Eat, Sleep, Play in Tuscany

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve not long come back from beautiful Tuscany.  I’ve put together a post with some of my favourite pictures of my week, but I thought I’d look a little bit deeper at each of the central Tuscan places we visited.  If you are heading to Tuscany or thinking about it, hopefully these tips will come in handy.

This was a baby free holiday with the girls, so much of our agenda was eating and drinking the beautiful produce from the local land, while making sure to see as much as we could while giving ourselves ample time to do absolutely nothing! The perfect mix of a holiday :)

I’ve given my eat, sleep and play tips where appropriate for each of the regions we visited.

Greve in Chianti

Eat:

Ristorante Bottega Del Moro:  Without a doubt, this was our favourite restaurant during our complete tour of central Tuscany- and that’s a tough feat!  This is the place to order truffle pasta and die happy. The food was delicious and the recommended bottle of Chianti Classico was exceptional.  The restaurant was ambient, and the staff were really welcoming and friendly.  The manager spent a long time chatting to customers and passing on local Tuscan recipes.  Unfortunately I was just out of earshot.  But to be honest I was happily engrossed scoffing my meal.  My dessert; a melt in the middle chocolate and pistachio pudding, is the reason I’d book a flight right now and head back if I could!

Taverna Del Guerrino:  The place to dine with a view.  There’s a table for four, which looks straight through the open doors that lead onto the balcony that give you the most stunning Tuscan hillside view.  Luckily it was fairly empty when we arrived so we stole the best seats! But even if you don’t get to sit in those seats, you can still walk through the doors and stare at the breathtaking views until your food arrives- perhaps with a vino in hand?  This restaurant is in a little village called Montefioralle, a 30 minute walk uphill from the centre of Greve in Chianti, but it’s a beautiful walk with many great photo opportunities, and the end result is rewarding.  As declared by the three of us, the fittest Italian waiter also works there, and is another reason to stop off- two beautiful sights in one hit 😉

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Trattoria D’i Borgo:  For tasty and cheap this is the place to visit.  The no-nonsense approach to Italian food is exactly what’s required from a hard day.  With top-notch fresh pizzas, and perfectly cooked pasta you couldn’t want more.  The owner doesn’t speak English but is so friendly and jovial that it didn’t matter.  We worked through our communication barrier with good old-fashioned gestures, attempted Italian and pointing, and were really happy with the wine he recommended and the food we ordered.  We were going to go back on our final night in Greve in Chianti because it really was great value for money,but decided to go with a Tripadvisor recommended restaurant instead that had no atmosphere and terrible service.  Gutted doesn’t come close to summing it up!

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Sleep:

Antico Pastificio: An old converted pasta factory, this historical villa is situated in the most perfect place.  It’s just around the corner from the main square in Greve in Chianti, but far away enough for some much-needed distance from the hustle and bustle, particularly during market day!  The apartment we had was on the ground floor and it was huge! It’s a self catered apartment, but we actually didn’t make use of the dining area, the living area or the kitchen- choosing to eat out instead.  The reason we chose this particular place to stay, was because it came with private parking.  It’s a bit tight getting up the road leading to the apartment but the car park is huge and your car is safe behind electronic gates for the duration of the stay.  There are communal areas which include a games room in the basement that also leads out to the good-sized garden area.  And a swimming pool to cool off in when the weather gets too hot.  It’s a great base for anyone staying in Greve in Chianti.  The only issue we had with it, was there was only one mirror in the whole apartment.  In the bathroom.  Three girls and one face mirror isn’t going to cut it! Right outside our apartment in the communal entrance was a full length mirror which we all took advantage of.  Price wise this place is cheap and cheerful.

