This was my first visit to Italy, and my mind was overloaded with the preconceptions that I am sure reside in many minds of other first-time visitors to Tuscany – flourishing Tuscan mountains in the backdrop, the sun basking over the valley and mountain peaks, lakes meandering through Florence and the steep narrow cobbled streets of Tuscan mountain villages. Hand in hand with these notions went those of fashionable Italians in their designer outfits, plentiful Italian cuisine, fantastic coffee, Pinocchio and beautiful Renaissance designs, including all the inspiring Duomos (Cathedrals).
Well I was not about to be disappointed, it lived up to all my expectations and more!
Myself and the group spent the week enjoying the greatest sights that Renaissance Tuscany had to offer. We enjoyed the days by visiting some of the most beautiful and historic towns and cities, still true to a time long ago, but not forgotten, including Florence, Pisa, Pescia, Pistoia and Lucca.
Our leader Peter Watts, was a keen Italianista and created a programme that would satisfy even the more difficult-to-please visitors. We had an itinerary which incorporated many of the greatest must-see sights, which most would wish to tick off their list of places to visit in their lifetime. We climbed the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ a marvel in itself. As we reached the top of this great building and thought back to an era when Galileo himself may have stood here, dropping weights from the top to test the effects of gravity, we gained an astounding sense of accomplishments of the time.
In Florence we enjoyed a fantastic climb to reach the top of the dome of the Piazza Del Duomo. When we reached the peak we were within touching distance of ‘The Last Judgement’. I could not describe in words the intensity of being so close to such a famous and incredible sight – and it’s best left to the imagination anyway, until you can experience it for yourself.
If you do not wish to climb the buildings, the cities offer so much rustic charm and architecture to appreciate. It is easy to escape down a narrow path that will lead you to outstanding architecture and the traditional ways of Italian life at every turn.
Wining and dining was a big element of this holiday, and what better place to do it than Italy!
There are not many other places that could challenge Italian Cuisine. On one of the days we visited the gardens of Villa Garzoni in Collodi (famous for being the birth town of Pinocchio). We decided to enjoy a packed lunch in the gardens, the sun was blazing and the beautiful Monte a Pescia surrounding us was idyllic.
One of the many charming members of the group captured the moment completely, by pulling out a beautiful bottle of Italian red wine, accompanied by plastic glasses so that all of the group could enjoy it, and a feast of Parma ham and Italian cheeses. The scene was set for a typically Italian lunch. This is definitely a recommendation from me. I can assure you that the wining and dining in Italy will not fail to please. We finished our time in the gardens with a quick trip into the butterfly house, a spectacular sight allowing you to really experience their true beauty.
In the addition to the abundance of sights that Renaissance Tuscany has to offer, there is also plenty of walking, including ascending to the hilltop villages Montecatini Alto and Monte a Pescia. Walking through the mountain vineyards and the Italian countryside provides spectacular sights. And then to reach the top and find, as if stepping back in time, a small, feudal village where quaint historical churches, spring water fountains and traditional Italian ways of living still survive was incredible. Here was a beauty that had remained untouched, and there were no other tourists in sight. This allows you to get a real feel of Renaissance Tuscany. This is the point at which I really do love a Ramblers Holiday, as you really get to experience the true culture of the country you are visiting.
I have tried to keep my experiences short and sweet, just to give you a little sample, as I wouldn’t want to spoil it. That way, so much more can be left to the imagination, allowing you to experience it, as I did with only a little previous knowledge of the area from other people’s experience.
This trip is a must and what better way to discover it than on a Ramblers Holiday? A mixture of sightseeing and rambling in the lush Tuscan mountains and cities…you will not be disappointed.