the heat or just being exhausted)… But here, I’d like to share only the highlights of our trip, so as to make your next trip to Italy extraordinary!

Since this is a picture-heavy post; we’re going to break this up in 2 parts. Starting with the region of Tuscany. But, before we get to that, let’s start with a few general travel tips.

Italy Travel Tips

  • First off, if you think you can be comfortable driving in Italy, rent a car. The advantage in having your own car is that you can come and go as you please, and branch out in any direction from your hotel. Think about it, at least.
  • If you have the flexibility, please visit Italy in the spring or the fall. If you can only travel in the summer, be sure to break up your sightseeing schedule with time to rest and/or cool off at the hotel pool. (Yes, a pool is a must in July and August!)
  • Use Trip Advisor! There are hundreds and hundreds of recommendations that Scott and I found 99% effective. If you can help it, ONLY visit the hotels, excursions, and restaurants that have an abundance of raving reviews. It can literally save you time, and energy, and money!
  • A few weeks prior, visit your local library and check out books and videos on your destinations. Specifically research the history, geography, and culture so you can narrow down the aspects that interest you most. For example, before visiting Florence, be sure to read (or watch a video) about The Medici; Godfathers of the Renaissance, Michaelangelo, Brunelleschis, Botticelli, Leonardo, Galilei, etc. That way, you can put a story to the sights, the art, the architecture, etc.
  • Invest in a comfortable pair of shoes, and break them in! You’ll be doing so much walking that you’ll be able to eat whatever you want. (I ate like a queen and actually lost 5 pounds, because we walked so much!)

Itinerary for Region of Tuscany

(You’ll drive straight from the airport in Rome and stop for lunch along the way. It’s a 2.5 hour drive, but presuming you slept on the over-night flight, you’ll be ready to go.)

Duration: No less that 4 full days. Do try for a full week, or even more, if you can!
Accommodations: We loved Frances Lodge in Sienna. But, if your stay in Tuscany is long enough, stay in Florence, as you’ll want to spend more than one day here.
Must See Cities: Sienna, Florence, and Lucca.
Maybe Cities: San Gimignano, Pisa, Cortona…

My first photo in Tuscany. We stopped in Montelpucciano on the way to our Bed & Breakfast in Siena.
My first photo in Tuscany.
On our way to Frances' Lodge, we stopped for lunch in Montepuciano. It was, pretty much, on the way.
Montepulciano ~ Make sure you have the energy to walk up hills!
A light lunch in Montepulciano. (We were too tired to do much exploring. So we got back on the road, en route to Frances' Lodge.
A light lunch in Montepulciano.
Frances Lodge in Sienna, Italy.
Frances Lodge in Sienna, Italy. Rustic. Charming. Tranquil. Lovely!
We had perfect accommodations in the Lemon Room at Frances' Lodge, Sienna Italy. Pretty. Comfortable. Cozy!
We had perfect accommodations in the Lemon Room. Pretty. Comfortable. Cozy! Frances Lodge, Sienna, Italy
Once settled, we rested a bit by the pool overlooking the quaint city of Sienna. Ahhhhh.
Once settled, we rested a bit by the pool overlooking the quaint city of Sienna. Ahhhhh.
Our first evening in Italy (Sienna @ Frances' Lodge). Dinner was prepared by the hosts. It was the BEST meal we would have during our entire trip.
Our first dinner, just steps from our room, deliciously prepared by the hosts at Frances’ Lodge. It was the BEST meal we would have during our entire trip. Romantic. Scenic. Authentic. Delicious!
The best home-made pasta, made by Frances @ Frances Lodge in Sienna, Italy. A delicious homemade fettucini style pasta with a delicious meat-ragu.
The best home-made pasta, made by Frances. A delicious fettuccini with meat-ragu. (Frances Lodge, Sienna, Italy)
Sun-dried Tomatoes & Olives. Unbelievably fresh and delicious!
Sun-dried Tomatoes & Olives. Unbelievably fresh and delicious! (Frances Lodge, Siena, Italy)
The most romantic, beautiful, and delicious meal in Italy. Served by he hosts at Frances Lodge! Sienna, Italy.
An unforgettable meal, complete with local wine, fresh cheeses, meats, crusty-bread, olive oil, homemade pasta ragu, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives. (Frances Lodge, Sienna, Italy)
Breakfast at Frances' Lodge was also the BEST we would have in Italy. Delicious, fresh-made eggs, bread & jams, tasty meats, and freshly squeezed OJ from the oranges on the premises. A perfect way to start the day!
Delicious, fresh-made eggs, homemade bread & jams, tasty meats, and freshly squeezed OJ from the oranges on the premises. A perfect way to start each day. (Frances Lodge, Sienna, Italy)
We made friends with the hosts at Frances' Lodge. We were sad to leave, but promised a return visit in the future!
We made friends with the hosts at Frances’ Lodge. They were unbelievably accommodating, warm, and friendly! It felt like we were staying with family.

Siena/Sienna

Siena, Italy

The Siena Cathedral - A must see; both inside and out!
The Sienna Cathedral – A must see, both inside and out!
Siena Cathedral
Sienna Cathedral
Siena Cathedral
Sienna Cathedral
Siena, Italy
Sienna, Italy
Siena, Italy
Sienna, Italy ~ If you can, take part in a walking tour.
Cooking Class in Siena, Italy.
Cooking Class in Tuscany. I’d recommend Ecco La Cucina if you have an extra day to spend either cooking, wine tasting, or both!
Piazza Del Campo. Beautiful at night!
Piazza Del Campo. Beautiful at night!

Florence

Florence

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Florence, Italy
Don't ask me how, but Scott and I shuffled in to a late day mass...and I somehow snagged this photo of the inside of the duomo. It was a marvelous and beautiful experience.
Don’t ask me how, but Scott and I shuffled in to a late day mass…and I somehow snagged this photo of the inside of the duomo. It was a marvelous and beautiful experience.
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Duomo ~ Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore ~ Florence, Italy
Uffizi Gallery is a MUST see!
Uffizi Gallery is a MUST see!
Close up or from afar, the Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence's main attractions. I enjoyed the live music, window shopping the plethora of over-priced jewelry merchants, and marveling at the rounded windows (secret passage) the Medici family once used to get from their palace to the Uffizi.
Close up or from afar, the Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s main attractions. I enjoyed the live music, window shopping the plethora of over-priced jewelry merchants, and marveling at the rounded barred windows, of a secret passage, the Medici family once used to get from their palace to the Uffizi.

 Lucca

Lucca
Lucca
Lucca, Italy
Lucca, Italy
Lucca is super charming!
Lucca is super charming!
Lucca
Lucca is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city wall.

And, I leave you with a few more pics of the best in Tuscany.

Chianti Classico
Chianti Classico
Ravioli with a truffle cream sauce
Ravioli with a truffle cream sauce
Biscotti
Biscotti
Oranges in Tuscany!
Oranges in Tuscany!
Italian Market
Italian Market
Beautiful Sunset in Siena, Italy.
Beautiful Sunset in Tuscany.
A classic fountain in Italy
A classic “fountain” photo in Italy…

Until next time, Ciao!

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