Disclaimer: The trip to Tuscany, Italy, was a press trip organised by Violet Glenton and Bookings For You. Aside from travel, this was a gifted press trip in return of writing a blog post. There will be direct links to those businesses in Tuscany, Italy, who were included in the gifted press trip.
Ah, Italia, il mio unico vero amore.
Italy is one of my favourite holiday destinations in the world, and when the opportunity came up to visit Tuscany, Italy, as part of a press trip by Bookings For You (organised by Violet Glenton) I leaped at the chance.
So, after a hectic September, my out of office was switched on, I prepped my suitcase using the tips I learnt previously and I was off to the land of pasta, pizza and wine with a bunch of fabulous bloggers!
We spent five days residing in one of the Mansalto Villas and explored various beauty spots of Tuscany – from Certaldo to Florence. By the end of the trip, I didn’t want to come home, and just wanted to eat, sleep and breathe Italy.
So this blog post is a round up of our #VacaywithViolet trip, with key things I learnt while on the trip to Tuscany. In true Italian style, sit back with a large glass of red wine (or a brew) and let me take you through my Italian adventure.
Tuscany is known as a nation within a nation (fact source: Essentiality) which is why Tuscany is rich in Italian culture everywhere you go. From the rural areas to cities such as Siena, you will be guaranteed to have your breath taken away by its historic beauty.
Pisa and Florence are located in Tuscany, Italy, which are typically the hot spots for tourism, but there are also lots of areas such as Certaldo, a hamlet, which has a strong sense of community and preservation of history. Plus LOTS of beautiful scenery!
Tuscany is also known for its fine wines, some of which we had the opportunity to taste as our Villa was linked with its own Winery! As you travel through the countryside and rural areas, you will spot lots of vineyards.
Day One: Sunshine, Pizza and Laughs
After a wet early start to the morning, we boarded the plane and headed off for our #VacaywithViolet!
On our arrival, we were greeted with beautiful warm sunshine and, after a two hour drive to the villa, by Francesca who oversees the Estates and the Winery that is linked to them (just down the road to where we were staying!).
Our villa, Villa le Tornaie, which its characteristic features range back to 1800s, had stunning views everywhere you turned. Fields of vineyards and hills travelled for miles, and the sun’s golden rays created a beautiful landscape that took my breath away.
In the villa, it can sleep up to 16 people, and the rooms were spacious and had their own bathrooms – so no fighting for the toilet between 10 women! There were a mixture of single and double beds, but I found the single beds REALLY comfortable. I had the best night’s sleep in a very long time.
But the villa features doesn’t just stop at its features and spaces. It had facilities to keep you active. The Villa had an outdoor swimming pool which was refreshing (AKA absolutely freezing), an indoor gym, a steam room, a sauna and a hot tub.
After unpacking and diving into the pool, we got ready for dinner. Dinner was prepared by Massimo’s restaurant where Paulo and Barbara came to our villa and cooked us traditional pizzas ranging from savoury to sweet. We even had celery on pizza – which was surprisingly delicious (so you can now stop the argument on whether pineapple belongs on pizza!)
Did you know that pizza was originally fried? Mind. Blown.
After the meal, we said our goodbyes to Paulo and Barbara, continued the evening with prosecco, a lot of laughs while chilling in the hot tub. A perfect start to our trip!
Day Two: Exploring Tuscany’s historic culture
Waking up without an alarm is bliss – naturally I woke up at 7:30am all refreshed from a good night sleep (and surprisingly no hangover!). I got up, threw on a cardigan and explored the grounds of the villa with a cup of tea. The early morning mist covered some of the landscape like a blanket, and had a fresh chill to the air. Regardless of this, it was a beautiful setting, and as the sun rose, the mist slowly started slipping away.
After breakfast, Charl, Em, Jenny and I ended up taking a last minute road trip to Siena. Our intentions was to visit the food market… but we ended up exploring the streets and landmarks, and ended the morning with coffee, Chianti and Aperol Spritz.
We returned where we all prepped and drove to San Gimigano ready for our tour with Lisa and the adorable Archie, from Arte Al Sole (Family Travel Italy).
Travelling up the funicular, the views surrounding Certaldo was stunning. With its walls surrounding the hamlet, which dates back to the Renaissance period, you were brought into a whole new sense of community. Walking down the streets, locals sat in the glorious sunshine and cats and dogs roamed freely – much to Archie’s dismay.
Btw – Archie is this cute little pooch!