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Villa Vignamaggio: If you’ve ever been on pinterest looking for the perfect outdoor wedding venue, you will have seen countless images of Villa Vignamaggio.  It’s the most stunning location.  This is the place many assume is the birthplace of Mona Lisa- whether or not that’s true, it was still a home owned by her family and is worth the visit.  It’s a long walk from the centre of Greve in Chianti, and not one I’d recommend with children as you are walking along busy main roads with no pavements for the start of it.  But if you want to enjoy beautiful Tuscan land, definitely leave the car and go by foot.  It is possible to book accommodation at the villa but it isn’t cheap, so I’d recommend you go on a wine tour to see the gardens and the cellars, while also enjoying the beautiful wine the villa produces.  Even if you don’t manage to book a tour, they still have a wine shop open daily and also offer oil tasting there.

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San Gimignano

Eat:

Osteria Delle Catene: This restaurant was tucked away from the main squares, which made it a nice find as it wasn’t overly busy- and probably the reason it wasn’t as costly! The man running it was really friendly and helpful as well.  It’s always nice to sit somewhere and feel welcome.  The menu is inspired by the area, and while the dishes don’t look beautiful they taste it.  My favourite pasta dish was the one I ate here.  It was pasta with beef cooked in chianti wine and onions.  The flavour was immense.  The picture might not make you drool, but I know what that picture tastes like, and I’m gutted it’s just a picture!

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Gelateria Dondoli:  Without realising we walked straight into the best gelateria in Italy.  I’m not joking, it’s won the last two years championships! When we went, the shop was full to the brim with people working their way to get as close to the counter as possible.  When we walked past it later there was a queue of people leading out the door and into the square.  Sergio is the ice cream maker, and boy is he good at it!  The ice cream was without a doubt the best gelato I have ever experienced.  I went with a double scoop gelato of amedei chocolate (awarded the best chocolate in the world 5 years running) and nutella.  And both were just mind blowingly brilliant.  While we continued to enjoy gelato on the rest of our trip, none of them compared to the ones we had at Gelateria Dondoli.

Siena

Eat:

Ristorante Montalbuccio:  This restaurant was a 30 minute walk from where we were staying, so it’s up in the countryside of Siena.  It’s the kind of place you need to make sure you have reservations for.  We walked there and were lucky we arrived early for dinner, and the table we were able to be seated at had an hour and a half long gap before the next customers who had booked!  There was literally no other space, and it’s not a small restaurant by any means.  This is obviously a well-known Italian haunt, as it was packed to the rafters with parties and families by the time we made our exit.  This is without a doubt the place to go for seafood.  We all shared a seafood platter, and then I went for the seafood risotto afterwards.  It was delicious and fresh, and quite a welcome break from the typical heavy Italian dishes I had been consuming.  I can see why this is a popular place for the locals of the area.  The one thing we would have done differently would have been to call a cab for our return journey.  Walking in the pitch black countryside was pretty scary with only the torches on our iphones keeping us on track!

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Osteria Del Gusto:  This restaurant in Siena seemed to have quite a limited menu choice, but actually we couldn’t have been happier with our meals.  They were all hitting the spot with us individually.  I chose the pici with rocket pesto as I fancied something green! It was beautifully presented, and there was loads of it too.  It doesn’t look like a lot on the plate, but I was struggling towards the end!  It’s a beautiful restaurant with a large vaulted ceiling and it’s very family orientated (minus the stairs down).  The tagliata stood out at this restaurant, and I enviously looked on at my friends as they both consumed plates of delicious looking meat,  In terms of single dishes, one of my friends had her favourite meal at this restaurant.  The balsamic tagliata- so that’s the meal I’d recommend you pick!

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Sleep:

Villa Agostoli: Siena is a beautiful city, but it’s another place where there can be an issue with cars and parking long-term.  So we made the decision to stay out of the main city and up in the hills.  Only a short drive from Siena, our location couldn’t have been more perfect.  It provided us the opportunity to relax and enjoy our surroundings and we were able to cool down in the beautiful pool which overlooked the Chianti countryside.  It was another place which allowed us to self cater- and being up in the hills we took advantage of this, and made sure to do a supermarket shop before leaving Siena after we spent the day there.  I believe it’s a working agricultural farm as it has its own vineyards, fruit trees and olive groves.  The walks in the surrounding countryside gave us some amazing views of Siena and we were able to see the black and white detailing on the cathedral even at that distance.

