Under the Tuscan Sun

After a beautiful but tiring few days in Verona, we packed up the tent and headed off to San Vincenzo for a very lazy few days.  We stayed at a huge site called Park Albatros –  5 pools, a supermarket, restaurants – everything you could possibly need really.  We made the most of the next few days, spending most our time either splashing around like kids in the pools or at the gorgeous beach across the road.  I felt like I was 8 years old again; as a child we spend many summers at sites like this across France and Spain, as I had a fear or flying so my poor family were subjected to many driving holidays!



The beach at San Vincenzo
A few days later we packed up again and headed on to San Gimignano, making a stop at Pisa to see the tower. PISA1

The drive into town was interesting, very industrial and quite run down in places really.   The area surrounding the famous tower and Duomo is very beautiful, full of of tourists taking the obligatory leaning on the tower photos and also people trying to sell you watches out of their coats – some came with a “five year guarantee” – hmmmm….

Obligatory Leaning Tower Photograph
After leaving Pisa we made the journey through the beautiful Tuscan countryside to the town of San Gimignano where wewere staying for a week.  The landscape of Tuscany is truly beautiful; vineyards scattered everywhere, vibrant colours, cypress trees, simply stunning.

On arriving at the campsite we had the second car drama of our trip; this time due to some very suspect air conditioning wiring.  Luckily Guy is quite handy and was able to solve it.

We spent a few days relaxing at the pools on the site and trying to plan where and what we would do in the coming weeks – namely Rome and Venice.  The campsite was ideally located for exploring Tuscany and we made many trips from our base.

The nearest town was San Gimignano, a lovely hill top town with typically Tuscan architecture.

Pretty San Gimignano
Here we ate some amazing gelato in a lovely little shop called Gelateria Dondoli – yogurt flavoured gelato, amazing!!

A must! Worth the big queues.
The views from the hilltop were magnificent.  This photo probably illustrates my point more than anything I could possibly write.

Typically Tuscan
San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the preservation of its many tower homes,
which make for a very interesting skyline.  Supposedly during medieval times, the families of the town built their tower homes to represent their wealth; the higher your tower, the greater your wealth.  It would seem that the residents of the towers must have been relatively wealthy as the remaining towers still cast tall shadows over the squares and piazzas below.


Trying to get some perspective of the height


On leaving San Gimignano we drove through Volterra (yes, I confess this was down to Twilight) and then on to Montepulciano – the setting for Volterra in Twilight New Moon.  It was interesting to see the locations used in the film and how the local shops had tried to make the most of the link with the franchise.


The following day we got up early to travel to Florence.  After following the sat nav for a while to car parks that clearly didn’t exist, we found ourselves parking near the Ponte Vecchio.ponte-1.jpg

The famous bridge into Florence is lined with numerous jewellery shops and plenty of tourists.  It was quite impressive that one small bridge could hold so many jewellery shops.

bridge details.jpg
This doesn’t look like it should still be standing!
A quiet spot to read
We had hoped to get to the Gallerie Academia to see Michaelangelo’s David but the queue was so big and we didn’t want to spend our day waiting in line so we abandoned our plans, settling for the copy at the Piazza della Signoria.


The Piazza is the old Government square of the city and is a wonderful blend of historic buildings and tourists snapping away.  The town hall (Palazzo Vecchio) dominates the square, we had a little snoop inside and can definitely say it is ever so slightly more impressive than our local town hall!


The replica of Michaelangelo’s David (which dutifully guards the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio) is only out shone by the beautiful Fontana di Nettieno, which is so life like you half expect it to turn its head to look at you.  There really is something quite eerie about the huge sculpture.



Next walked through the Uffizi – again a huge queue so we just soaked in the atmosphere and Guy haggled with a seller over a tripod; he was very pleased with the deal he got!


Next stop was the Duomo. The Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore stands proudly at the historic centre of Florence.  Building began in 1296 and wasn’t structurally complete until 1436 – this is evident in the incredible details of the marble facade which is beautifully carved in green, white and pink.


Detail in the marble
The interior of the cathedral is equally impressive.  The huge octagonal dome immediately draws you to the back of the building and you could quite easily spend your time marvelling at the frescos.

Fabulous Frescos
Immediately in front of the Cathedral is the octagonal Baptistery.  Constructed between 1059 and 1128 and clearly the inspiration for the Cathedral’s design.  For some reason my photograph of the building itself seems to have disappeared 😦 .  I did however manage to find the photos we took of the “Gates of Paradise”.  Artist Lorenzo Ghiberti created the gilded bronze doors with twenty scenes, each illustrating the life of Christ.

Gates of Paradise
At the end of the day we drove out of Florence via the Piazzale Michelangelo – the view from here is truly breath taking, even the worst photographer would struggle to get abad photograph from here.


The Duomo
Florence is a beautiful city and is certainly worth a visit if you are visiting Italy.  It looks and feels like the stereotypical Italian images you see in magazines and film.  It really is a wonderful, lively city.

We spent our last day at the campsite relaxing by the pools and sorting out our plans for the next day.  We had such a lovely, relaxed time at this campsite.  We met a lovely older couple staying on the plot next to ours who we still send Christmas cards to now :).

Next stop – Rome.

Live, Learn, Love