Italy is always a sure bet with me. If you read my earlier posts, you already know that I have a love-love relationship with this country that started back in 2004, when I did my Erasmus studies there. Now, fast forward to July 2016, when our LO was 8 months and I was in search of a trip to celebrate my husband’s birthday. I looked in particular for a place outside the city, that has its own vineyard in the midst of green scenery. We had a great experience in Apulia with the masseria stays. (you can read about it here) so I was looking for a similar feel in the North of the country. After a few searches on Tripadvisor and local blogs, I found Salvadonica in San Casciano in Val di Pesa. I then booked our flights to Florence.
We used San Casciano as a base for our trips in the region. A rental car is essential if you want to have freedom of exploration and really enjoy the country side. We rented with Europecar online and had the pick-up ready on arrival. We also rented a car seat as we were only traveling with a light stroller by that point.
The accomodation was really nice and easy to access by stroller once you manged to walk out of the parking area ( the ground is covered with small pebbles which always found a way to get stuck in the wheels of our travel stroller). The accomodation had a baby cot ready for us on arrival and we got a ground floor room. There was a pool on the grounds which provided a nice refreshing break after a day of sightseeing in the hot July weather.
Breakfast was outside on a terrace. The restaurant was partly covered with a wide vista over the wineyards. Their house Chianti was excellent though a bit on the pricey side at around 18 Euro per bottle. We even bought a few for home. They also had an olive oil production.
The restaurant food was nice but a bit more sophisticated than what we expected. We ended up eating there only twice as for the rest we were looking for more authentic places in the nearby towns. Breakfast was great, mostly showcasing local produce, fresh fruits and jams. LO was happy with his porridge, yogurt and fruit.
During the day, we had several jars of puree vegaetable and fruit brought for him as we were planning to do a few road trips and getting him well fed was the only sure thing to get him asleep in the car after lunch. We also timed most of the trips between cities at lunch except for Florence when he slept in the stroller.
The best trips in the Chianti region (all within one hour drive from Florence):
- If you have not been to Florence yet, start here. That should be first on the list.
- Siena : lovely old city with superb architecture. Stroller accessibility is good. The main market Piazza del Campo is a lovely place to have a picnic. It has a particular shell shape and is the largest medieval square in the world. At the top of the square is the Fonte Gaia, one the most beautiful fountains in Siena (the one in the Piazza is a copy, while the remains of the original are preserved in the Museum complex of Santa Maria della Scala). Otherwise, the maze of side streets hides plenty of small piazzas and old houses that can be visited. As the weather was nice, we spent our time outside going up and down the cobbeled streets. If you stay for lunch or dinner, you will have a great choice as you can find many traditional dishes in Siena. Wild boar, Cinta Senese and hare make for delicious croutons, pappardelle pasta and grilled meat. The most well-known pasta of Siena is pici, made from water and flour, and usually served with a simple tomato and garlic sauce (a dish called pici all’aglione). Then there are local sausages, cheese, liver, ribollita soup and more. There is also plenty of choice for dessert: cantucci biscuits, Ricciarelli, Panforte and Cavallucci, accompanied by the classic Vin Santo.
- San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We parked outside the city walls on the Parcheggio di Montemaggio. From here, you will be closest to enter the city by Porta San Giovanni and the Via San Giovanni. Make your way to Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza del Duomo. A criss cross of streets covers the old city center. Some smaller streets do have stairs. For scenic views of the area, go for the walk along the city wall (paseggiata delle mura). It is possible to walk along the perimeter (2.176m) of the second circle of the city walls (thirteenth century) that delimit the historical centre of San Gimignano. This walking tour, that can be joined from different access points, inside or outside the town, affords lovely views of the scenic surrounding hills and of the Elsa valley beyond. The main access gates to the town: Porta San Giovanni (south end), Porta Quercecchio (west end), Porta San Matteo (north end), Porta San Jacopo and Porta delle Fonti (east end).
- Greve in Chianti-often considered the entrance gate into Chianti region. Piazza Matteotti is the main point of reference in Greve and even if it isn’t “square”, it is still the focal point of the town. What makes the place particular, apart from its strange shape, is the portico on three sides of the square. The portico continues to serve as the frame for boutique shops, artisans workshops and restaurants. Some of these shops are particularly famous drawing locals and tourists alike. We stopped at the Antica Macelleria Falorni, a Tuscan butcher shop that has been in the same spot since 1729 and bought some aged prosciutto ham. there is also the Bottega dell’Artigianato, a shop specialized in hand-woven baskets and products made in olive wood.
- The Chiantiggiana (or road 222). It is a basic itinerary for the Strada del Vino, dell’Olio e dei Sapori di Chianti Classico (basically, the ‘wine road’): a road that leads from Florence to Siena crossing a wide territory full of vineyards, olive groves, picturesque small towns and lots of opportunities for wine tasting. If your baby is a good car sleeper, then this is a great roadtrip opportunity. San Casciano Val di Presa is one of the first little towns in western Chianti that you will come upon if you decide to take a day trip outside of Florence and a wonderful starting point for discovering Chianti Classico wine.
We had good dinners during the trip but a couple of places were really memorable:
– in Florence, there is this great pizzeria frequented mostly by locals as outside the main tourist area. It is called Pizzeria Antica Porta on Via Senesse 23R. They have the best Pizza with buratta I ate so far. They also have high chairs.
– we were after a great Bistecca alla Fiorentina (or Florentine stake). We found it in a place called Cinque di Vino in San Casciano, Viale San Francesco, 32. I also had the antipasti and mezzelune al tartuffo (pasta). They have high chairs and were super friendly with the LO.
Tuscany has loads of places to visit so choosing one will not be easy. Chianti has lots of charm and should definitely be high on your list. People are friendly, there is plenty to do outdoors while visiting charming towns and sampling lots of great wine.