A TASTE OF TUSCANY

It’s been six months since I moved to New York. Eight months since I left Australia. Almost a year since leaving London.

These are all realities that I am not prepared to accept. Reminders that life travels just as quickly as I do.

I was in midst of preparing for three months of traveling around Europe at this time last year. It feels as though it were yesterday. I now have PTSD each time I begin researching travel destinations. Hostels, flight comparisons, currency exchanges. I still have so much to share from my time spent overseas last year. Memories that have been kept locked away all year…

until now.

These lost files, as I like to refer to them, are ready to be recovered. The stories, the photos, the lessons learned. I am ready to finally share them. It’s true, I had some devastating things happen to me last year. But I had many more magical moments.

So, as I sit here listening to the instrumental soundtrack to P.S. I Love You {you simply cannot have writers block with this as your background}, I begin.

To start, I have uncovered a piece I previously drafted. My travel partner and I were on our way to Venice after leaving Florence, back in September of last year. Italy was one of my favorite countries in all of Europe, for very obvious reasons. And this day in particular, left an impression.

Enjoy!

As we continue our travels through Italy, France, Switzerland, and Germany, the stops are shorter and the amount of time traveling on trains is longer. It seems to be a never-ending struggle when you attempt to visit too many destinations in such a limited amount of time. I am aware of how impossible it is to truly immerse yourself in a part of the world when you are simply passing through cities. That’s why I lived in London for six months prior to full time traveling. Three months in Europe is about enough time to gain a few pounds from the delicious food {which I most definitely have}, take some cheesy tourist pictures, and exhaust yourself living in hostels and Air Bnb’s. I wish I could return every few months to visit a new destination, and stay for multiple weeks in just that one place. But for now, I will continue to make the most of my ‘stop over’ cities.

After leaving Rome, we made our way to Florence. The two of us arrived in the morning and spent the afternoon eating pasta at the San Lorenzo Market, climbing to Piazza Michelangelo for a spectacular view, and sharing some complementary wine once back to our Air Bnb.

The next morning we were to be up at the butt crack of dawn for an entire 12 hour day trip through Tuscany. I am not always game for organized tours, and would usually prefer to set my own itinerary and time schedule. However, Tuscany is such a vast area that it truly requires some effort if you want to explore it on your own. And who really wants to be the sober driver when wine tasting?

I booked an excursion with Walkabout Tours after reading how highly rated they were on Trip Advisor. We arrived at the Santa Maria Novella train station at 8:30 AM to begin our journey.

Our morning started with Siena. This beautiful city, which thrived mainly from the banking industry, was a great place to begin our day. We were given a walking tour with a local tour guide who lead us through winding streets with the least amount of symmetry to them. It was a city formed without any blueprints. And that gave it all the charm in the world.

We were granted entry into the main cathedral, Duomo, with our tour and then allowed a half hour of free time before leaving for our next destination.

By the time we left Sienna, it was noon. Our stomachs were grumbling and our tastebuds were watering. We made our way through the stunning landscape of Tuscany until we arrived at a Chianti winery near San Gimignano. We were given a tour of the barrel room, the cow barn, and the vineyards.

I knew this portion of the day would allow me to be in my element. Working for the wine industry back in California proved to only increase my love of wine. If that was even possible. And driving through Tuscany made me nostalgic of home. Dry Creek in Sonoma County resembles the rolling hills of Tuscany with lush greenery and breathtaking landscapes. Making a comparison like this one, and from this side of the world, made me truly appreciate where I come from.

It has been a dream of mine to visit the Italian countryside and wine taste in Tuscany. Little did I know, this experience would be so similar to wine tasting in Sonoma Country. It is all too easy to take for granted what we have in our own backyard. We all fall victim to this. But that is another joy of traveling! To make these comparisons and observations, and return home with more of an appreciation for the things once taken for granted.

We made our way to a farm where we would be fed a fully organic, four course meal. It started with homemade bruschetta with garlic and extra virgin olive oil, followed with penne pasta covered in bologna sauce. We were then served a variety of meats and cheeses. And finally, dessert included biscotti of which you dipped into wine and not coffee! {this was emphasized}

Speaking of wine, with each course, one bottle was brought to the table for a group of four people to share. This was the exception to your typical wine tasting experience. Your ‘tastings’ were full glasses of wine. And if your neighbors did not require an entire glass, you were blessed with the excess. It’s true what they say, Italians know how to make a good wine!

By this time in the day, I was on cloud nine. And not entirely because of the consumption of wine by the point, thought it might of had something to do with it.

I was content.

After wine tasting, we headed to San Gimignano for award-winning gelato {details to come} and some free time. Towards the end of the afternoon, we finally made our way to Pisa. The drive was beautiful, but I must say I was exhausted. Luckily, there wasn’t much happening in Pisa other than the infamous tower. This was absolutely fine by me as I was ready to head back to Florence for some much needed shut eye.

Overall, I would recommend the Best of Tuscany Tour to anyone visiting the area. The tour costs 90 euros for each person and comes with fully guided tours of Sienna and the Tuscany region, a four course lunch, and a {generous} wine tasting.

Things to note:

– All tours are given in English

– Tours are offered every single day from March to November {a more limited schedule is offered during the off-peak season}

– They offer vegetarian and gluten free options

– You can bring any luggage with you on board should you need to

– The tour actually lasts 12 hours so be prepared for a long day!

– Kids are free

Coming up next, What’s All the Fuss About Florence?

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