We departed Brussels as a new blanket of snow had fallen over the city and spent all last week soaking up some Tuscan sun. Ok, well the first few days we didn’t because it was cold and cloudy. But we pretended.
Our trip was everything I expected it to be yet also everything I did not expect it to be. (well, duh, but that sounded better in my head). We arrived at our “hotel” which was actually a working olive grove and wine vineyard.
After turning off of the paved road, we drove 10 minutes down a dirt road through the country side a little hesitant about that decision. But, after crossing a babbling stream (seriously) we arrived at these gates which welcomed us in.
After settling in a bit we unpacked and learned we were the only people staying at this farm, hotel, B&B, hamlet, paradise whatever you want to call it. Therefore, we had a personal chef who cooked us breakfast and dinner each night and whatever else we could ask for. Being that this was a winery, we also could grab a bottle or four at our leisure. And we did. 5 mins after arriving.
Deciding what to do in Tuscany is actually a bit difficult. Every town has their own attractions so you have to pick and choose what is worth your time and long windy drives. We typically like to stay away from touristy places when we travel with the kids so I had done a few hours of homework to plan this whole week out, and it was worth it.
Our first drive took us to Montacino. This is where we also got our parental reminder that Lily gets car sick. We forgot about that. Driving sort of turned into a game of, let’s keep her looking out the window and give her plenty of fresh air for the rest of the week. We did our best but it was tough. Ask Jason on his opinion on driving in Tuscany.
I wish I could post 500 pictures of all the little things that make Tuscany beautiful but you surely would get bored after the 40th picture of a door with a flowerbox window next to it. Just trust me when I say, it is beautiful and authentic.
We stopped at Bagno Vignoni a small town that has natural hot springs running through it. We ended up just playing on the playground and just feeling the hot water because in order to swim in them you had to check into a spa/hotel thing that cost too much money. Plus a giant bus of tourists arrived which was our signal to leave.
I was disappointed because I really did want to swim/soak in one of Italy’s famous hot springs (termes) but after reading the reviews that sometimes you can get small leach like worms that crawl into your bathing suit…I’m glad I passed.
Anyway. Funny how things change. A few years ago I would be jumping up and down at the chance to take my 4 year old children into Florence. However, now that reality is more palpable, I was dreading doing it. BUT, I knew I had to do it. They were surprisingly well behaved and thanks to mom’s endless time reading the internet, we had a map and plan of action on how to get through a large city with as few meltdowns as possible. Gelato, merry go rounds, and chasing pigeons were all top billed activities for the kids.
Aaaaaand my pet-peeve. Kitsch. So sad that one of the coolest and most beautiful bridges is overrun by this stuff. One guy tried to stuff one of those squashy balls into Zane’s hand (only 2 euro!) and I yanked him away. Right into some guy who wanted to paint my picture for only 2 euro!
I contacted a guide and told them I wanted my children to experience pottery making. She was amazing and designed an entire personal experience class just for the kids. Jason and I were both shocked at how well everything was prepared, thought out and executed. (Arianna and Friends is the name of the company who set it up).
Zane and Lily made a new friend with their instructor who had nothing but love in her heart for both the children and the art of ceramics. They made several pieces and they will fire, glaze and are even shipping them back here to Brussels for us.
We also contacted a horse stable to see about riding lessons for the both of them. We went into this not knowing what to expect either, and once again were blown away by the Italian hospitality and friendliness. The two women running these stables had things set up for us as soon as we arrived, got both those kids up on horses and riding around in no time. At the end they were both in control of their horses, steering (or whatever you do to a horse) them right and left through obstacles in the arena. After an hour, the ladies seemed shocked that we asked “how much do we owe you”, shrugged and said, um, ok, 20? And we did a double blink.
I thought about taking the kids to the galleries in Florence. And then snapped back to reality. So I was so excited when I found Parco Sculture (I’m not misspelling it!) in Chianti. This is an outdoor park, where there are 30 commissioned pieces of art throughout the walking path of the park. The kids loved it and also loved finding the clues on their map as to which piece was next.
SPEAKING OF WINE. Jason and I had a date day and got a babysitter. I set up a wine tour and tasting at Volpaia. Highly recommend! Our guide was the most interesting woman I think I’ve met in a long time. She has lived all over the world (not just traveled, lived) and seen some pretty amazing things (including getting out Somalia in November of 1993).
She took us to the production center (HUGE vats)
We were sad to part ways from our hostess at Volpaia, but excitedly hoped on the road to Arnolfo’s in Colle di Val d’Elsa.
The sleepy town of Colle di Val d’Elsa is a bit strange when you first arrive. You double check to make sure you are in the right place. Then you park the car, get out and walk through a tunnel, then you go up an elevator, then you walk through thin streets and voila, you find the restaurant.
It is the only 2 star Michelin restaurant in Tuscany, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Our lunch was simply amazing and the servers fantastic. The restaurant was essentially empty (the joys of traveling on the off season) and Gaetano and Giovanni Trovato were so nice and lovable. The chef Gaetano even made extra dishes for us for fun and when we left Giovanni gave me giant kisses on the cheek and handed me a large box of chocolates.
And of course, a video compilation