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Siena Cathedral:  The most beautiful Cathedral you’ll ever see.  It was like walking into the home of Bertie Basset.  Black and white striped marble dominated the skyline outside the Cathedral, but also inside.  It’s one of those buildings that’s really quite breathtaking.  The complete marble floor is beautiful, although much is covered by carpeting now to protect it (this could have been because there was a church service just before we arrived, and they may put the carpeting down to protect the floors from the chairs), but there are areas that are on show which are roped off and allow a glimpse at some of the mosaics.  The little library room just off the side of the Cathedral internally, is beautiful.  The paintings are still impeccable considering they were completed in 1508.  And the old hymn books written by monks are on show.  The idea of writing without making errors in calligraphy is just too much for me to handle!  There’s a combination ticket you can buy from the ticket office that includes pretty much everything, including the museum, a climb up to see the stunning panoramic views of the cathedral and the rather dull crypt (which I’d miss personally).

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 Monteriggioni

Eat:

Il Pozzo:  In the middle of the piazza is the most beautiful restaurant.  We got lucky and chose the best seats in the house, under the porch of vines.  But there is more outside seating in a private walled garden, and also indoor seating.  The chefs here really care about their meals and took the chance to come out and talk to the diners, to make sure they were happy with their dishes- mine was wild boar with hand-made pasta.  It was one huge comfort meal!  Perfecto!  If you come here, you have to order a dessert because the tiramisu is the best one to be found!  The homemade dessert was the best one we’d had, and we’d been through a lot of tiramisu.  The whole experience of eating in such a beautiful location just made this restaurant really stand out.

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Play:  

Artisan Shops: Other than the obvious things to do in Monteriggioni (walk on the castle walls, visit the church, walk the surrounding area), the other great thing to do is shop or at least visit the shops!  It’s almost as if time has stopped in this tiny town, with the few shops there selling self crafted wares.  This is the place to buy something beautiful and unique from one of the vendors, and see them at work.  Whether you’re looking for some new shoes made with real Italian leather, or you’re lusting after a unique jewellery piece, they’ll have something special here.  There’s something quite humbling about watching someone at work, creating something to sell in their shop.

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Volterra 

Eat:

Ristorante Osteria Dei Poeti:  This was our final Tuscan meal of the trip, and we’re glad it was in this beautiful restaurant.  The staff were friendly, and the service was brilliant.  While perusing the menus we were given a little bowl of Tuscan soup to enjoy on the side, and at the end they gave us some chocolate orange biscuits free of charge to enjoy with our coffees too.  These little touches made us feel so welcome.  I couldn’t leave Tuscany without consuming another pasta dish (really tasty), but once more my friend hit gold with the truffle tagliata that was so flavoursome.  I could smell the truffle as he brought the dish over, but tasting it was even better.  The truffle hit was amazing.  They slightly undercook all their meat to the specifications you ask for, because they are more than happy to bring it back to the kitchen to cook it a little more if it’s too underdone, but obviously it’s a lot harder to reverse overcooked meat!  Really great restaurant, that’s beautiful inside with sublime food.

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Play:

Twilight Tour: If you’re a Twilight fan you’ll probably have heard of Volterra.  It’s where the Voituri vampires live.  I’ve never read or watched the Twilight series, so I know nothing about it.  But even I could see that the Voituri vampires had chosen a great place to settle.  Perched on the top of a hill with the most amazing views, it would be easy to rule from here!  We only spent a few hours in Volterra before jumping in the car and heading to Pisa airport, but if I was a big Twilight fan I’d be looking at one of the tours available- especially if you have kids that love Twilight.  The tour is better for those that have read the books, as the filming for the movies took place else where.

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thelondonmum

2 Comments

  1. WOW, what a great post! You’ve certainly put fish-n-chips on our beach in it’s ‘plaice.’ ha. Hope you & your little Champion enjoy the weather. L & me having a day on the beach today before a big gig w/end. Onwards LondonMum officially.

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