Having spent a week in a villa in southern Tuscany – in between Siena and Arezzo, it was impossible not to do some sightseeing and visit some of the stunning towns in the surrounding area. These places were my favourites (again, this will be photo heavy):
Arezzo is one of the highlights of southern Tuscany, not only because it’s a beautiful town, but also because it lacks the tourist hordes that Florence and Siena attract. It’s quiet and utterly charming. And also houses one of my favourite frescos by Pierro della Francesca, ‘The Dream of Constantine’, in the Church of San Francisco de Arezzo (said to have been painted in the mid 15th century, but still in amazing condition).
MONTE SAN SAVINO
This lovely town is set high on a hill (600m above sea level), and can be seen from quite a distance. I love the snaking drive up to Monte San Savino, and the town itself is as pretty from within as it is from the outside.
This was our ‘local’, so we came here not only to do shopping, but also to visit the weekly market (on a Thursday). While it won’t take long to walk through, it is definitely worth visiting. The present day layout of Lucignano originated around the year 1200, and was completed in the 16th century, so it is a very old little town. We always had delicious cappuccinos at a little cafe just outside the town walls and watched locals and tourists a like admire the town. Like Monte San Savino it is also set on a hill (around 450m above sea level), so the views from here of the surrounding countryside is beautiful.
We were meant to spend the night here upon arrival in Italy, but due to a screw up on behalf of the airline Vueling, we spent 20 hours at Gatwick instead of enjoying one of my favourite cities in the world. Despite this, we still visited the city for an afternoon. I had not been back to Florence in about 2 years, and found it busier than ever. Word of advice: don’t come here in July and August. It is just packed with tourists and it tends to be very hot (though in our case it rained, so the city was pleasantly cool). Do still love it though!
Two big tips for Florence (apart from the other tips which you can find on City Turtle already):
1) If you need a place to stay that’s central and good value (as well as stunning), stay in one of the Suite Apartments of the Johanna & Johlea. While I missed the night staying at Casa Tornabuoni, my father and sister loved it. For 210 euros a night, you get a two bedroom apartment minutes walk from the Duomo and the River Arno. If there are just two of you, then stay in one of the homily Bed & Breakfasts that Johanna & Johlea offer. Very Italian and very good prices, all with excellent locations in Florence.
2) Head to Trattoria 4 Leoni – a lovely Italian Trattoria just south of the river. All the locals head here for one of their simple but delicious dishes. And no wonder it has such a great reputation – the Pear & Asparagus Pasta might be one of the best pastas I have ever had. You can sit outside on their terrace, which overlooks a little square. From here it’s a short stroll to the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens and Sante Spirito square and church, which are all worth a visit.