Pic Credit : Arindam Chaudhuri
Flashback …. Jan’2018
Back to school
Chasing a dream gives me a high . I was delusional way back in 1999 to imagine being a part of Le Cordon Bleu. So what if I made it after 19 years. That day Ronnie was a proud husband. Not only did he throw a party, he also booked us a holiday to The land of Renaissance Art & Architecture, Tuscany, Italy.
Early morning flights from Gatwick airport is synonymous to being sleep deprived. Having said that we reached the airport on time & Our Italian Sojourn began ……..
This was our first trip to Italy and one cannot not be excited about experiencing the finest food & wine the country had to offer.
was the first city we were visiting . It was a quaint little town in the northern part of Italy. The city was painted in yellow with green windows, literally all houses were of the same colour. Apart from its historic heritage, Bologna is known for its great food and the region is also known as the gastronomic capital of the country.
Where to stay in Bologna
There are many AIR BNB guest houses near Bologna Central Station. We stayed in one such guest houses 5 mins walking from the station.
Places to Visit
It was Grand. The market area was surrounded by cafes, artisinal food shops selling tortellini, Charcuterie, pickled artichokes , sundried tomatoes and the list goes on.
We dined at one such small restaurant in the market place. Wine & food kept flowing all evening.
Behind Piazza Maggiore, was the church of St. Petronius. It has a small museum behind it. The structure dominates half of the Piazza. It is of a magnanimous size, but apparently the construction was never completed and the structure looks quite incomplete and old considering it was erected way back in late 1300’s.
The Famed Bolognese
I surely cannot deny the fact that The best bolognese I ever ate was in Bologna . The Ragu was far better than I had expected. It was a mouthful of flavours. The pasta was fresh home made parpadelle at a neighbourhood restaurant Porta Pierra.
Our next Destination
Travelling from Bologna to Florence was just a train ride. The tickets were quite reasonably priced if you travel off hours. We were in Florence well within 2 hours.
Florence is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. As they say it is the birthplace of Rennaisance.
The grandeur of the monuments and architecture is worth mentioning. The city has a charming vibe but of you are looking for a quiet holiday then Florence is not your city . It is thronged by tourists and every tourist destination has a long waiting time. So if you want to enter , it is advisable to plan your day early.
The walks within the city is beautiful specially along the Arno river , sunsets are surreal.
My favourite walk was to the statue of David .. ‘The Masterpiece’ by Renaissance artist Micheal Angelo . The view from the hill was incredible.
My Top picks of Places to Visit In Florence
The listed places can be visited by booking a day tour in Hop on-Hop off else you can walk around if you want an real experience of the city.
- Basilica di Santa Maria Novella
- Duomo Fienza
- Pallazo Vecchio
- Ponte Vecchio (One of my favourite spots. This was the only bridge that survived destruction during WWII)
- Piazzale Michealangelo -as I mentioned earlier, the view is spectacular. but to reach the top of the hill to see David’s statue is quite a walk with 100s of steps to climb. It is advisable that you wear comfortable footwear.
- Pitti Palace & Boboli Garden (It is a 15 mins walk from Duomo. You can grab a quick breakfast at a local bakery / restaurant.Right behind the palace is a vast green expanse of the beautiful gardens adorned with Statues, Fountains & various trees. The view from the garden is an absolute delight. There are public toilets as well which were pretty well maintained.
Places to Stay in Florence
Anywhere close to Duomo is the best location to stay. There are hotels & Air Bnbs’s at a convenient distance from the City centre surrounded by Cafés, Restaurants, Shopping, Theatre etc.
The Road Trip
We were excited to travel to the interiors of Tuscany. We picked up a car from Rental Car Centre, Florence Airport, Peretola and started our trip to Montepulciano also known as ‘Pearl of Rennaisance’
The distance of 123 km was covered within 2 hours. The drive was comfortable and picturesque.
Montepulciano is in Province of Sienna in Southern Tuscany. We booked ourselves at Hotel Panoramic. The name says it all, you have the view of the entire city on. It is surrounded by lush green trees & was surely a comfortable stay.
Driving around the nearby towns of Siena, Pienza was beautiful. The whole region was surrounded by vineyards and had stunning views.
My top Picks of places to Visit in Montepulciano
- San Quirico d’Orchia (A chapel in middle of nowhere, towards Pienza had the most spectacular sunset views )
- Pienza Old town (Extremely picturesque and the food in the restaurants in the old city centre are to die for)
- La Foce – The Drive to the garden of La Foce was breathtaking . The Villa is surrounded by Cyprus trees , has Picture Postcard views. It is a must if travelling to Montepulciano
- Siena- It is a day trip. I loved the market place with shops selling curios of Murano Glass, Artisinal food, beautiful restaurants & Cafe’s . Tuscany is a foodie’s paradise.
- Follonica-If you are a beach lover, drive to Follonica. It is a 2 hours drive from Montepulciano . It has long beaches and pine trees and the view is to die for. If you are travelling in Summer, it is a perfect destination was watersports, sailing , Scuba diving and other activities on the beach.
- Pulcino Vineyard Trip
- Old City Centre of Montepulciano – If you are a shoe lover like me , go look for a shoemaker who will make a you pair to last you forever. I ended up buying a pair of hand stitched green leather boots and I don’t regret the price I paid for it. It is for keeps.
Florence is the place to devour world class Tuscan Cuisine… Spaghetti with Wild boar Ragu is a must try and you will not regret gorging on different flavoured Gelatos.
Locally farmed Pork , Picci-A kind of fat spaghetti but freshly made and their grilled steaks & Cheese.
Well, all in all you will enjoy every meal that you eat.
My Fav Wines
Vino Nobili & Pulcino Red wines . Taste it to believe
Feel Good Drink … Had to be Aperol & Spritz….. If you haven’t tasted it, please do so over the weekend … You Surely cannot have just 1.
- Carry Comfortable shoes (I never travel with just 1 pair 😉
- Waterproof Jackets
- Driving License (Don’t Forget)
- Swimsuits /Bikini /Trunks (Suit yourself)
Hope this info helps you to plan your journey.