Ever since I visited Italy 7 years ago (when did that time passed by?!) I've been dreaming of going back and exploring more. So when we were brainstorming places for a short European escape, it was a natural choice. And more specifically Tuscany. Flying in and out of Bologna airport, we opted to spend our almost 3 days in this beautiful wine-friendly area outside the big cities and enjoy a slowly, Italian lifestyle.
For the purpose, renting a car was essencial. My choice again was the most obvious and in my opinion, the most Italian one - a Fiat 500. And to be honest, I was really hoping to not get an upgrade on it, as I genuinely wanted that car. My first car was a Fiat and ever since they launched the renewed model of the 500, I've always been a fan of it, even though it's kind of small for me. As we got our car, we headed south to a typical Tuscan villa that was going to be our home for the next two nights. The highway between Bologna and Florence has several tunnels, some of which more than 6-7 km long, so we didn't had much option for a landscape appreciation. We arrived at Villa Barberino already at night (with a delay of 1:30h due to traffic going outside Florence) and we were welcomed by the cutest hosts. A group of baby boars has passed the gates of the property and appeared running in the gardens. And later, when we went for a short stroll after dinner, we kind of spotted the shadow of a deer running between the olive trees.
With the daylight of the following morning, the enchanting beauty of Tuscany and this 14-th century villa were revealed. Meleto (the small town where the villa is located) in 1340 was the capital of the League of Avane - a federation of municipalities in the Florentine countryside, and had its seat at the Barberino Castle. The villa has its own vineyards and olive production, although in the past years they are producing only red and rosé wine, and very few olive oil. We did wine tasting in the afternoon, after chilling by the pool, and my love for Italian wines got even stronger.
The next day we left our tuscan, peaceful paradise and headed to beautiful Siena. Traffic inside the city is only allowed to locals living in the area, so we had to leave our car on a parking lot outside the old town. It was a paid parking and when we arrived it was full, so when we got in, there was only one tiny spot available. More like a half spot actually. Thankfully, we also had a tiny, cute car to fit in it.
Siena and its colours really reflect Tuscany in my opinion. The streets are high, with hills going up and down, the buildings stone and pavement are reddish like the soil and at every corner there was an enoteca, offering local wines. Of course we easily found our way to the slightly amphitheatre-shaped Pizza del Campo and decided to climb all the 400 steps of Torre Mangia. The ticket costs 10 euros and the recommended time of visit is not more than 30 minutes.
After having a home-made pasta for lunch at a cute, little terrace with views of the Duomo near by, we went for a closer look. From there we easily found ourselves at Piazza del Campo again. It was almost as the streets were rolling around the main square like a snail. The afternoon sun felt so good at the warm red brick, I wanted to just lay there forever. Or at least until the sun goes away. But I couldn't. We had to leave as our Italian road trip was at its peak. Thank goodness for no-data-roaming in EU anymore.
Our next stop was more than 100 km away - Pisa. Although it was probably the fastest visit to Pisa anyone has ever made. We went there, snapped it, enjoyed some delicious ice-cream while observing the million tourists around trying to take the perfect "supporting-the tower" shot and left. Don't get me wrong - the entire Piazza del Duomo is a really beautiful place with its own unique atmosphere. The first time I've experienced it I took the "supporting-the tower" picture as well (several actually) and even climbed to its top.
At that point we still had no idea where we would spend the night and apparently hotels in Italy don't always allow checking-in late (after 20h). We were keen on going to Cinque Terre, spending the night there and exploring some of the small towns the next day, but we were still far away and would never arrive on time to check-in in the few properties still available to book. So, we sticked to our inicial idea of going to Lucca and booked a beautiful countryside 18-th century villa. Checked-in quickly and went to town for a walk and dinner. Lucca's Renaissance walls are very well preserved and give a great opportunity to see the city cycling on them. We were not in a mood for cycling, so instead we entered the tiny streets to explore them on foot. And similarly to Siena they reminded me of a snail rolling around the Piazza dell' Anfiteatro.
We found several other, smaller squares as well, nestled in between the gorgeous, Italian architecture, that in my opinion were more interesting and cozy. We ended up having dinner (and trying the best ravioli in my life!) in a small street, close to Piazza dell' Anfiteatro. On our way back to the hotel we accidentally passed by the local Luna Park, so we turned the car and went back to the city for some midnight fun.
Our little getaway was coming to an end but we had some extra hours on our last day, before catching the flight back home.We left Lucca after breakfast and as we got to the highway the rain was already extremely strong. We've experienced a thunderstorm during our second night at Vila Barberino, but it was nothing like this. No wonder it got on the news for the worse reasons.
We were able to escape it and as we were going north the rain was slowly stopping and when we arrived in Modena it was sunny and very hot. Unfortunately, we had only around two hours there, so we did not get to visit Enzo Ferrari's Museum, but we did see some Ferraris on the streets. We enjoyed our time having a peaceful walk around the city centre and observe its local life. It was Saturday and surprisingly to me, most of the people we met on the streets were locals. But seeing this old lady on her bike really made my day.
Of course we saw the Duomo of Modena and Torre della Ghirlandina at Piazza Grande which, all three of them are UNESCO World Heritage since 1997.
Passing by the Portico del Collegio we ended up at a local flower and antique fair, taking place at Corso Canal Grande. We had lunch at Piazza XX de Settembre which is surrounded by colourful buildings on the one side and the red brick facade of Banco S. Geminiano e S. Prospero on the other.
This Italian getaway was a dream come true, but there's still so much more to explore in this beautiful country. No matter how many times I get to go back, it seems that it only teases my apetite for more. We chose to visit only the smaller towns in Tuscany, although I'd like to also go back at least to Venice, Florence and Rome, and explore more of the south. Next time hopefully. In the meantime we made some new and special memories to motivate us for the next time to not take too long.