The Towns of Tuscany (and Umbria!)
After several weeks of non-stop sightseeing we decided to slow down a bit and catch our breaths. We’d heard a lot of great things about Tuscany so we decided to book an “agriturismo” stay and stay put for a couple of days. To be fair, it wasn’t a really big farm, but our stay at Borgo Dolci Colline was still fairly lovely. Upon arrival we were greeted by the owners, several dogs and a bottle of olive oil from their farm. There was a gorgeous pool and a small kitchenette in each standalone villa. The only downside was that the wifi was pretty much non-functional from our villa. In the morning, the twittering chirps are not a bad way to wake up, along with the occasional rooster.
From this basecamp we drove into the rest of Tuscany which included Siena, Assisi, Pienza, and San Gimignano.
We spent half a day in Siena following a free walking tour. We enjoyed the main square (Piazza del Campo), the Cathedral, and getting lost in the beautiful alleys and trying to find the perfect gelato place for L.
La Piccola Ciaccineria (★★)
For a quick and cheap lunch, we had a local speciality called “ciaccino.” It’s made from a flatbread called schiacciata with various filling options. It’s one of those hole-in-the wall joints where you grab and go across and sit on the stairs of a small church and enjoy, feeding crumbs to birds and willing yourself not to go back and order a few more slices.
Siena Cathedral (★★)
This is definitely worth visiting – we recommend getting the combo ticket which gives access to the cathedral, the baptistry, the piccolo library, a climb to the duomo, and entry to the museum. However, we only had time to do the cathedral and piccolo library.
Besides the incredible views, the main attractions for us in San Gimignano were food-related. It seemed like every other store in San Gimignano was a gourmet cheese and meat shop. The other thing we noticed is that each gelateria in San Gimignano seemed to have won “World’s Best Gelato” at one point or another. We ended up having gelato at Gelateria Dondoli (★). Although not pretty, they had really unique flavors like the “Michelle” – which is made with almonds, orange zest, honey and saffron.
We also did an impromptu wine tasting at La Fiaschetteria di boboli Enoteca (★) and bought some desert wine.
The following day we drove our trusty little Fiat Pando east towards Assisi, which is technically in Umbria. Umbria just happens to be very similar to Tuscany, but there was no movie Under the Umbrian Sun (although that might have a better ring to it). Assisi is the birthplace of a lot of religion, and it is here we learned about Saint Clare and Saint Francisco, saints that will come up over and over again in other European cities. Hordes of little black swifts jet all over this picturesque town.
Basilica di Santa Chiara (★)
A pink unassuming church, it has its charms. This is home to Saint Clare’s body, and has some really good informational signs about the history of her.
Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi (★)
Most people come to Assisi to visit this basilica. It’s situated at the edge of town and offers unparalleled views of the Umbrian valley below. Entrance was free and besides the Basilica you can also explore the monastery.
Porcellino Divino (★★)
Right outside of Assisi is a sandwich shop. They specialize in porchetta and they were pretty divine. It’s also here that we discovered the Chino, which is a soda made from the extracts of the chinotto bitter orange. We definitely started adding bottles of these to our grocery store carts.