Sarah our Marketing Manager took off to the hills on an Italian road trip.
We were attending a wedding in Tuscany so thought we must make a trip out of this – we have never properly visited Italy before so we had to make the most of it!
We flew to Florence from London City.
Hire car picked up and we were on the road – on the wrong side – oh dear. Our first stop and night’s stay was in a little town in Tuscany called Pienza in the province of Siena and known for its love of Pecorino cheese. If you can imagine rustic walled streets, small windows with colourful shutters and rustic cobbled roads all set way up on a high hill surrounded by what looked like castle walls – that’s Pienza.
It was time to explore so we headed to the high side of the town which had just the most stunning views over Tuscany, it really was a picture especially in the blistering sunshine. I think it was about 33 degrees that day.
We had a delicious meal at night in the hotel we were staying in – La Bandita Town House, we got stuck right into the Italian culture with some cheese, pasta and red wine of course and completely indulged and ended up chatting to the chef who was Scottish!
We were up early are ready to explore so checked out of the hotel and drove about half an hour to arrive at another very cute little hill top town – Montalcino. This little place is best known for its famous Brunello di Montalcino wine. Which explains why that the drive up was surrounded by lush green vineyards dotted all over the rolling hills, a must see.
So we just had to taste this wine so headed straight to a recommended restaurant just off the main square – it was very busy so it must be good! More pasta with a large glass of the top choice Brunello di Montalcino wine.
Next stop was the wedding venue, where we would be staying for three nights. Pretty stunning.
After all the excitement of the wedding it was time to get back on the road, we were staying in Florence for the next three nights so drove via Pisa on the way – which probably added about an hour onto our journey but well worth ticking off the iconic Leaning Tower. We didn’t realise it is made from marble, so up close it was mesmerizing on the eyes with it’s clean white colour which isn’t always very well shown in the pictures.
We arrived in Florence, dropped the hire car off (phew) and it was time to check into our hotel, then explore this city by foot!
We didn’t actually notice how late it was, we took quite a while on our Pisa pit stop – too many selfies! So we headed straight out for some hip pizza at Briscola which was just round the corner from our hotel the Hotel Cerretani Firenze MGallery by Sofitel.
We woke up with a mission – to get round all the major sights in Florence in one day by foot. Mission complete we managed to see the Duomo/Florence Cathedral, Uffizi Gallery, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella and the Basilica di San Lorenzo. We probably passed a few others at the same time, but it was a very hot and busy day we tried to keep going. Our favourite had to be the Duomo, the size and detail in this building was unreal, we just couldn’t stop looking it!
We got recommended a small Italian wine tasting bar that sits over the Arno river looking straight at the famous stone bridge, Ponte Vecchio. We were so lucky we managed to get a seat outside with amazing views and watched the world go by.
It was then time for dinner, which we couldn’t wait for as we were getting treated to a full surprise tasting menu with wine parings at the stunning Hotel Brunelleschi that sits right next to the Duomo. From the Veal starter to the Rabbit pasta all topped off by a delightful desert wine and deconstructed chocolate and pineapple plate – it was a delicious meal that oozed Italy!
On our second day we still had a small list of places that we wanted to tick off. First stop was the heavenly ‘Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella’ which was a 600 year old perfume shop housed inside an extraordinary building full of murals, gold leaf and ornate statues – it really was something. We were particularly amused at the dog perfume on the shop menu that listed all the items for sale!
At night we were meeting up with other wedding guests also staying in Florence. We all met for drinks at the Continental’s roof terrace bar, which is high up lover looking the beautiful river – this is one the ‘places to be seen’ in Florence, which probably explains the 20 euros a drink price tag, but very worth it. The sun was setting so we were told to head over to an area called Piazzale Michelangelo to view it over the whole city – and WOW that was a top recommendation. It was wonderful to see.
Dinner was booked at La Menagere, a hip urban bar and restaurant full of character and set back a little from the busy tourist spots. The waiter told us that the building was actually the old palace stables and it’s still owned by the royal family. We had some amazing colourful cocktails and a very tasty food! We would really recommend popping down here for dinner or bunch with some cocktails!
In the morning it was time to check out, head for a quick coffee then it was back to Florence airport for our flight home. Bye Italy!