If you are spending several days in Florence, you should take some time to visit the countryside of Tuscany. Tuscany is a region in central Italy known for its postcard like scenery where you will find Italian hill towns set among rolling hills, wineries, olive groves and 16th century farmhouses. The hill towns were built with thick stone and masonry walls on the highest point of land so as to provide protection for their original inhabitants. Tuscany is also the home to the Sangiovese grape variety that is the base for some of some of Italy’s famous wines such as Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino.
Approximately 60 miles south of Florence is Siena, a beautiful city with plenty of sightseeing, shopping and dining options. Some of the notable sights are the Siena Cathedral that was begun in the 12th century and completed in the 14th and the Piazza del Campo, a huge town square that feels like an amphitheater. Numerous restaurants and shops surround the square. The Piazza is also one of the locations for the famous Palio horse race.
Another hill town, about 40 miles south of Florence, is San Gimignano. San Gimignano is a Unesco World Heritage site and is also know as the city of beautiful towers. There were originally 72 towers but only 14 remain today. With the town’s placement high above the surrounding area and its encircling walls it appears to be a medieval castle. While there, you should also sample the self-proclaimed “worlds best gelato” at Dondoli’s. I think all gelato is good and while I haven’t sampled all of the gelato in the world (working on it), this was pretty good. There is always a line here but it moves quickly. We visited both of these cities on the same day while on a tour and didn’t get to spend a great amount of time at either. During our time there the streets were filled with tourists on day trips from Florence or, like us, from a cruise ship that docked in Liverno. It would be interesting to spend a night in both cities and the experience once the throngs have left.
About 15 miles south of Florence is a sight you might not expect. It is the Florence American cemetery and memorial site where 4,400 U.S. solders are interred from the battle for Italy in World War II. For me, these are always special sites to visit and a reminder of our own past.
This past May we visited the Badia di Passignano (The Abbey of Passignano), an ancient monastery dating back to 395 AD, located in the Chianti Classico region. While it is still inhabited by monks, it is also a working winery. We toured the winery and had lunch at the nearby Osteria di Passiganano. Our lunch was excellent as was the assortment of Tuscan wines we sampled.
I hope you enjoyed the pictures and thanks for visiting