We took advantage of our prime location at Casa Cornacchi, and the near-perfect weather, to experience some of the best that Tuscany has to offer. Each morning after breakfast, we would restock the diaper bag, pack up some snacks, and hit the hilly, winding Tuscan roads to explore a new place.
Before arriving in Tuscany, I had made a mental list of the places I wanted to visit that I didn’t get to on my previous trip to Italy and, luckily, they all are within a 90-minute drive of Casa Cornacchi. I got to all the places on my list, and then some! We ate delicious food, drank amazing wine, and took in beautiful architecture – all backdrops for unforgettable moments of experiencing Tuscany with my daughter.
Valdichiana Outlet Village. First off, leave it to my mother to find an outlet mall in The Middle Of Nowhere, Tuscany. Sure, there were great deals to be had but what is most memorable is that it’s the site of my daughter’s first carousel ride. She was beyond thrilled to ride the “ee aw” (her word for horse) and she talked about it for hours after.
Florence. I am no fan of Firenze (explanation requires an entirely separate blog post), yet I agreed to visit again since my mother and my husband had never been there. My feelings aside, I will always remember the look on my daughter’s face as I handed her the largest (and most expensive!) ice cream cone she has ever seen, overflowing with lemon gelato! It took a while and it required a team effort, but she finished it all.
Montepulciano. This was one of the places included on my mental, must-see-in-Tuscany list. We spent an enjoyable afternoon scaling the steep streets of Montepulciano, shopping and wine tasting. As late afternoon/early evening approached, my pint-sized traveler grew quite hungry. Just like in Orvieto, restaurants in Montepulciano close in the afternoon and reopen at approximately 7:30pm. There was no way Lucia could wait that long for dinner so we were faced with the decision of stuffing her with snacks and then taking the chance of her not eating a proper dinner later on; or, of doing whatever we needed in order to find a place that was open so we all could get something to eat. Just as we were about to give up and stuff her with snacks, we spotted La Bottega del Nobile, a café that was open and advertising an almost-full menu. It didn’t look like much – a couple of young guys working there, some older gents sipping cappuccino outside – but we decided to give it a try. The food was solid, nothing spectacular, but those young guys working there treated us like family. More importantly, they treated Lucia like their baby sister. Paolo, our server, brought out her food first and made sure she was content at all times. The café is attached to a wine shop and it turns out that Paolo is a sommelier-in-training, and that he’s originally from Calabria (where my father’s family’s roots are), so we were instant friends. Paolo treated us to tastes of several different delicious wines and even cut us a deal on a few bottles. When I asked Paolo to use the restroom so I could change Lucia’s diaper, he was so excited to let me know that his café is the only spot in town with a baby-changing table! I did not verify Paolo’s claim but I’ll take his word for it since he was so proud.
Siena. I had a feeling I would love Siena long before I finally arrived within its city walls and, turns out, I was right. We had one of the best meals of our entire trip at a tiny restaurant (of course I cannot remember the name) and did lots of shopping at the expansive street market at La Lizza. Two of my favorite memories of the entire trip were made in Siena. The first took place at Piazza del Campo. We let Lucia loose and watched with smiles on our faces as she laughed her head off and chased pigeons across the piazza. It seriously made my heart melt. Later, on our walk out of the city back to our car, Lucia broke out in song. She sang a song, one to which only she knows the words, at the top of her lungs for several minutes. Passersby smiled while Lucia belted out the tunes and waved her arms in the air to the beat. I have one word in mind to describe this memory: darling. We caught it all on video, too.
San Gimignano. One of the most scenic and most charming towns I’ve been to in all of Italy, San Gimignano, from the country hills below, looks like something out of The Lord of the Rings. I was captivated by the medieval towers and the high walls surrounding the city. I even commented that San Gimignano must be an awesome place for a kid growing up there because I know, during our own childhoods, we all spent playtime pretending to build or protect a fortress; in San Gimignano, there are REAL fortresses where kids can let their imaginations run wild! For Lucia, though, the highlight was the bell towers. Whenever the bells chimed, Lucia would sing along, “ding dong, ding dong”, and sway back and forth like the clapper of the bell. My mother pointed out to Lucia the bells in the many towers of San Gimignano and, even now back at home, whenever Lucia hears or sees bells in a tower, she chimes and sways along with them.
The end of a trip always brings on a bout of the post-travel blues. This time, however, I have been able to avoid them, for the most part, by recalling these fun and happy times with my daughter in Tuscany. These memories will forever bring a smile to my face.