TRAVEL: A road trip through Tuscany

A road trip through Tuscany

As you may or may not know, last week, Anka and I were cruising through Tuscany and we had a blast! It was Eat, Pray, Love but we replaced the praying by more eating. So, in fact, our road trip would be titled Eat, Eat, Love.

It was my first time in Tuscany and Anka's second. We started out the visit with Florence. It's a nice city, loaded with culture but it didn't appeal to me as much as Rome does. The Duomo is quite impressive and beautiful though. After climbing the 400+ steps to the top we admired a well deserved view!

Florence's Basilica from a side street Inside Florence's Basilica View from the Duomo A love affair in Florence

Needless to say, we ate like kings! Products are fresh, dishes are simple yet delicious! La Bistecca Fiorentina is a must but as a single dish! We had no idea it was so big and had antipasti as well as primi piati before the humongous piece of meat arrived! Another highly recommended place for a quick lunch is Cantinetta dei Verrazzano (via dei Tavolini 18/20R). Their truffle focaccia and various bruschettas are a delight!

At the mercato Window wash in a vinateca Comune di Firenze

What I enjoyed most in Florence, other than the food, was to observe the people living the Dolce Vita. Literally the sweet life. Taking time to relax, to socialize and enjoy the oh so sweet mediterranean lifestyle. I sometimes wish we could adopt this way of living and step out of our stressed lives.

Observing tourists Small talk Alone in the world Italian mammas

Leaving Florence we went to The | Mall, a high end fashion outlet which is south of Florence, not north! Thank you Lonely Planet! Honestly, although we did buy some things, it's not really worth it. Even the outlet prices are outrageous! But if you dig deep enough, you might find the rare good deal. We then stopped in San Gimignano for the night. It's a small medieval city. What we saw (and that wasn't much) was nice, but not really special. I am sure there it has lots to offer, we just didn't have much time. On the other hand, it did offer some nice views of the countryside.

Typical Tuscan landscape

Our next stop was Siena. Now that was very nice and charming! Such a cute little city. It has a great atmosphere, especially on Piazza del Campo. Unfortunately it is crawling with tourists, and not the good kind either! Nevertheless, it's most definitely a place to see but I would avoid going during the summer! It must be a mad house!

Italian dryer A small shop filled with good stuff Streets of Siena Warm colors in a warm city

We walked around a bit, visited the Duomo — again, grand and beautiful — enjoyed some lunch and gelato and headed north, to Lucca driving through the Chianti region. Beautiful scenery!

Conflict of style Inside the cathedral in Siena Mmmmmh, pizza! Double mmmmmmmh, gelato!

Lucca was a true gem! A very pleasant surprise! It is small, cute and authentic! Sure, I was surprised to see a Foot Locker there but it's definitely there for the locals. Of course, there are tourists but a lot less than anywhere else.

Reflection of Piazza del Anfiteatro Pigeon flying out of a wall Street performer in Lucca Lucca by night

The first night we were there we met, through a common friend, a very nice couple, originally from London. They were so nice, they prepared a list of things to do and restaurant to try. Among those great recommendations were:

  • Pizza da Felice — A fried chick pea puree pizza. Sounds weird. It's INCREDIBLE! The gastronomic highlight of our trip.
  • Bar Tambelini — outside the walls of Lucca, approximately 15 minutes drive. Order Tortelli Lucchese. Delicious.
  • Gigi — a nice little trattoria inside the walls of Lucca. Cute place, great food!

Lucca was our base for three days and we took daily trips to different locations from there. One of them was Pisa. The city of the leaning tower. I had never seen it. I expected it to be bigger and more "isolated". I never realized it was so close to other buildings. It was nice to see and it was a lot of fun seeing tourists strike strange poses. They are playing with perspectives but from my point of view, they just looked strange! HAHA!

Strange people in Pisa

I obviously had to play tourist too. Here is the proof of that.

Pisa's leaning tower Josh supporting Pisa tower

On our way home we stopped for lunch in the very scenic town of Portofino. There is something strange in that port but you don't really notice what it is until you look closely. It seems the walls are sculpted but it's a trompe l'oeil, they are painted!

Anka in Portofino Painted facade in Portofino Portofino from above Portofino homes

It all sounds very idyllic but a as you know there is always a but. The italians drive like mad men! They drive really close to you, even at high speeds, pass you in blind turns, etc. I've rarely experienced something like that! It's like they forget the dolce vita when behind the wheel. Another thing, they definitely like to bend the rules as you can see in the pictures below! (;

Parking italian style Read the sign…

Apart from the downsides above, I loved Tuscany and I would most definitely recommend it to anyone. It's a beautiful, calm and romantic place. Food is fantastic and mostly affordable, people are open and friendly and I would go back in the blink of an eye!

On a photographic point of view, I come back extremely inspired by all the art I saw. Especially how the great Renaissance Masters studied and managed light. Although the mediums are different, some rules and techniques are identical and we have lots to learn from the Great of the past.