Road tripping through Tuscany: Twiharding in Volterra, thrifting in Arezzo, and more…
Since returning from my Easter travels, I’ve actually been in Tuscany for the last couple of weeks, trying to get used to my hectic 20-hour a week schedule and staying on top of life in Siena. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t travelled a little bit, as I have actually done two road trips, visiting four different Tuscan towns which are basically my neighbours. Who doesn’t love a road trip? I think it’s one of the best ways to see a place, even if the majority of my trips have occurred torrential rain, slightly dampening the views of the infamous Tuscan countryside- Spring where are you???
Yes, thanks to a visit from my parents in early May, and my wonderful Flatmate being old enough to get cheaper car insurance on rental cars, I have been lucky enough to explore some Tuscan wonders, despite the cold weather. Picture the scene: 5 Erasmus students, 1 Fiat Panda, and the whole of the Tuscan province at our feet (or pedals, I don’t know…).
Note: I was very grateful when it came to deciding who would drive the car, when I realised I can use the excuse of: “It’s the wrong side of the road for me,” as I have so much fear when it comes to Italians on the autostrada.
First up: Lucca, my favourite Tuscan town, about 2 hours from Siena…
Piazza del Duomo
Famous for having it’s renaissance walls still completely intact, as well as having no hills (my favourite part), Lucca is slightly bigger than Siena (by that I mean, it has a Zara) and a really great day trip. You can still walk along all of the city walls, or even rent a bike if you anything like my Dutch flatmate, and feeling a little homesick. I have to say, my favourite part of the day was trekking up the Torre Guinigi, which is a tower with trees on top, that has pretty amazing views of the city.
It’s a shame about the clouds
Lucca is fab because unlike its next-door neighbour Pisa, it is way less touristy, meaning its pretty easy to stroll through its cobbled streets and alleys. Very unlike Siena as well, which seems to have more and more of those armies of tour groups arriving every day…
We even squeezed in a gelato- taking advantage of a local shop that went all out with it, offering toppings for the 15 different “pour it yourself” flavours….
Next up: Arezzo. Visited in the same weekend as Lucca, although rain severely impacted the trip. Although only an hour away from Siena, the vibe there is seriously different, as all the buildings seem to look more like alpine lodges than Tuscan renaissance architecture. It is also famous for having the square that is the location in Life is Beautiful, you know, the bike scene when everything is still happy…
Seeing as I cannot ride a bike, no attempt to recreate the image was made, however, given that we visited on Sunday, we were welcomed by one the country’s biggest antiques market, meaning there was little room for tomfoolery anyway…
Don’t let these brief blue skies fool you, we spent most of the day hiding in Zara to avoid the rain
If you are looking for some debatably cheap furniture or jewellery, head to Arezzo!
Then, a few weeks later, my parents came to visit me, and as well as showing them around Siena, we decided to visit two other places in Tuscany…
Round 1 was San Gimignano, which given that it is only 40 minutes away from Siena, has become something of a joke for us Erasmus students, as people seem to visit there at least 5 times during their stay. I, having already been here for over 3 months, still had not seen The Town of Fine Towers, so off we went.
Famously, many houses were constructed in the Middle Ages with tall towers (each tower trying to be taller than their neighbour’s one- a sort of Middle Age’s Small Man Syndrome if you will). 12 of them still stand today!
San Gimignano is probably one the smallest Tuscan towns on the tourist circuit, but it most certainly is charming, and home to several artisanal shops selling local produce (including a shop with endless cheese samples- MY HEAVEN) as well endless views of the Tuscan hills. It even, famously, is home to the Gelateria that won “Best Ice Cream in the World” in 2006 and 2008. Yeah, I wasn’t that impressed either, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t queue for 20 minutes whilst it was drizzling, for some overpriced Nutella ice cream!
Eh, not the best, not the worst- definitely not worth the hype
And finally, last but not least, Volterra. A city famously close to my heart because I love Twilight, and therefore had to visit the location used in the second instalment New Moon.
An iconic set of films if you ask me
Before anyone tries to get smart with me, yes, I am aware that it was actually filmed in Montepulciano, which I have been to as well. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to see the town anyway.
Like Lucca, Volterra is slightly less touristy, however, it is renowned in Tuscany for being one of the most important Etruscan cities, and it still has several ruins from both Etruria and Rome- including the old Etruscan wall.
We spent the night in Volterra, staying in a converted farmhouse, a phenomenon known as agriturismo, which was really nice, even if (once again) rain slightly spoiled our plans.
There are so many beautiful towns here in Tuscany, I’m spoiled. I’m not sure if I will visit any more Tuscan towns, as time is (sadly) running out, and in the next month, I have trips to Bologna and home planned. And then, exams and summer are here, and who knows where I will be then? So much to organise… But until next time…
Sometimes you just need a visit from your parents…