Italy
Tuscany

Here you’ll find travel reports about Tuscany. Discover travel destinations in Italy of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

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  • Day19

    Day 19 - Florence!

    September 28, 2017 in Italy

    What a great long day! We woke up at 7:00 (...the first time before 9:00 or 10:00 in days) after staying up a little too late drinking wine and playing Chess. Then we went straight to the Academia Galleria - the museum that holds Michelangelo's David. Walking in and seeing David was absolutely the most moved by (non-musical) art that I've ever been. The 17 foot tall statue was literally breathtaking. We were lucky to have tickets for the earliest slot of the day when the museum was not busy at all. By the time we left an hour or so later after checking out several other statues and works of art, including a cool mini-museum of musical instruments, it was a madhouse.

    Next, we walked over to the Duomo plaza to check out the cathedral, dome, and bell tower. Again, we seemed to beat the crowd and got some cool pictures all around the outside of the buildings. Instead of climbing to the top of the busy Giotto's Tower, we decided to go to the much less touristy (but equal, if not better, panoramic view, from what I read) Tower of Arnolfo at the Palazza Vecchio). The long climb to the top was definitely worth it. We got a great view of all of Florence with no more than 2-4 other people up there at any given time. The coolest part might have been when we were about to head down and the giant bell on the tower struck 11:00 and rang for all of the city to hear.

    After a quick 2nd breakfast or 1st lunch, however you want to look at it, of meat, cheese, and fruit paninis, we headed back to our quiet Airbnb for a nap. We woke up in time to get to the famous Uffizi gallery for our 2:45 ticket. It was pretty amazing seeing artwork from so many famous artists, including 3 of the Ninja Turtles(!!) (Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo - no Donatello pieces), Botticelli, Caravaggio, and so many more. Then we split a pizza for another quick lunch and went back once again for another break before dinner. We had an awesome dinner - a meat and cheese platter to start, then I had the truffle pasta I was craving from last night and Tim had a yummy red pepper basil spaghetti. Now we are back and debating another night of Chess or an early night for another long day tomorrow!

    Tomorrow - day trip to Siena (I think - we keep going back and forth between Siena and Lucca!!)
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  • Day18

    Day 18 - Florence Arrival

    September 27, 2017 in Italy

    I love how much fun we're able to have on travel days! We woke up and had our regular Venice breakfast of toast and fresh fruit. Then we said goodbye to Venice, walking to the train station and passing by several fish and fruit markets. Once we arrived in Florence, we had a couple of hours to kill before Airbnb check in, so we decided to wash our clothes at a laundromat and get a couple of slices of pizza and our first Italian gelato (pistachio and chocolate)!! After we checked in, we relaxed for a bit (and I finished my book!) and then we set off for our first Tuscany dinner. The restaurant we found was a tiny mom and pop shop that was definitely a local favorite - no English menu, few tourists, reservations required, and awesome food. They had a special of pasta with fresh shaved truffles, which is what we thought we ordered. Really, we ordered the mushroom pasta, which was awesome, and a steak, which was also awesome. We finished our meal off with a tiramisu and two limoncello shots. Throughout the meal, Tim practiced his newfound Italian skills and the waitress/owner loved it. She was so friendly and the food was so good that we might return on Saturday for our last Florence dinner (and try to actually get the truffle pasta). After we left, we returned to our Airbnb for another night of wine and chess (this time, we had to make chess pieces out of checkers pieces)!! Awesome day, awesome night. Excited to explore Florence tomorrow.Read more

