A new experience – Taking a Tour to Tuscany
Bob and I were a bit burned out on planning, so we decided to join an Italian tour – 4 days, 3 nights, visiting Pisa, Florence, Sienna, San Gimignano, and Lucca. As we predicted, there were pros and cons.
Pro: We saw a lot in 4 days!
Con: We saw a lot in 4 days!
Our tour stated at 4:00am stepping out of our building into four inches of flood water. (See last weather blogs.) Luca, our friendly taxi driver took us to Gravallone to join the tour, and the bus ride to Tuscany began.
The first stop was Pisa. I thought it was going to be a hokey tourist trap, but I was pleasantly surprised. Once you pass the stalls of tourist knickknacks, you enter the Field of Miracles with its emerald green lawns, bright white marble cathedral, and yes, a leaning tower. It’s just crazy to see the tour defy gravity and of course I couldn’t resist trying to hold it up. Most people come to see the tower, but you can’t miss the rest of Pisa. In our free time, we just roamed the streets, stood on the bridge over the Arno River, and ate slices of pizza in a sunny piazza filled with university students.
Day two – Florence
Florence was predictably amazing! It’s so chock full of great buildings and great art that it’s almost overwhelming. It did surprise us that it’s all in the middle of a very busy gritty city. Guess we thought it would be a little more like a hushed museum. And one of the highlights of the day was finding a little off- the-beaten-track restaurant for lunch, where we enjoyed great food and a chat with the chef.
By the end of day two, I’m tired. The town we’re based in, Montecatini is known for its thermal healing baths, so yep, I ditched the tour on day three, roamed the town and enjoyed the baths. It was just what I needed.
Bob kept the pace of the tour and traveled to Siena and San Gimignano . Here he is to tell you a bit.
These are two of Italy’s most famous tourist attractions, and they deserve the honor. Both are “hill towns” in Tuscany. But beyond that they are very different. San Gimignano is small, remote and isolated. Siena is large and bustling, even in the driving rainstorm we encountered. San Gimignano’s medieval streets are lined with shops selling local specialties like wine and cheese and sausage. Siena is kind of like Beverly Hills meets the Renaissance. I loved them both.
Day four – Lucca
On the last day, we explored the small medieval town of Lucca. It’s a beautiful sleepy city with a huge intact wall surrounding it that is now used as a park. You can actually ride around the whole city, about 3 kilometers. Another highlight of Lucca was that Puccini, the Italian composer, grew up and studied here.
All and all a good tour.