Today starts a new Series in Italy, called TTT, Traipsing Through Tuscany. Traipsing through the hill towns to be exact. Getting off the beaten track has been some of our best excursions! A bit of advice, we flew into Florence where we took a cab into the city. So we will begin in Florence. After spending a week here we went back to the airport and got a rental car to drive on through Tuscany and the hill towns. We spent a week in Montepulciano. As a home base it was perfect. We explored surrounding hill towns, always coming back to Montepulciano in the evenings, and then we drove on to Rome. We dropped the car off at the Rome Airport and took a cab into Rome, where we stayed another week. Much easier! You could not pay me enough to drive in the bigger cities and spend a great deal of time just looking for a place to park. There aren’t any parking spaces to be found! Save yourself the headache!
Florence, by far is my favorite biggish city in Italy. It is easily walkable, with museums, restaurants and shopping galore. If museums are not your thing, there is plenty of beautiful outdoor art such as sculptures, icons, buildings, bridges and churches to keep you interested. One of the rituals, near our hotel, was a woman artist who sketched daily with colored chalk on the pedestrian-only street. This was truly a street scene because her sketching would cover a large section of ground. She would work on it all day. It was beautiful! Very early the next morning between 4am and 5am the street cleaners would come through with their brushing machines and brooms and wash it all away. Around ten in the morning she would start again with a new scene. Unbelievable!
To see the highlights of Florence we took walking tours that also included the museums. We tried for months to get tickets for the major museums and there were none to be had online. They were available through tour groups. In the end it worked out well because we never had to stand in line to get in the museums, and there were long, long lines. The downside is WE could have spent more time IN the museums, hours and hours. The tour group went to the major and most appealing exhibits, and that would be fine for most. The four tours we took were offered by Art Viva. They were the Original Florence Walk, the Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery Tour, and the Original David Tour. These walks are long, at least three hours each with additional time added for the museums! Wear comfortable shoes! The English speaking walk leaders are very knowledgable, and we stopped occasionally for a cuppa, (wine, coffee, tea) always at good locations for people watching! We took three tours in one day and I was pooped, but from then on we knew where everything was and went back to the areas we wanted to spend more time in on other days. On another evening we took the Original Evening Walk in Oltrarno, which included a wine and olive oil tasting! We had a wonderful time on these walks and there are many to choose from!
On this visit we stayed at the Hotel Davanzati, a small boutique hotel located near the Uffitzi Gallery and right across the street from where the Original Florence Walk started each morning. This was good because we didn’t have to walk a great deal before we started the walk. Entering a doorway in the historical area there are a number of stairs to climb to reach a tiny elevator that takes you to the reception area and then to the upper room floors of the Davanzati Hotel. The owner and his son were there everyday to recommend restaurants and sights to see, provide maps and answer any questions we had. The breakfasts and late afternoon wine/happy hour gatherings were a big hit. The rooms were tastefully decorated and immaculate. After a lovely week in Florence we were in a rental car and on our way to Montepulciano, to get a taste of the countryside, the hill towns, and the slower pace of Italian life. See you in San Gimignano!
For more information about Hotel Davanzati see: http://www.hoteldavanzati.it
For more information about the Art Viva walking Tours see: http://www.italy.artviva.com