When travelling to Tuscany, it is pretty hard to leave the splendour, culture and history of its capital – Florence. Even now, typing that name puts a smile on my face and a happy *sigh* in my heart. But there is so much more to Tuscany once you are ready to leave Florence! Throughout the next four articles, I’ll be sharing my travel tips on how to visit this romantic and beautiful part of the world while still having plenty of time to explore Florence.
Tip: Rent a car. If you’re staying in Florence’s city centre, most car rentals can be found near Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station. Do get the insurance, as drivers in Italy are less precious about other people’s vehicles, and don’t cheap out – get the GPS!
When driving in Tuscany, you will be blown away by how scenic the roads are – dramatic hilltop views, rows and rows of olive trees, vineyards as far as the eye can see. This region is impossibly fertile and each season boasts its own specialty. I have been there in the Fall and highly recommend this time of year as tourism is lower and harvest season is in full swing. One night you might go to sleep surrounded by lush grapes on the vines, the next morning – they are gone! Picked for this year’s wine crop. Trees are also laden with olives and wild boar hunting season begins so restaurant menus are filled with this delicious delicacy.
Leaving Florence in the morning, the drive to this commune in the province of Siena is just under 1.5 hours with traffic. Monteriggioni is a medieval walled town, strategically placed as a defensive fortification between Siena and Florence. It is quite impressive when driving up toward the town to see the walls, intact after standing for over 800 years.
You can park your car at the base of the hill – ensure to have Euros handy to pay. A short, but rather steep, walk takes you to the ancient entrance of Monteriggioni’s Piazza Roma – the main piazza. Here you can see town life unfold among the Romanesque church, Renaissance-style homes, restaurants and shops.
If you are looking for simple, yet tasty local cuisine, dine al fresco in the piazza at Bar Il Feudo. After lunch, buy a ticket and walk atop the medieval walls. For less than $4 you can climb up to the walls and get an incredible 360 view of the town and surrounding area. Be sure to also leave time to explore the shops! From wine and local artisans, this town is a perfect place to find souvenirs for your friends at home.
If you are looking to unwind and relax in Tuscan style, Il Piccolo Castello Hotel is the perfect choice. Located a five minute drive from the centre of Monteriggioni, this hotel is laid out like a rectangle – all the rooms surrounding a lovely pool area, complete with palm trees. Rooms are large, free breakfast is bountiful and the pool loungers are so lovely to stretch out on.
The hotel does offer a highly recommended restaurant, but I love venturing out at night to eat where the locals eat. The place to go for authentic, local food is Bar dell’Orso . Found at the round-a-bout at the entrance of Monteriggioni, this road-side restaurant is packed with families and locals enjoying local dishes like Pici Pasta – or ‘fat spaghetti’ – which originated in this province of Siena. I had their zucchini flower risotto and wild boar pici and left full and incredibly happy.