Lisa took us into the Palace where we were told about its history, and how the museum preserves the features of the palace. We ventured in some of the rooms that were previously the kitchen and women’s prison.
Certaldo can do wedding ceremonies in the hamlet (particularly the palace) for 550 Euros! Now all I need is a guy and a wedding dress so we can elope in the sunset *Slips off into a daydream*
After the tour of the hamlet, we travelled to Chiosco di Renai where we were greeted with wine and a beautiful landscape as the sun was setting.
Jen is an artist who joined us, and she showed us how to do paper marbling – using bright colours, it gave us the chance to get creative! Except I accidently put the paint in the water rather than the formula that was for the paper… oops!
Once we concluded with our amazing art work (if I say so myself), we sat to enjoy more food and drinks before heading back to the Villa, ready for another fun-packed day!
If you have a family and want to explore Italy in a fun way, check out https://www.artealsole.com/ for more information about the activities they do for the kids, while you can relax.
Day Three: Food and wine in Florence
A bit of a wet start of the day, but it didn’t last long!
We got ready and headed to our minibus to kick-start our venture in Florence. Only one and a half hours away in car from the Villa, we arrived to sunshine (with a bit of a chill) and ready to start our food tour!
We met our lovely tour guide from LivItaly Tours who took us through the streets of Florence, showing us the local produce, before taking us to four different venues to eat and drink delicious food.
Rafella, aka our Italian mama, educated us about the culture of wine, food and the community around Florence and Tuscany. Even throughout the tour, she would stop us to show us some historic buildings.
Some of the delicious treats we had were:
- Truffle sandwiches
- Cured meat
- Lampredotto AKA Tripe sandwich (lining of a cow’s stomach)
- Gnudi (baked dumpling spinach and ricotta in tomato sauce)
- Gelato (I opted for Mascarpone Cheese and Cheesecake!)
The wrapper you find on chocolates such as Ferrero Roche stems from Umbero, where a family member was having a love affair (shocker!), and one day while she was writing a love letter, someone came in. So, to hide the letter she wrapped it around some chocolate that was on her desk!
The tour finished and we ventured around Florence for a while until our minibus arrived. This was a perfect excuse for Aperol Spritz and exploring some market stalls.
I would highly recommend joining one of the food tours by LivItaly – you can find out more details about the tour and prices here.
The minibus collected us and we arrived back to the villa, were we ended the evening with MORE food and drink. When we did the food shop at the beginning of the week we opted for anti-pasti and a lot of pasta. You can imagine the banquet we had!
Day Four: Wine tasting and pasta making
Another early wake up feeling refreshed… when Jenny and I realised the sun was out! The villa glowed with a warmth spreading across the grounds. We were not the only ones who got excited by the sunshine. Liv (our amazing photographer) could have had a lie in. But she knew we would be up and about getting excited about the sun, so Liv and I took this as an opportunity to get some morning photos.
Mid-morning, we visited the Winery and met Francesca and Gabriella who treated our taste buds with their wines, and took us to see the cellar, where it houses gallons of their wine!
In Winery cellars, you should not go into the room with the wooden barrels – the bacteria that you bring in can affect the way the wine and its character!
After the tour, we then went to a local restaurant where our taste buds continued to be treated with delicious homemade Italian dishes. It is located in the village near the Villa, and was a converted stable which you can still see the original features of the stable.
We then all went to do our own thing on which I opted to sit in the hot tub with prosecco and food with some of the girls… because why not?!
Massimo invited us to his restaurant, where we learnt how to make our OWN pasta! I’m a terrible cook – seriously, this is coming from someone who accidentally gave her dog food poisoning by throwing gravy meatballs in with spaghetti as a ‘bolognese’. Massimo and Barbara (from day one) explained how to do it with three eggs and a mound of plain flour, and it was perfecto!
We created different styles of pasta – from lasagne with wild boar mince, to targietelli. Needless to say, we were obliged to taste the food and it was delicious. Our bellies and hearts were full to the brim of pasta heaven!
Italy never fails to make me fall in love over and over again. The trip itself was fantastic, and Tuscany proves that not only is the culture, food and wine heart-warming – everyone I encountered; from the fab lasses I travelled with, to the welcoming individuals we met on our exertions!
A massive thank you goes to:
- Violet (for organising the whole thing!)
- Bookings for You
- Arte Al Sole
- LivItaly Tours
- Massimo and his staff at his restaurant
- Em AKA Team Chianti
Have you been to Tuscany before? What fun facts have you learned about Italy?
Until next time,