When I was researching Italy, I fell in love with pictures of the Tuscan country side and was determined to go there one way or another. I managed to find a day tour of the area for a really reasonable price with Get Your Guide. The tour included tours of the Chianti region and a stop at a vineyard for tastings and lunch, as well as stops off at San Gimignano, Siena and the Monteriggioni Fortress.
Under specific directions to meet at the Santa Maria Novella train station, we go up early to wander the empty streets of Florence before boarding a bus. Our guide was a local, with many historical stories of the city of Florence and others we passed during the tour.
After a hour or so bus ride we arrived at our destination, a medieval hill town called San Gimignano. The town is very small and quaint, perfect for exploring. We quickly went off the beaten path and wandered aimlessly through the historical streets and took a break to eat at the best Gelateria in the world. This time I am not just calling it that, it actually won awards for being the best in the area. I would have to agree, we both had three scoops.
Next stop, wine tasting. My favorite part of the tour was the vineyard, where we were served starters consisting of cheese, cured meats, and breads to eat with our wine and the regions olive and truffle oils. We tried the best balsamic vinegar I have ever had in my life, and of course we drank copious amounts of Wine.
Our next stop was Siena, a town I was the most excited to see. We were given a tour for the first hour and learned of the towns historical horse racing track. The town takes this horse race very seriously, people dedicate their time to it months in advance and celebrate for a long time afterwards. The horse race takes place in the main square, where people gather in the middle of the track and outside the track. Our tour guide said that if you want to see the race from the middle of the track, you may never know how long you will be stuck there. The track is so incredibly small compared to what I am used to seeing in Alberta and North America. Jockeys ride bareback and the crowds go crazy for whoever wins as it means so much more to them than a trophy or money than in the states.
The race circles the Piazza del Campo three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza! Insane!
Our last stop was a fortress in Monteriggioni, hardly even considered a town this place is surrounded by walls on the top of the hills, complete with a main square and a few shops and houses. We walked through it in a matter of minutes. The best part is the view of the countryside, the sun was just beginning to sink down and it was the perfect place to end our little adventure in the hills.
Next time I would love to stay longer in the countryside of Tuscany, there is something about getting away from the city that is very enchanting about Italy.