When I was 18 I spent the summer from university inter-railing around Europe with two other friends. Out of the three months that we spent travelling, 3 weeks were spent in Italy travelling from the South France into Genoa, winding our way down to Sorrento, and then back up the country to the Italian Lakes in the North and Venice before travelling along to Hungary. It was the longest that we’d spent in the one country out of the whole trip and was easily the most memorable. I think all of us fell in love with Italy on that trip, and for each of us it was a different region that struck a chord.
For me Tuscany by far was the most beautiful. The World Heritage sites of Florence, Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano, Peinza, Val d’Orcia blew me away as did the architecture, the rolling fields filled with sunflowers and the regions local food and wine. Nowhere else I’ve been in the world has the same mix of vibrancy, culturally historic, romantic and relaxed vibe of the region.
Every year I try and go back. Florence is only two hours away from London and there are a number of companies that offer inexpensive flights. There are a huge variety of villas in Tuscany but I always steer towards to the ones that look like little cottages, made of stone with views of the hills and within walking distance of a small village. One of the best parts of the holiday for me is shopping locally in the village shops and weekly markets and trying out new Italian dishes. Out of the two weeks we usually spend in Italy, one of them is normally spent just at the villa; reading, sunbathing, cooking and generally relaxing. By then I’m rejuvenated and ready for some activity and exploration.
A trip to the Uffizi gallery to see the Renaissance collection in Florence is unmissable as is the Duomo, walking across the Ponte Vecchio and admiring the jewellery and sitting in Piazza della Signoria a with a gelato watching the world go by. The beaches of Forte dei Marmi are also a good escape from the city with colourful buildings and boutique shops. We often rent a bicycle to travel along the coast and go in and around the town centre. Some of the regions best restaurants are located here and as well as some stylish bars for cocktails after.
San Gimignano is probably one of my favourite places to go. It’s a small town perched on top of a hill, with fourteen prominent, distinctive towers situated amidst some of Tuscany’s best countryside. It’s a very chilled out town, perfect for enjoying the views with some of the local Vernaccia white wine produced the region.
My husband is keen for us to stay in other villas in Italy exploring other areas and expanding our knowledge of the country, but for me Tuscany will always be my favourite and the ultimate relaxing break.