While the world is in a bit of chaos with the fast-spreading, deadly Covid-19 virus pandemic, our thoughts and prayers go out to some of the hardest-hit countries like Italy. Even though it will be an unforeseen time as to when we can travel again, I want it to be known that when this mayhem is all said and done, the trip that should be next on your list is one to the Tuscany region of Italy.
Last summer I had the best experience while vacationing in Tuscany, just outside the city of Arezzo. Going with a group of close french friends, we spent a week in late August in an authentic Italian villa on top of one of the hillsides nearby Arezzo. A little over an hour south of Florence, this medieval city brings you back to a time when horses trotted the dusty roads lined with an abundance of open-air markets that brought you fresh produce and meat, while the intricate architecture of the catholic churches and town buildings surrounds you. And the best part of it all is this is in the heart of the Tuscany region known well for its wine, need I say more?
Throughout the week we ventured to many nearby villages and cities to truly get a firsthand experience of the Tuscan culture. The adventure allows you to experience the transcendent landscape making you feel you have been implanted into an electric green and blue painting of clear skies, rolling hills, vast fields, and vineyards, amongst the iconic Mediterranean cypress trees. Summer is an ideal time to visit Italy as the weather on average is in the mid-80s and the majority of the days are sunny and clear. additionally, throughout the summer and into September is the time of year known for the traditional Italian festivals celebrating local cuisine with historical re-enactments. These events gather thousands of locals and tourists alike to flock to these vibrant cities and bring life and entertainment to this part of Italy. Here is a recap of our visits…
Arezzo was our home away from home during our vacation allowing us to experience the local, fresh and delicious Italian restaurants. A historical center that provides visitors to encounter the authenticity of Italian culture. On the third Sunday in June and the first Sunday in September, Arezzo hosts the Giostra del Saracino or The Joust. We just missed the event as we flew back home when the September date was to occur, but we saw the set-up and I can only imagine what a memorable party it is.
Montepulciano plays host to a popular event known as the Bravio delle Botti. A more recent event only having started in the 1970s, this is a competitive race, held the last Sunday in August, amongst the town’s medieval neighborhoods. However, this is unlike any other race you may have been a spectator to as this race is comprised of a team of two, from each rivaling neighborhood, racing while pushing an old wine barrel up a continuous 1600m cobblestoned hill. Exciting, interesting, but most importantly a fun event to watch for the whole family.
Montalcino is a popular town to visit for its famous Brunello wine. A Rocca or otherwise known fortress built-in 1361, is where one can climb its steps to gain access to a gorgeous view of the evening sunset that comes down behind a picturesque landscape. Unlike its neighboring villages that celebrate summer festivals, Montalcino organizes a fall festival in late October called Sagra del Tordo, or Song Thrush Festival, celebrating its historical hunting tradition.
San Gimignano is a popular village known for its 13th-century walls and towers, it is made up of many narrow, winding, and hidden alleys and passageways that let you gander at the street lined medieval houses. San Gimignano also hosts the Ferie delle Messi, a medieval harvest & fertility festival that takes place on the third weekend in June. As a popular tourist spot, it heeds a warning for you to be prepared for busy streets, restaurants, and shops.
The Palio di Siena is a horse race dating back to the 11th century that takes place in the main square, Piazza del Campo, every year on July 2 and August 16. Unfortunately, we were not on holiday during these dates and missed the races but the city is still unique and beautiful to visit.
Have you been to Tuscany? What have been your favorite things to see and do there?