*I was not financially compensated for this post. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*
While our first stop, Florence, had much to offer in itself, we wanted to explore beyond the city gates and see what the region of Tuscany had to offer our adventurous spirits. Here is a glimpse into our fun-filled itinerary and some day trips you can take while keeping Florence close to the heart. Fun Fact: Tuscany is a region, not a city!
I had no idea Siena existed until my grandfather recommended we travel to see it. It is another beautiful, walled-city in Italy with fun history and magnificent architecture. For instance, check out this cathedral, Duomo di Siena:
It is covered in saints, gold and mosaics. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to go into the duomo and see the historic sculptures and paintings by Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo, but the outside was enough to make your jaw drop.
In addition to the remarkable buildings (and doors!), Siena is famous for its horse race, Palio di Siena. The race is held twice each year, on July 2 and August 16. There are 17 contrade, otherwise known as city wards, and 10 are represented in each race. Ten riders race bareback on their horses and circle the Piazza del Campo. We walked around the piazza and grandpa sat by a fountain while Cain and I explored some more of the city. It was literally uphill both ways! My legs were hurting the next day, but that just meant I could have an extra scoop of gelato.
My grandmother wasn’t able to walk around the city due to the steepness, so she waited for us at the Basilica of San Domenico. Yep, another church! Italy is full of them, just wait until I write about Rome! This one is very important and is connected to St. Catherine of Siena. Funny thing, if you had to go to the bathroom, you had to pay €0.50 for the pleasure of, and there wasn’t even a toilet seat. My grandma wasn’t happy about that one, but apparently, it’s a thing.
2. Castello Di Verrazzano
Now that I’m sitting at home, on my couch with a green smoothie, I can’t stop thinking about this place. I MUST go back. I NEED to go back.
Castello di Verrazzano is a winery that produces a number of wines, but most popular is their Chianti Classico. Seriously, oh my God, it’s delicious. This wine was nectar from the gods, and therefore I had to order 12 bottles right away to greet me upon my return to America. *Disclaimer, it was only 11 bottles of wine and one bottle of Rosé, because hello…Rosé.
This was our spread, and when this came out I thought to myself, “Damn, this is the best lunch ever and I’m in Heaven!” Well, this wasn’t lunch, this was the appetizer. The meal only got better from here…
Before we were served out delightful lunch, we were taken on a tour throughout the winery. Cain and I learned about their grapes, wines and history. It was fascinating to see barrels of wine twice the size of myself (I’m 5’10 so that’s saying a lot) and to smell the fermenting grapes as we stepped through each door and walked through the cool, dark cellars. We also learned that if you are looking for a true bottle of decent Chianti, look for the sticker of a rooster on the bottle.
Fun Fact: You might have heard the name Verrazzano before! Does the Verrazzano Bridge in New York City sound familiar? Giovanni da Verrazzano was a famous European explorer and is responsible for discovering much of the Atlantic Coast of the United States.
Here are some pictures to indulge your inner wino:
I mean, we had to do it, right?
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, is apparently not The Leaning Tower of Pizza. Of course I knew this, but my young, five-year old self was curious, “How the heck did the Italians make the pizza stay up!?” You live and learn, I guess.
Even though I was truly honored to see this magnificent world wonder, it was a bit anti-climatic. Right outside the entrance to this historic site, people were trying to scam you with $5 Ray-Bans and touristy merchandise. It’s convenient if you want a leaning coffee mug, but I wanted to see one of the seven wonders of the medieval world.
A few fun facts I learned even though we didn’t get to take a tour into the tower itself:
- It is located in the Square of Miracles (Piazza dei Miracoli)
- The cathedral and baptistery are also sinking
- Galileo was baptized in the baptistery in 1565
- The foundation of the cemetery, Campo Santo, is made up of 53 shiploads of earth that were brought back from the Hill of Calvary in Jerusalem
There are so many small cities, and historical sites to see outside of Florence. These are just the three we had time for, however, they were worth every mile driven and every Dramamine taken!