  • Day21

    Day 21-Chianti Wine Tour-Best Night Ever

    September 30, 2017 in Italy

    Wow...what a night! We started the day with a stroll through the neighborhood and our last Tuscan lunch at a restaurant that a local Italian called the "best restaurant in Florence" (caprese salad, spicy tomato spaghetti, and fried chicken with zucchini flowers...YUM!). Then we made our way to the other side of the river to meet our small group for the Tuscany twilight wine tour. The tour started with a wine tasting in the Florence shop with our guide Paulo, learning all about the different Italian wine designations, the different wine regions of Tuscany, and the proper ways to look at, smell, and taste wine. Then, we set off on a 45 minute ride through the Tuscan countryside to a beautiful winery. We met with the sommelier, Anthony, who was incredibly passionate about wine and everything about it - the soil, the hillside, the valleys, the fungi, the fruit trees, the grapes, the barrels, the acidity, the oxygen, and everything else that goes into a single glass of wine. We did a wine tasting in the basement of the winery, tasting several different levels of aged wine. Then we moved upstairs to a 3+ hour four course meal with bottle after bottle of wine. The first course was cheese with honey, onion quiche, salami, prosciutto, bruschetta, and great with white wine and rose wine. The second course was the best bolognese pasta we've had yet with several different red wine pairings. The third course was a shredded beef with tomato sauce and green beens, with more red wine. And the fourth course was a delicious brownie with powdered sugar. Throughout the entire meal, both Paulo and Anthony and Anthony's wife shared stories and facts about everything from the wine to the food to the history behind the different Tuscan dishes. We tasted wine that had been aged since the 1990s that had the darkest, brown color I have ever seen in wine. I learned more about the flavors of wine and process of wine making than I thought possible in a 6 hour tour (that lasted almost 8 hours). We also got to have a great time with three other couples throughout the journey - a couple from Chicago on their 40th anniversary trip, a couple from San Diego on their honeymoon, and a couple from Boston who had also just recently been married. That whole tour was amazing...probably the highlight of the trip so far. Goodnight! Tomorrow we go south.Read more

  • Day20

    Day 20 - Day Trip to Siena

    September 29, 2017 in Italy

    We are exhausted! But today was well worth it - Siena was awesome! A beautiful Medieval city in the Tuscan hills. We spent the entire day wandering through alleys and up and down hills. We had an awesome lunch in a several hundred year-old building built into a cave. We climbed 400+ steps to the top of the tower for amazing views of the city and the Tuscan countryside and rolling hills. (I got scared and almost bailed on the tower climb twice, turning around and going back down, until another tourist convinced me to do it - so glad I did!). Then we rode the bus back and watched the end of the sunset on the beautiful journey back to Florence. After a quick pasta dinner, we are ready for bed!Read more

  • Day204

    Snow storm West of Parco Sasso...

    January 16, 2017 in Italy

    Next on our itinerary were the Frasassi caves, the largest of which is big enough to fit Milan Cathedral inside. We set off along the Apennines but at around 2:30pm it began to snow. It continued snowing and began to lay on the road. After a while it got so bad that we started to slip and were unable to climb the gentle slope ahead. We stopped, put on our required fluorescent vests, deployed the warning triangle and strapped on the snow chains. In Italy it is obligatory to carry them in winter and we were very glad we had a set. A little further on we pulled into a layby west of Parco Sasso Simone e Simoncello as we didn't want to risk going any further. By this time we were at 525m above sea level and the layby had 9cm of snow, but we thought we'd wait out the worst of it then continue in the morning. We'd checked the weather forecast before we set off and did so again, but there was no snow forecast.

    Well, nothing much else happened for the rest of the day other than it continued to snow. In fact, it continued to snow all day and all night too. A local farmer had been enlisted to drive his tractor up and down the road with a snow plough attached to the front and a gritter to the back. He did this from just after we arrived, every couple of hours throughout the night. A few locals and one or two small delivery vans were still using the road but the vans had rear wheel drive which made a big difference. The wind whipped the snow off the trees and cliff face that rose up opposite the layby and added to that already covering the ground and the van. We were partly enchanted by the beauty of it and partly terrified we'd get stuck! Vicky took a tape measure when taking Poppy to the toilet and we saw the snow rising from 9cm, to 13.5cm, then 19cm, 25cm and when we got up it had reached 48cm on average. It was only when we looked back at the photos we realised she was measuring in the lea side of the van and that it was well over half a meter at the deepest parts!

    In the morning we had to push snow away from the van with the door in order to open it. It was certainly the deepest snow Vicky had ever seen and Will had only seen it as bad once when he was in primary school in 'the long hard winter of '63'. Poor Poppy's shoulders only just reached above the surface and she strangley didn't seem quite as enamoured with the white stuff as she had been the previous night!

    The snow was still falling heavily and didn't look like easing up anytime soon. We decided to abandon our trip to the caves and try instead to get back to the coast.

    We'd wished for snow at Christmas but this wasn't quite what we'd had in mind! The old saying 'be careful what you wish for' seemed most apposite.

    To add to our predicament, Vicky had developed a trapped nerve in her neck overnight and so couldn't drive... no pressure Will! Trapped nerves sometimes come about due to anxiety; can't think what she had to be anxious about!

