Siena, Florence, and Cooking in Tuscany

We saved the bigger cities of Tuscany for the end of the week and on Thursday with cooler temps we headed to Siena for a day of sightseeing.  We stopped along the way in the ancient walled village of Monteriggioni for a quick walk around and a morning gelato to boost morale and give the kids enough of  a sugar high to sustain lots of walking!

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Next stop: Siena!  We arrived late morning and after finding parking easily we were impressed with all the escalators up to the city so we didn’t have to climb the steep hills.  Much appreciated with the kiddos in tow!

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Our first stop was to the beautiful Duomo.  We wanted to do the full tour that included the rooftop, but it was timed entry and the next one wasn’t until 4:30.  We definitely didn’t want to stick around that long so we did the church and the Facciatone, an arch with an amazing view of the church, the town, and the surrounding countryside.

The inside of the Duomo is even more impressive than the outside.  We especially enjoyed the library with its beautifully frescoed ceiling and displays of pages from ancient books.

It was a long wait to get into the Facciatone to see the view simply because they can only allow people to go up in small groups since it is a small space at the top and the VERY narrow spiral staircases are only wide enough for one way traffic.  But the wait was definitely worth it for these breathtaking views.

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Such beauty in all directions!

After lunch, we walked through the Piazza del Campo and then made our way to a late lunch of pizza with a view.

Wandering the pretty streets…

Lunch at Il Pomodorino was a bit off the beaten path, but once we found it we were thrilled at the gorgeous view and the pizza was fantastic.

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After our late lunch, it was time to head back to the villa for a swim and that evening we were lucky to enjoy a delicious Tuscan buffet prepared at the villa.  The smells wafting from the kitchen all afternoon were mouth-watering and we all thoroughly enjoyed a lovely and delicious evening around the pool.

Overnight on Thursday a cold front rolled through and we woke to a surprisingly chilly, gloomy morning.  But lucky for us that was the morning we had planned to attend our Tuscan cooking class at Al Ghelso Bianco.  Two of our friends had taken this class along with their families and really enjoyed it, so we knew we needed to experience it while we were in Tuscany.

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Since it was busy season we were signed up for the class with another family who wound up being so fun to share the experience with.  Turns out they were from Montreal, but they had lived in Geneva for a few years and their teenage children were born there.  Small world!  It was great because during the cooking class there was a short break while the food was cooking and the older kids entertained our younger kids at the playground while the grown ups enjoyed some wine tasting.  Perfect!

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The class was so much fun and really one of the highlights of our trip.  We would have loved to stay at Al Ghelso Bianco, but they were fully booked way back in February when I was planning our trip!  Maybe next time?!

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Unfortunately the weather didn’t warm up enough to swim during our last day at La Certaldina, but we enjoyed just driving through the Tuscan countryside and lounging around the villa with our friends while the kids played.  We enjoyed one last Tuscan dinner and sunset before hitting the road the next day for Florence.

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We were a little nervous to visit Florence on a Saturday in August, but it made the most sense since it was on our way home and not far from our overnight stop of Parma.  So we got up and out by 8:30 am and found a great parking spot with no hassle.  Our friends came with us for a quick stroll and a morning coffee on the Piazza della  Repubblica.  They had already been to Florence and had plans to see some things that were new to them for the rest of the day, but it was fun exploring together for a bit and the kids had a blast as usual.

IMG_0759 Morning stroll across the Ponte Vecchio. 

Outside of the Uffizi Galleries.  Lines were way too long to think about going in, but pretty from the outside!

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Can’t pass up a carousel, especially such a famous one!

Outside of the beautiful duomo, by far the most crowded place in Florence.  

Playground break in a local neighborhood before another pizza lunch.  

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Loved the beautiful Piazza Santa Croce…

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So much that we were jumping for joy!  

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Another vantage point of the famous Ponte Vecchio.

We have to go up all these stairs?!  Worth it for these views though!  

We brought the hiking pack instead of the stroller because we were worried about crowds and cobblestone streets…I have to say all day we regretted not bringing the stroller…the only time the hiking pack came in handy was on the walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo.  Would have been possible with a stroller but definitely easier without!

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And that’s a wrap! Amazing and exhausted!  Florence was certainly crowded, but actually not as bad as I expected.  I have a bit of a crowd phobia and only got that claustrophobic, ‘we have to get out of here’ feeling outside of the duomo.  Everywhere else was pretty manageable and really enjoyable exploring some of the emptier side streets.

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That night we randomly booked a hotel in Parma and without knowing it, our friends booked a room in the same hotel right next door to us.  So perfect that we got one bonus night together.  We really liked Parma and had a great dinner at La Duchessa.  It was a fabulous end to a fabulous trip.  Tuscany was absolutely wonderful, but even better was getting to spend a whole week with our friends that we miss so much!  To the Lawlors-thank you for a great time…we are ready to plan our next adventure together!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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