You can and will create lasting memories no matter what time of the year you visit Tuscany. I have visited several times but the ONE day I reminisce about the most is Easter Sunday 2009.
Our party that consisted of eight adults and seven kids had been living in the countryside outside of San Gimignano for a week. We had been on the go and running 100 miles per hour from the moment we landed in Italy. We needed a day of rest, and this Easter was the perfect spring day to take a break and slow down.
The day started by celebrating mass at the Duomo or Collegiate Church in San Gimignano. I didn't understand a word of it because it was in Italian. That didn't matter as I found myself wandering about in awe at this magnificent place that dated back to the early 2nd century. You can get a history of the historic Duomo by clicking here. It's also a church you can/will visit on our Total Tuscany Experience.
After mass, our group returned to the estate we were staying at for lunch. We made plans to have our meal at the restaurant located on the grounds. From the sparkling water, wine, seven course meal, and all of us sitting around one big table; this moment was about family, it was peace, it was joy, it WAS Tuscany. The Funny thing is, I don't remember at all what we ate. All I have is a picture of one of the plates. What I do remember are the people, the smiles, and if I could capture one moment in time, this would be it.
Off and running!
It wouldn't be Easter without and egg hunt would it? My wife and I have taken thousands of pictures on our trips to Tuscany but this one of the kids starting the Easter egg hunt is one of our favorites. In fact, it won a competition we entered it in. Look at their expressions. Look at their smiles. Do you remember feeling like that as a child? This one photo captured the exact moment that many of us look to replicate.
This picture is what got me thinking about writing this post. What makes Tuscany so memorable? Is it the stunning landscapes? Is it the magnificent hilltop towns that take you back in history? Or is the wine and food made with fresh, season ingredients? The answer is all of the above. But for me, my memories and the reason I keep going back is for the people. Sharing moments in time with friends, family, and new acquaintances.
Let me share with you what I'm talking about. I don't remember the wine as much as I remember the winemaker who so passionately tells his life story during a tasting. You can look at his hands and know he was in the fields picking the same grapes he's bottled up. I don't remember the city I toured as much as the tour guide I hired and spent three hours with getting to know more about her family. I don't remember the restaurant or the food as much as I do the proprietor who comes to our table, and we find out the cafe' has been in his family for three generations and that his wife, sons, grandsons, and granddaughters all work there to keep the family tradition and business going. People make memories!
Are you ready to make your Tuscan memories? Join us on our custom made Total Tuscany Experience. Space is limited so call us or email us today for more details.
Do you have memories you would like to share? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, take time to listen to our podcasts as we talk about a wide range of topics and things to do in Tuscany.
I have a confession to make, the first time my wife and I visited Florence; it was anything but love at first sight. In fact, we couldn't get out of the city fast enough! I know, you think we are crazy, EVERYONE loves Florence, right? We do NOW, but it took a couple of visits to get us to come around.
Let me set the stage for you. Palm Sunday, 2009. My wife and I along with our four kids ranging in age from thirteen to two have already been in Tuscany for a week but had yet to visit Florence. We took a train from Certaldo to the Santa Maria Novella train station. All of us were so excited to experience everything this renaissance city had to offer. The Piazza del Duomo, the Santa Croce, Michelangelo's David, Medici Palace, and so much more. We read the guidebooks, talked to our fellow travel partners, we knew this was going to be one of the best experiences of our 17-day vacation, how could it not be?
Remember when I said it was Palm Sunday? Yeah, lesson one; if you don't come prepared for the start of Holy Week in a very holy city in a very holy country then the size of the crowds may overwhelm you! As soon as we stepped off the train it felt like we got punched right in the face with some of the largest swarms of people we had ever seen. Shoulder to shoulder as far as we could see. This trip was also our first experience in Europe. We had been warned by several people to be on the lookout for pickpockets, gypsies, and anyone looking to take advantage of novice travelers (which we were). From the minute we arrived, we were overpowered, scared, and most of all out of place.
I was carrying our three-year-old in a backpack, and our other kids were attached to our hips. If anyone even as so much looked at us in a funny way, I was positive we were going to get robbed.
We first visited Basilica Santa Maria Novella; it was closest to the train station, so it seemed like a natural thing to do. My wife will tell you that I don't deal with stress very well, and I don't deal with big crowds. Combine the two and I become a wreck. I like to think I have changed a lot since this moment in time, but if there was ever time I was going to take Xanax, this was it. So on Palm Sunday, we go to a church, and not to attend mass! It didn't take me long to figure out that I didn't plan this day very well. I wanted to keep moving, find space, find peace and try not to get ripped off.
So after leaving one church, where do I decide to lead everyone? Another church! Only this time the Florence Cathedral to see the Duomo and Baptistry. So I guided our family through a vast crowd to one twice as big. Maneuvering the streets of Florence, panicked, stressed and sweating because I'm hauling a three-year-old on my back, we arrive a the Piazza del Duomo. Unfortunately, it was more like a scene out of the first Vacation movie when the Griswold's visited the Grand Canyon.
After about 30-seconds at the Duomo, we decided we were hungry, and we found a cafe to sit down at and try to relax. It turned into a family meeting where we decided to leave Florence vowing NEVER to return. So that you know, on our first trip to Tuscany we spent a little over three hours in Florence on a journey that lasted 17-days.
Looking back, I regret this day so much. We have returned to Florence several times since and have become quite fond of it. Normally we like to stay in countryside villa's in Tuscany, but in March of 2015, we broke our routine and decided to reside in the city. Amazing! There is so much to do and so much to see that Florence does get inside you and changes the way you look at the world.
That's the lesson here, the first time I visited Florence my eyes were shut, and I refused to take a peek the beauty before me. When you visit Florence for the first time, or the next time make sure your eyes are wide open! I promise you will see something different everywhere you look and fall in love with the birthplace of the Renaissance. In fact, you may never want to leave!
Related podcast links:
Molly Mcllwrath-What to do with kids in Florence
Our advice-Traveling with kids to Tuscany