    We started the engine, checking the exhaust was able to escape. Snow had blocked up all the engine's air vents and Vicky was just brushing as much as she could clear when lo and behold a saviour in the form of a snow plough appeared, heading up the hill towards us! With almost ecstatic relief we watched as it turned to plough the snow from in front of the van. It went back and forth pushing swathes of snow aside. Will backed up as much as he could so it could clear as close to the front as possible, leaving only about half a meter thick wall of snow for us to get through. After a good number of attempts, slipping sliding and stalling, Will broke us free! The snow plough had moved to clear the snow behind us in case we couldn't get out but Will had managed it!!

    He drove extremely carefully along the winding roads as the snow kept pouring from above and being blown in all directions. After a while we felt able to stop and check the snow chains, only to find one hanging off and dragging behind the wheel. It must have broken during the struggle to get free. We didn't have a spare so just had to take it off and hope.

    We had programmed in a coastal town but had to ignore the sat nav when it tried to direct us off the main road, because no other road had been cleared. It just made us feel all the more grateful for having been on a major route when the snow came in, goodness knows how we would have got out otherwise.

    After nearly an hour and a half of driving, we came across a petrol station and being a low on fuel, pulled in to top up. It turned out to be a garage with refuelling facilities and they had snow chains for sale. We asked if they had some for our van and after umming and ahhing they said yes, went away and found a set. €100 later we had a brand new pair, one of which they had fitted for us.

    We were beginning to see more signs of life, with people pushing snow clearing machines and shovelling snow off their drives. After a while we started to see tarmac under the snow and were eventually able to take the chains off and breathe a sigh of relief.

    High winds and heavy rain greeted us as we drew nearer the coast but they paled into insignificance after the conditions we'd just been driving in.

    We made a video on the way back down that we'll post the link to here once we get enough signal to upload it!

    Finally managed to upload the video! See the link below or in the comments:
    https://youtu.be/aLaDR6RctIo
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  • Day287

    Pisa, Happy Birthday Vicky!

    April 9, 2017 in Italy

    We took it easy after driving from Florence to Pisa and parking up in the car park stopover for €12 a night. There was a convenient cycle track and walkway that led to the Leaning Tower just 2km away and when evening came we strolled in. The next day was Vicky's 35th birthday and we'd used Trip Adviser to look up and book an evening meal at San Domenico restaurant.

    As we reached the tower, the sun was getting low in the sky and there weren't too many people around. It was smaller than we'd expected but had beautiful intricate detail. It was really exciting to see it in real life after having seen so many images of it and we couldn't wait to climb it!

    Carrying on to the restaurant about 20 minutes walk away, we arrived early and looked around a nearby street market selling plants, handmade soaps, lavender decorations, jewellery and alternative clothing. A sound system was being set up and people were demonstrating Zumba and there was even a GreenPeace stall. More and more we felt like Pisa was our sort of place.

    The meal was incredible. It was a small restaurant with only about 10 tables, fantastic helpful service and beautifully presented food with an amazing taste. All in all it made for a very special evening. To top it off we walked back at Vicky's insistence 'via' the tower (only 20 mins out of our way) to see it backed by a cloudless night sky, a few stars and a bright gibbus moon.

    The following morning we had a nice slow start to the day before cycling in and waiting in a state of high anticipation for our turn to climb the tower. We'd booked a slot online and when our time came we were scanned by security and permitted to enter. One of Vicky's favourite things to do when visiting a city is to climb a tower and so it was a brilliant birthday treat to be able to climb one of the world's best known towers!

    Ascending the spiral staircase smooth dips were worn into whichever side of the sloped white marble steps were lowest. It took a little while to get used to the changing angle but we quickly adapted, as we do when the van is parked on a camber. At the top we passed through the circle of now disused bronze bells to the outer walkway. Carefully clutching the camera we held it out over the highest side, then the lowest side and took a photo of the ground below. The tower's angle certainly did add an exciting element to the experience!

    Back at ground zero, we set out in search of a bite to eat. We enjoyed a little aimless wandering before heading back in the general direction of last night's restaurant. It has become obvious that Vicky's Italian name is 'Rasta' as this is what she is hailed as by the majority of African street sellers trying to catch her attention!

    We came across an antiques market with some beautiful china, lace and little irons you'd heat over a fire. We considered getting one of these for Vicky's knitting projects but decided their weight 'outweighed' their usefulness (pardon the pun).

    After a lunch of pizza and pesto we crossed a bridge that had turf laid over half of it and marked the start of the plants market from which Vicky got a pot of lavender. There were people painting large cardboard flowers and the area had an easy going vibe.

