Italian Road Trip (Part 2): Tuscany

Where: Tuscany
When: June 2015
Hotel: Agriturismo Casale dello Sparviero
Why Tuscany: Have you seen pictures of Tuscany? Then there should really be no question why anyone would want to include it on a trip to Italy! My friend Karyn was coming to visit from Georgia and a road trip around Italy seemed like a great idea. We started the trip in the amazing Cinque Terre (read about it here) and after a couple days in that breathtaking area, we moved onto the hilltop towns of Tuscany and a stay at a fantastic farmhouse that was the epitome of Tuscany.

Beautiful Tuscany!

Beautiful Tuscany!

The Trip: We had two days to explore Tuscany after we left Cinque Terre and before we headed on to Florence. In planning the itinerary, I wanted us to get the most out of our Tuscan experience. This meant picking which of the many, many towns to visit and most importantly, finding the perfect place to stay. After hours (seriously, hours) on booking.com and tripadvisor.com, I found Casale dello Sparviero – an Agriturismo in the Tuscan hills outside of Castellina in Chianti. (Side note – an Agriturismo is a combination of the words for “agriculture” and “tourism” in Italian. Our farmhouse was a working vineyard and produced olive oil!)

One of the best parts of the farmhouse was its location. It was in a very central position to explore Tuscany without hours of driving. We left Riomaggiore en route to the farmhouse, but had a few stops planned first – starting with the town of Lucca. Unfortunately, Lucca is officially in the category of towns I wanted to like but it was just kind of blah. Granted, Cinque Terre is a hard act to follow and while Lucca was pretty, it lacked the wow factor that we wanted. (It also probably didn’t help that we were ready for the hilltop towns and Lucca was not one.)

Lucca is encircled by a well-preserved Renaissance wall.

Lucca is encircled by a well-preserved Renaissance wall.

The walkway on top of the wall - a beautiful path!

The walkway on top of the wall – a beautiful path!

The Lucca clock tower

The Lucca clock tower

Selfie in the amphitheater turned shopping market

Selfie in the amphitheater turned shopping market

After walking around Lucca, we headed to Volterra, a town that apparently has been inhabited since 8 BC. During the drive down, the countryside vastly changed into exactly what we were expecting from Tuscany. Rolling hills, castles on the sides of the road, pretty farmhouses…and when Volterra didn’t disappoint, I think this is actually where our Tuscan experience began. (Incidentally, it was also were we discovered that the theme of walking uphill didn’t end at Cinque Terre…our glutes got major workouts on this trip!)

This is the Etruscan gate, built in the fourth century B.C. It was saved from ruin during WWII when the townspeople barricaded it from the Nazis, who were going to blow it up.

This is the Etruscan gate, built in the fourth century B.C. It was saved from ruin during WWII when the townspeople barricaded it from the Nazis, who were going to blow it up.

Lots of walled towns in Tuscany...this is Volterra's wall!

Lots of walled towns in Tuscany…this is Volterra’s wall!

Walking back into town from the gate.

Walking back into town from the gate.

Selfies galore! Here we are in Volterra!

Selfies galore! Here we are in Volterra!

Roman ruins on the outskirts of town. This was once the town dump, before the ruins were found underneath.

Roman ruins on the outskirts of town. This was once the town dump, before the ruins were found underneath.

We were hiking FAST up to our car thanks to this storm coming in!

We were hiking FAST up to our car thanks to this storm coming in!

Our final stop of the day was San Gimingano, a walled (another theme – lots of walled towns!), medieval town noted for its towers which can be seen from a distance as you drive into the town. Originally, there were 72 towers of which 14 are left. The town was super touristy (and a lot of Americans!), but even being tired and hot, I still could see the charm of the town.

San Gimingano from the distance

San Gimingano from the distance

Towers of the town

Towers of the town

One of the main squares.

One of the main squares.

The highlight of the first day was for sure getting to our Agriturismo and seeing that it was even better than the pictures (that, and the free bottle of wine they left us!) Gorgeous location, long beautiful driveway and it was only $200 total for the both of us for two nights. It was perfect.

The driveway leading up to our Agriturismo!

The driveway leading up to our Agriturismo!

Our home for our time in Tuscany. It was fantastic - 2 bedrooms, 1 bath with a full kitchen and sitting area.

Our home for our time in Tuscany. It was fantastic – 2 bedrooms, 1 bath with a full kitchen and sitting area.

More of the front yard.

More of the front yard.

The wine produced by the farm - it was delicious! I came back with three bottles (should have gotten more - they were only 6E and you got a 10% discount for staying there!)

The wine produced by the farm – it was delicious! I came back with three bottles (should have gotten more – they were only 6E and you got a 10% discount for staying there!)

Final Impressions: Tuscany is amazing…and there’s more! Stay tuned for part two!

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