Showing posts with label Florence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florence. Show all posts

My Two Weeks in Italy: Under the Tuscan Sun

Aug 6, 2022

Tuscany! The land of wine, T-bone steaks, scenery, history and sunshine.

This wasn't our first trip to Tuscany, but for some reason it felt different. Do you ever return to a place and have a completely different experience? That is how we felt on this trip. We stayed in Florence for only one night in August five years ago, and toured the gardens and museums. It was absolutely beautiful, but we were about to have a heat stroke. The odd thing is it is ten degrees cooler than Houston, but feels just as hot. Skip the summer months if you can!

Knowing how hot it could be in the summer we stayed near the Ponte Vecchio Bridge near all of the main sights. Our hotel had an amazing view of the Arno river, too. 

Instead of staying in the Tuscan countryside for the majority of our trip, we did a one day tour of three wineries instead. In retrospect, I wish we had stayed in the country. Florence is amazing, but I think once you've seen the sights one time you can relax and do the fun stuff aka wine tasting. My reasoning to stay in Florence is that the countryside is very sleepy. Make sure you book a resort that has a restaurant and bar. A pool is a must too if you go in the summer. 

We arrived in the afternoon and walked our friends to the Duomo. I mean, you can't go to Florence without seeing the Duomo or the Ponte Vecchio Bridge! 

Our friends then did some shopping while I had my daily gelato, and then we went back to our hotel to get ready for our dinner reservation at Natalino. I saw it recommended by a fancy hotel online, and noticed it had the Florentine steaks my husband had requested. I booked it with that in mind. I had no idea what I would eat, but ended up with the most most amazing lasagna ever. It was one of our least expensive meals as well. My husband shows off his steak to everyone. He cannot get it out of his head!

We walked around after dinner to the historic Piazza Signoria where an orchestra was playing, and then along the Arno River at sunset. It was absolutely magical! I take back what I said earlier. Stay in Florence as long as you do this in the evening. I almost get teary eyed thinking about her perfect it was. The beautiful architecture, the fountains, the people and the music all came together at sunset to create a spectacular evening. Maybe even a romantic one?

Imagine this sight with the fountain running and an orchestra playing in the background...

Then we went back to enjoy the rooftop at our hotel. There isn't a bar so we took the wine we bought earlier in Lake Como upstairs. If your hotel doesn't have a rooftop overlooking the river, definitely reserve a table at rooftop bar to watch the sunset.

The next day we headed out at 9am with a driver to make it to our first winery, Castello di Verrazzano. We stopped here five years ago for a quick wine tasting in the restaurant. We always said we would go back and do the full tour because it was so beautiful. 

However, I have to admit I was really bored on the tours this trip. They last way too long compared to American ones. I just want a brief overview and to taste the wine. Opt for a meal at the restaurant instead where you can pair the wine. After an hour we finally got to sit down and taste the wine, and the balsamic vinegar. We bought a way too expensive bottle of balsamic, but when in Tuscany...wear white. Just kidding! It does look like we're at a white party here.

Then we were off to our favorite, Tenuta Torciano! If you've followed me for a while you know that we not only visited this winery five years ago, but we had them do a wine party at our house the next year. It sounds super fancy, but it's free and they provide the wine. They just ask that you invite at least 12 people. We had a little over 20. We had it catered by a local Italian restaurant, and rented some tables to place by the pool, but the cost was minimal. It does look like Tuscany with the cypress trees in our backyard so it was the perfect setting. My guests weren't required to buy anything, but they broke sales records that night! I'm not surprised because Texans are known from Napa to Italy for their love of wine. So of course we had to go back!

One of the reasons I love this Tenuta Torciano is because they have wineries all over Tuscany so you can visit their main one in San Gimignano, but sample all of the varieties. I also love that there isn't a wine tour. We sat down and had an amazing lunch paired with so many wines that I couldn't even count them. 

My husband of course immediately drops red sauce on his white shirt. Thankfully, I always carry Shout wipes in my purse for this reason. 

Most of the people working there are part of the family that owns the winery. I absolutely love all of them! One even jumped in to help clean his shirt. 

We walked around the historic town of San Gimignano after this tasting. I wanted our friends to experience it. Montalcino and Montepulciano are very similar so you need to experience only one if you are short on time. I do wish we would have had time to visit Siena. We went on our last trip, and it is definitely worth it. I also regret not having enough to time to visit some of the wineries in Montalcino, especially Banfi

I heard San Gimignano is home to the best gelato in the world. I had to try it out of course. I will say it was the best we had on the trip. I should have taken a photo, but my brain wasn't working right because of the heat and crowds. 

Then we were off to our last winery, Antinori. I was excited about this one because I heard it was the best. However, between the sun, wine and food we were exhausted. I kept falling asleep in the van on the way. I did perk up when we got there a little because it's a beautiful modern winery. I wish we would have skipped the tour and just went right to the tasting area instead. The tour was so long that it was absolutely brutal to get through for everyone. I think out of the 15 or so people there was only one person that didn't seem to want to run out of there. We had three wines at the end of the tour, but they weren't that great. We ordered Antinori bottles twice at restaurants and they were really good. I'm not sure why they chose the wines they did for the tasting. 

There's also a restaurant that has a beautiful view. The menu wasn't our favorite so we opted to have dinner in Florence that night. One thing I realized is that Americans don't eat just enjoy one cuisine. We are probably the only people in the world that have a variety daily. It makes it hard to travel to one country for so many days, and have the same cuisine even if it is amazing. My husband was craving Tex-Mex and happened to find a place in Florence that served it. Well, it is more Baja, but close enough!

The next morning we had time to walk around the city before we left for Rome on our train. We stayed in the shopping area, but I hadn't been really interested yet in going in any stores until I saw Ginori! I absolutely love their dishes. I have always had my eye on these, but I found some that I even like better. I haven't looked online yet to see if I can find them here. I have an art piece coming in for my dining room that is between blue and green in color so I want to see how it looks before buying them. 

So then we were off to Rome!