This holiday was a press trip hosted by Bookings For You. Some of activities featured in this post have been gifted (marked with *) however all words and opinions are (as always) 100% mine.
And so we get to the final post about my Italian advertures… It’s really all over now. Sob.
BUT – I do get to share some of the fabulous things I did, saw and (my favourite) tasted, so if you’re heading to Tuscany inthe future you know some of the great things to experience in the area.
- Take a food tour
One of the key reasons I wanted to visit Italy was to eat, so having someone show me the best places to do it made perfect sense!
The first was wine and nibbles at Enoteca Alessi and I legit have never seen a room so filled with alcohol in my life… (check out the Italy 2019 story highlight on my Instagram to get a better view) It was quite the work of art really.
As well as some the region’s best Chianti, I was introduced to mushroom and truffle oil sandwiches, yummy local cheeses and THE BEST pork I’ve ever tasted.
Next up we stopped at a local street food vendor that’s been established for decades to try something a little different. The picture below is what I had – a crusty bread roll with seasoned tripe which was delicious (there were also veggie options available for those in our group who had flagged this in advance).
Moving on to a sit down mini feast (with more wine, hic) at Aqua Al 2 whic is a great little eatery off a one of the side streets decorate with fairly lights and plates designed and signed by previous celebrity visitors.
Everything we ate here was meat free, and we had three dishes – this deliciously simple pasta made with thick noodles, garlic, tomato, basil and oil, an eggplant/spinach/parmesan dish (I can’t remember the remember the name) and (something else I’ve forgotten the name of) a dish of fresh tomatoes seasoned with oil and basil that I gratuitously spread on fresh bread. Everything tasted so rich, delicious and comforting, which is what I’d hoped Italian food would be.
We rounded off the tour with dessert – gelato in the main Piazza.
This place is well known for their blackberry flavour, however I wanted to have somethind traditionally Tuscan so the staff selected me a combo of Italian cream and chocolate in a cone.
Our guide Rafaella was just the best, by the end of the day I was calling her Mama Italia and asking her to adopt me (which she seemed very amenable to) she was so kind an knowledgeable and genuinely keen to ensure we had a great day.
- Take an art class
So this one probably sounds like it caters to a very specific interest, and it definitely can, but we had the opportunity to do something that was easy to follow and therefore we’ll within my cabaility.
The lovely Lisa from Arte Al Sole introduced us to a Canadian artist called Jen who took us through the process of Florentine paper making. This basically involved dropping paint into water, making pretty patterns and transferring them onto paper (I’m leaving out a lot of the technical bit in this discription).
I end up doing three ‘prints’ as I kept seeing everyone else’s colour combinations and wanting to copy! I’ve brought all of them home and will definitely be finding a place for them on my walls.
(Its also worth mentioning that Arte Al Sole offer a lot of family, kids and private art and cultural experiences throughout Italy; including those where they’ll take your little ones away to activities for a little bit whilst you enjoy the culture and surroundings, uninterrupted.)
- Enjoy a wine tasting
As we were staying on a vineyard, it would’ve been rude not to sample the Mansalto Toscano produce!
Francesca, who was also our main contact and host for the villa, introduced us to their Chianti and rose brut prosecco.
This is without exception the best prosecco I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve already reached out to Francesca to arrange to buy and ship some of it back to the UK.
As an extra treat, we also met one of the wine makers who gave us a tour of the wine cellar.
This may be one of the last times the general public are allowed in the barrel room – apparently having people in there can risk bacteria contaminating the wine which could alter the taste, and I think we can all agree it’d be a shame to let some bloody good grapes to waste by doing that.
- Learn how to cook the real Italian way
Its all very well eating your way around Italy, but if you also learn a few culinary tips then you can bring the magic home to your own kitchen!
Thanks to the very kind Massimo, we visited his restaurant Massimo Rossi Belvedere to try our hand at a bit of pasta making. We tried a few different varieties such as lasagne, ravioli and tagliatelle, all of which the Belvedere chefs cooked for us (as well as add delicious sauces) for us to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
I’m going to be honest and say that this was not my strongest skill of the week (I’d also started to get really poorly so was a shivering, blubbering wreck) however I clocked the gals who did well in preparation for a future dinner invitations. I also learnt how to make lasagne the real Italian way (no pasta top, parmesan in every layer) which I’ve since tried at home.
Massimo’s generosity bookmarked both ends of our visit – on the first night of our stay he sent Paolo, one of his chefs, to our villa to cater our very own pizza party. And my word, the man knows how to put a topping on a nice bit of dough. I know I’ve said this a lot throughout this post, but this is geuinely the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. I tried pizza elsewhere on our trip, and it was nice (obviously, its still pzza after all) but it didn’t come anywhere close to this.
- Wander around Italian towns and cities
I may not be lucky enough to visit this part of the world again, I took every opportunity to cram in time everywhere I could, it made things a bit more tiring but I’d encourage this as it helped me really appreciate the beauty of the whole region.
Siena was about 30 minutes away from the villa by car. It was filled with delicious smelling leather stores, cute little cafes and vintage stores (I was on the cusp of being enticed by a 1950s Chanel handbag).
Oh Florence. If you’re in Tuscany, please don’t miss this off your list! I enjoyed my time here so much I got a bit teary when staring up at the Duomo, which is an absolutely massive and very beautiful marble building.
Getting into the main building, g is free, but the real money shot is by paying 18€ and climbing 414 steps to the top of this tower to see the whole of Florence. If you’re physically able to, do it. It nearly finished me off but it was worth it, and I suppose it did work off some of the food we had earlier in the day…
Pisa is very pretty, but there’s not loads and loads to do so a couple of hours is perfect.
We got up a couple of hours early before our flight home and stopped to see the Leaning Tower and have one last pizza (priorities) I genuinely thought it was going to just be ‘one more thing to say I’ve seen’ but I was actually blown away but how stunning the building is in real life. Its made of beautiful marble and has other buildings around it that are just as gorgeous.
I obviously tried to get the typical tourist shot of touching the tower, but I sucked so I’m not posting it! As you can imagine, it’s very busy with people taking photos, so be prepared to nail the photos you want quickly or have photo bombers.
The streets of Pisa are very pretty and colourful to wander down and sit to enjoy a drink and watch the world go by.
Walking back to the car we noticed there was a gorgeous botanical garden but didn’t have time to go in, definitely one to look out for on a wander of the city.
This is more of a Hamlet than a town, situated very high up on a hillside.
First of all, the journey up here makes for some pretty incredible views
Its possible to drive up, but we parked in the town below and rode up on the Funicolare (a cable car thingy) which cost 1,50€ for a return trip and took about 5 minutes to reach the top.
The views were pretty great when we got there too!
It’s a beautiful Medieval walled town that has beautiful Italian buildings that house eateries, shops and galleries. Quite a bit more than you’d expect from a tiny place!
We were lucky enough to get a guided walk around by Arte Al Sole’s Lisa (and her lovely pooch Archibald, who I got to walk)
At the top is this beautiful Town Hall run by a Mayoral staff and where couples can marry for the bargain price of 550€ – the photo opportunities up there for your big day are IMMENSE.
And that, as that say, is a wrap on Italy 2019! Such a great experience, huge thanks once again to Bookings For You on and Violet Glenton for providing such an awesome location and itinerary to enjoy!
Thanks for reading,