I’m pretty sure if you ask anyone to name a few places they would love to visit, Italy would be one of them. And why not? “Bel Paese” – say what? My attempt at sounding poetic 😉 That means “beautiful country” and there is no arguing that. Italy is ever-so-rich in culture, history, architecture, ruins, unbelievably delicious food, caffè and of course wine! What more can you ask for? Gelato – How can I possibly forget that?!
Rome, Florence, Venice… are the ones that usually make the Italian travel itinerary for most, but why not just steer a little from the usual tourist-beaten path and experience this stunning landscape for all it has to offer.
Travelling through Tuscany can just be the answer. Ok, perhaps it’s not that off-the-beaten-path but it will give you a taste of Italy that will leave you wanting more.
We spent just a little bit of time in Italy last year and it was glorious. Since we were travelling for a full year and didn’t have an endless budget, we had to make a few sacrifices and one of them was to not rent a car in Italy. Oh, how we wished we did! We promised ourselves a return trip back to Italy to explore Tuscany.
We spent a week in Siena and I would return here in a heartbeat. In fact, this is where we would start our road trip.
If visiting during the summer, don’t miss the Contradas marching through the streets of Siena on a Sunday.
Google Val d’Orcia and photos of this beautiful southern part of Tuscany, will leave you with no doubt why it must be part of your road trip. Deciding where to go can be overwhelming sometimes, and perhaps that’s one of the main reasons why most will choose the “safe” locations such as Rome or Florence. But all it takes is just a bit of research and you can find yourself in some stunning parts of the world.
Wandering Italy gives you a pretty good idea of this southern Tuscan beauty and lists the different towns and villages worthy of your time.
“The Val d’Orcia is one of Tuscany’s six World Heritage sites. The valley’s landscape of gentle, rolling hills was the subject of many Renaissance paintings, especially by the painters of the Scuola Senese, The Siena School, mentioned in the Val d’ Orcia’s UNESCO nomination.”
“Bagno Vignoni doesn’t hide its hot springs; the “square of sources” is a 16th century tank for the thermal healing waters coming from an underground source and it’s right in the center of town. The Romans used them, as did weary pilgrims walking along the Via Francigena. Today they’re not used by the public (much–it’s “forbidden”), but the Centro Benessere Le Terme offers treatments involving the waters and if you just want to soak your feet, there are channels cut into the rocks near the parking lot that flow with spa waters. You can see a video of the Terme on YouTube. Just outside of town is the highly-rated Adler Thermae Spa & Relax Resort.”
My friend Linda who is an amazing photographer took this photo during her road trip in Tuscany. Who wouldn’t want to soak in this bath and be hypnotized by the beauty that surrounds it?!
To The North – Northern Tuscany, That is
Once you have your fill of the south, time to turn the car around and head north.
Full Suitcase has some great ideas for a Tuscan road trip. I would perhaps cut some of them out to slow it down.
San Gimignanono & Volterra
Even though these two are pretty popular with the tourists, I would add them to my list. Perhaps stay somewhere nearby in a Tuscan Farmhouse, and take your time exploring the towns. Sometimes, it’s much nicer walking around these villages in the evening once all the “bus” tourists have left
“San Gimignano and Volterra are both relatively small towns and their proximity to each other means that you can easily visit them in one day. In my previous post you can read more about what to see and do in San Gimignano and in Volterra.”
Not A Nomad Blog gives us 10 reasons why we should fall in love with Lucca. Her photos certainly make me want to fall in love.
“The smooth cobblestone streets shone in the rain and reflected buildings that still managed to be bright and vivid in spite of heavy grey skies. Every shop looked like the platonic Italian market. And of course, high fashion shops mixed seemlessly with the local ones. Lucca, like Italian style, is a mesh of effortless beauty and timelessness. The city’s cohesive color scheme was meant to be immoralized in photos – and you bet I obliged.”
And what better way to finish the road trip than by spending a few days in a much quieter, less-travelled part of Tuscany.
“Garfagnana is a rugged, mountainous area in the northwest corner of Tuscany north of Lucca. It’s wilder and more isolated than the rolling hills and vineyards that make up the classic central Tuscan landscape, with winding mountain roads, gushing rivers and medieval towns perched on top of hills.”
I’m always on the lookout for destinations where most people haven’t got wind of and this certainly sounds like a place we must get to before the word gets out. Oh wait, I think I’m putting the word out…
“Garfagnana receives far fewer tourists than the Tuscany heavyweights like Florence and Siena, but that’s part of the charm. Although central Tuscan hill towns like San Gimignano are gorgeous you have to fight your way through the narrow lanes with bus loads of other tourists, whereas in the Garfagnana you can have equally picturesque towns like Barga almost to yourself.”
I can just see the boys rolling their eyes when I show them this picture. We do love to climb 😉
“Al Benefizio is on a small farm run by welcoming Francesca who is happy to show you around her bee hives and olive groves. There are a few donkeys, chickens, and a vegetable patch as well as the bees and olives. The most striking thing about the farm is the setting – the view is truly spectacular. It’s a blissfully tranquil location surrounded by farmland, forests and mountains with Barga perched on the mountain opposite, but easy to reach only a few kilometres away.”
The idea of staying at a farmhouse is fantastic and it’ll definitely be something we’ll do on our next visit to Italy 🙂