    Time was getting on so we returned to the tower and entered the nearby cathedral through its huge doors whose 3D panels depicted detailed scenes. The high sided place of worship impressed us outside and in; we could certainly see it was worthy of its UNESCO heritage status. The structure comprised of pillars, arched alcoves and tall half domes, while large frescoes and golden mosaics added decoration and depth.

    Both Pisa and Florence are 'arty' cities but in very different ways. We felt Florence's classic focus came with a snootiness, but Pisa's art was more interactional, free flowing and welcoming.

    At the van that evening we had pressies, a chat with people back home and a film with some yummy Italian pastries and Prosecco! It was an incredible birthday and one Vicky won't forget!
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  • Day12

    On to Tuscany!

    September 19, 2017 in Italy

    We started our day in Rivotella, the town where Linda's maternal grandfather was born. Linda took a photo of gray Lake Garda. We then took a long drive to Creti in Tuscany, where we will stay for four nights. The Italian drivers all think they are Mario Andretti, but they appear to be consistent about it. We did some shopping after the long drive and made some salmon and salad for dinner. Touring Tuscany tomorrow.Read more

  • Day282

    Grosseto & Maremma Regional Park

    April 4, 2017 in Italy

    As much as we enjoy taking a nose around city sights, we love being out in nature and so had been looking forward to visiting Monti del'Uccellina, within Parco Regionale della Maremma.

    We parked up and chose to walk two of the shorter round routes detailed on the area map and accessible directly from the nearby visitor centre. Apart from one other couple we met on their way out we had the place to ourselves.

    Information boards showed us what flora and fauna to look out for. The plantlife was good, with wildflowers either blooming brightly under the hot sun's rays or, like the intensly pink cyclamens, taking advantage of the dappled shade. However, the animals were the most exciting and unique feature of the park.

    The first track led us into a hillside forest, providing a reprieve from the heat. We needed to keep our eyes on the uneven ground and so took our time, stopping frequently to take in our quiet surroundings. We'd rarely go for more than a minute with out a little Italian Wall Lizard scuttling into a pile of dry brown leaves or collection of branches that looked like they had been washed together by heavy rainfall. Despite having been prewarned, Vicky still got a real shock when Will startled a long green snake and it slithered speedily into the stick pile beside her!

    We found what we think was wild cat scat and it was really exciting to see lots of signs of wild boar. There were droppings around areas of disturbed earth where they had been rooting. We even discovered a raised tree root they'd used as a scratching post, with their thick bristly hairs left scattered on the reddish brown dusty earth.

    The second of the two routes was at a lower altitude and through the open parkland that bordered the wooded hill. There was a distinctive smell in the air and after a while Will spotted some movement on the slope above us. We looked closer and saw a group of about half a dozen deer at the edge of the trees. They allowed us to get within a few hundred meters before springing off surefootedly out of sight.

    We drove away tired but refreshed by the amazing experiences in the park. After doing a much needed grocery shop at a supermarket in the large town of Grosseto, we settled ourselves in for the night at a nearby car park with camper stop.
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  • Day13

    Touring Tuscany

    September 20, 2017 in Italy

    On Wednesday we took a private scenery/wine/cheese tour of the immediate Tuscan area. Beautiful rolling hills, somewhat reminiscent of California. It's a bit drier than Asolo where everything was still green. Great wine tour today along with the best gelato we have found - in the small village of Lucignano.

  • Day15

    Cooking in Tuscany

    September 22, 2017 in Italy

    A bit of a lazy day Friday. Linda and I took a hands-on cooking class under the direction of our host Barbara and her mother at Villa Rosa Dei Venti in Creti. We made tiramisu and pasta noodles from scratch. Of course we needed antipasti and the right sauce. After 4 hours or so, we enjoyed the meal (along with wine from their vineyard) with our hosts and their family. It was the best!

You might also know this place by the following names:

Toscana, Toskana, Tuscany, Toskane, Tuscania, توسكانا, Таскана, Тоскана, Toskánsko, Τοσκάνη, Toskanio, توسکانی, Toscane, Toskaana, An Tuscáin, Thok-sṳ̂-khà-na̍p, טוסקנה, Toszkána, Տոսկանա, Toskania, トスカーナ州, ტოსკანა, 토스카나 주, Tuscia, Toscann-a, Toskāna, ടസ്കനി, तोस्काना, Тосканæ, ਤੋਸਕਾਨਾ, Toscan-a, صوبہ ٹسکنی, Tuschèna, Tuscana, แคว้นทัสกานี, Tuskanya, تسکانہ, 陀斯卡拿, 托斯卡纳

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