About four years ago, after a particularly rough few months, it seemed like a fitting time to take the girls to Sorrento so that they could discover this special place for themselves. You see, we don’t really ‘do’ package holidays, opting for a more authentic experience when we travel and I was ridiculously excited to introduce them to the magic of Italy. After landing, I took them on a little tour of the main town and they were instantly captivated by the balmy climate, smells and sounds of Sorrento. This consisted of lemon trees dotted on every street, postcard-perfect views and of course, an obligatory gelato or three!
During our trip, we visited Positano, Ischia, Capri, Naples, Pompeii and took a breathtaking drive through the Almfi Coast. We spent time appreciating the flawless beauty of the villages we passed through, meeting locals and understanding the traditions. Whenever we go abroad, we always try to learn the language beforehand – the basics at least – and this was reciprocated by most of the people we came across as they cheerfully chirped ‘Buongiorno’ back at the girls and I (although Lucie, who was 11 at the time, got confused one lunchtime and began speaking broken French, much to the amusement of our waiter!).
I’m keen to discover more of Italy and Tuscany is high up on my bucket list. We’re ready to make some new memories now that my girls are rapidly getting older.
Here’s a snapshot of how my fantasy trip to Tuscany would go:
We’d pick up our hire car, enjoy a drive through the panoramic Tuscan countryside, head to a local supermercato to stock up on plenty of
goodies essentials such as fresh bread, cheese, meats, sfogliatelle and few bottles of Bolgheri before locating our villa and settling in. This means unpacking and spending the rest of the evening by the pool of course!
We’d wake up bright and early and take a trip to central Siena. This is one of Tuscany’s seven World Heritage sites; I really do have a thing for architecture so this would be where I’d get my fix.
Having stood in awe of sites such as the Colusiem and Sagrada Familia in the past, Siena has an absolute wealth of beautiful buildings just waiting for me to explore! The Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena) is a stunning 13th-century gothic church boasting black and white marble stripes, a library of illuminated manuscripts, intricate mosaics and works by Michelangelo.
Each of Siena’s 17 districts has its own symbol, also known as contrades. These range from a she-wolf (lupa) and porcupine (istrice) in the north to a snail (chiocciola) and tortoise (tartuca) in the south so we’d embark on a ‘treasure hunt’ to try and find each of these subtle, historical nods.
Piazza del Campo is regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares with the opportunity to people watch whilst grabbing a coffee and breathing in the atmosphere. With 400 steps and spectacular views of the countryside, we’d then finish our day off with a climb to the Top of Torre del Mangia.
The spa town of Bagno Vignoni would allow us to take a dip in the various sulphurous thermal baths (just not the one in the central piazza though as it’s forbidden). We spent an entire day doing this in Ischia and it really was one of the highlights of our previous Italian adventure.
We’d then stop by the nearby San Quirico d’Orcia to experience some true Italian cuisine. This would mean taking part in a cooking class and learning how to make gnocchi, pici, ravioli and tagliatelle from scratch, taking home so much more than the usual magnet or trinket for my bookshelf!
I think by this point, the girls would be in need of little down time! We’d spend the day cooking seasonal produce in our villa, putting our new-found skills to good use before indulging in an evening of al fresco dining and admiring the charming landscape of Chianti.
With us all leading busy lives, sometimes an idyllic break is the ultimate tonic for the mind, body and soul. This would give us the precious family time together that I crave so very much and would no doubt involve a competitive board game tournament on the sun terrace!
The food would also be accompanied by a bottle of Chianti or two for the grown-ups; a fitting way to really show some appreciation of this region. When in
I concluded many years ago that Lucie is possibly half-human, half-mermaid. She loves nothing more than being in the water, especially the sea but seldom gets the chance to do so with us living in the UK (Blackpool beach really isn’t a place for swimming).
While Megan and I enjoy the simplicity of sunbathing on the sand, Lu dives right in and can spend hours just splashing around. We’d pack a picnic and head to the coast for the day. Maremma would be a great place for us to breathe in the scent of local pine groves, enjoy some sunshine and unearth even more of the charm that Tuscany has to offer.
No trip to Tuscany would be complete without a jaunt to the capital city of Florence, would it? As previously mentioned, being a family of foodies means that stopping by the San Lorenzo Market (also known as Mercato Centrale) to indulge in even more cheese, meats, bread, Chianti Classico and gelato is a must!
For lunch, we’d have to try the famous delicacy, Panino con Lampredotto. This distinctive street food may not sound like a particularly appetising dish (it contains tripe), however, I’ve been informed that they do taste much better than they look so we’re fully prepared to trust the locals, roll with tradition and give it a go!
Moving off the beaten track a little, we’d then head to the National Museum of Bargello; this is one of the oldest buildings in Florence and home to sculptures by Michelangelo, Donatello and Sansovino. Whilst there are many replicas around Florence, nothing ever beats the original, so we’d be sure to seek out Michelangelo’s iconic statue, David, located in Galleria dell’Accademia.
We’d most likely fly home to Manchester from Galileo Galilei Airport so would use this as an opportunity to finish off our trip in true tourist style and swing by the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I guarantee that we’d spend at least an hour watching the kids trying to take ‘clever’ pictures of them ‘holding the tower up’ to share on Snapchat so that’d be fun.
On a serious note, this tower is recognised by people around the world and is a signature part of Pisa’s landscape so we’d join the crowds and climb the 297 steps of the spiral staircase to the bell chamber (think of the Instagram shots from up there!).
The nearby Camposanto Santo is part of the Piazza dei Miracoli and somewhere that personally, I’m keen to see. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a fascination with cemeteries and tombs – yeah, I know. I just find them so beautifully calming and this place is steeped in history. There’s also a local legend that a body can rot in the soil in just 24 hours so I’d best make sure not to hang around there for too long!
What do you guys reckon; sounds good, eh? Anyway, that’s enough of my daydreaming for now. Until then, I’ll be pouring over photographs and memories in my living room with an Aperol spritz or two!