Travels around Tuscany

Italy is one of my favourite places not only because I have family there (Parma) but also I love the many different areas – the Puglian trullis, the fabulous scenery and  breath taking drives around the Amalfi coast, the Sicilian culture – not forgetting the fabulous food and wine! We had never been to Tuscany and decided it was time to go and see what all the fuss was about!

My Week in Tuscany

Our Easyjet plane landed on time at Pisa, it’s much cheaper to fly here than to Florence and we picked up our hire car from Budget, which was a  bargain £99 for the week. The car hire collection point is accessed via a 2 minute free bus ride and was one of the easiest car hire pick up/returns we have had along with the bonus of being given a free upgrade. This was a very positive start.

Il Castelle, Certaldo AltaWe set out for our first stop, La Fonte in Certaldo, where we were staying for four nights. Our first visit was to San Gimignano, which we did like but we found it very touristy and much preferred the old town of Certaldo. Here we were lucky enough to witness an Italian wedding which provided a great opportunity to experience a true Italian event and watch all the characters enjoy themselves.  Sadly, we did not discover the relevance of the various metal life-sized men placed around the town, one of which was perched on top of a high tower, an art installation perhaps?

Certaldo Alto was accessed via a funicular railway which stays open until late (costs 1 euro each way). It was far less touristy than San Gimignano and therefore was not as crowded. We enjoyed two excellent meals in Certaldo Alto– at Il Castello  and L’Antica Fonte  – both with lovely views (see photos).

The owner of La Fonte strongly recommended taking the train to Florence (about 10 euros for a return ticket, the journey takes just under an hour to Santa Maria station, where you get off). It’s vital to check and double check train times as these can change at the last minute somewhat unpredictably.

SienaSiena was next on the agenda and this was the only place where we hadn’t pre-booked accommodation. We found a brilliant hotel within 10 minutes’ walking distance of the Duomo, main square, restaurants & bars etc. It is the Hotel Villa Liberty and cost only 133 euros for B&B in a very good location. The only downside of our stay in Siena was that minutes after getting seated “al fresco” in our chosen restaurant that evening, the heavens opened!

En route to Lucca the following day we decided to take a detour to Volterra which I had read about in the tour guide. Volterra is another walled city and most definitely worth the journey. The countryside views en route were stunning and sadly I conceded that many were better than in the UK! And it wasn’t raining……

Our arrival at Albergo Villa Casanova was far later than we planned so we did not really have that much time to relax – this 5 star boutique hotel certainly had the “Wow” factor but at a price! Leaving the luxury of Casanova behind we set out for a morning sightseeing in Lucca before making our way to our last destination of Pisa .

We wished we had allowed more time for Lucca – we noticed many people cycling around the city walls and would have liked to have done the same. We did manage to get lost in the maze of streets but fortunately the lady I asked understood my Italian….and more importantly. I understood her directions!

We had decided to return the car a day early as the cost of parking the car in hotel garage was around the same price as taxis to/from the airport. We also felt it would be less stressful than the usual car hire return palaver, but I must say it was one of the easiest car hire returns ever!

The Royal Victoria Hotel in Pisa cost only £99 for B&B. Described as a very old antique hotel we appreciated it was going to be vastly different to the luxury we had experienced at Casanova but it was perfect for a short stay.

The Fields of Miracles was within 10-15 minutes walking distance from our hotel with many bars & restaurants en route – obviously the closer to The Tower the more you pay. We chose a bar on the corner directly opposite the Tower and were pleasantly surprised to receive four delicious mini paninis along with our Peronis!

Leaning Tower of PisaI had wanted to see the Leaning Tower for as long as I could remember and l was not disappointed. It has benefited from a “wash & brush up” and looked marvellous. We could not believe the extent that tourists were going to get  wacky photos – what a laugh! And …yes…we got a few of our own too-it must be infectious. We will definitely return …in Spring or Autumn maybe.

That evening we chose La Buca restaurant near the Tower – the meal was nice but sadly the service did not match the quality of the food. 

After a few more hours in The Fields of Miracles the following morning we returned to our hotel for the taxi to the airport to catch our late afternoon flight.

Our only regret is that we hadn’t booked a further two or three days in this beautiful part of the world with the ever present scent of Jasmine. We returned feeling like we could do with another more relaxing holiday to totally “chill out”! We hardly had time to read more than a few pages of our books as the sightseeing, travelling  and staying at four different accommodations was quite wearing – not to mention that I was suffering from “photography fatigue” after taking over 800 photos! In future I will bear this in mind or make a point of sightseeing only until mid pm returning to our accommodation for a spot of sunbathing, swimming and to read a few chapters.

Maria Meredith is an active Silver Traveller; when her husband retired two years ago, she decided to join him at the age of 54 (one benefit of marrying an older man!). She has worked in banking, catering and for the last  28 years for M&S at a variety of stores. She has many hobbies, entering competitions and  photography being two of them. Travel has always been a big part of her life – visiting many places in Europe and also destinations further afield such as New Zealand, India & Mauritius. Her first ever cruise was last year to see the Northern Lights. She particularly enjoys reading about different customs and traditions and has many funny stories to share, hence Maria is delighted to be able to contribute to Silver Travel Advisor.

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Maria Meredith

Silver traveller & Forever Living Aloe Vera business owner

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