For our venue tours, we really traversed a good deal of Tuscany – driving as far as the city of Lucca to the northwest of Florence and then to a variety of different hills overlooking Florence from various directions. In all, we drove just above 300 kilometers in two days (roughly 200 miles). Since most of the venues are villas (i.e., not within a ‘town’ per se), there wasn’t a whole lot to see outside of the incredible views of the Tuscan hills as we drove around (full disclosure – this most is mostly pictures, given how many memories we wanted to capture!).
However, since our first venue tour was just outside of Lucca, we decided to hit the road a couple hours early to get in a little city exploration time.
The city of Lucca is beautiful – small, winding streets, a couple incredible churches (including one with an amazing Byzantine façade and several others with very ornate décor and a stunning white coloring).
As we wandered, we stumbled across the Torre d’ Oro (which apparently has an incredible view of the city from above, but which sadly hadn’t opened for the day yet). Then, we wandered through the small little streets and piazzas until we were properly lost.
This became important, as we had (very, very stupidly) not pinned where we had parked the car – and of course, ended up doing a 25 minute walk around the city perimeter to find the gate through which we’d entered the city.
Finally, we found the car and made our way up the winding hills towards the villa – quickly discovering that our giant car (a crossover SUV) was probably the worst choice possible to traverse the tiny, one-lane Italian roads you encounter all across the hillside. After getting lost several times, we finally made it (and discovered that we were perfectly on time in Italian time). After viewing that venue, we made our way back towards Florence, loving the views of the tiny hill-side towns as we drove the countryside.
All was well until we headed for our last venue of the day. We missed our exit and merged on to highway to Rome, figuring that we’d probably be able to turn around and make our exit shortly. Not so – in Italy, the highways really are inter-state. We drove an additional 20 kilometers or so before we could exit – and, given traffic in the direction of Florence, ended up taking back roads to return. Ultimately, those 40 kilometers took us about an hour and took us through some absolutely incredible Tuscan roads.
I loved seeing all the roadside treasures – tiny little towns, with laundry flowing in the wind; sweeping views of Tuscan countryside as we crested hills; little roadside shrines decorated with Catholic iconography and flowers.
The views were truly spectacular across Tuscany, with many views of beautiful olive groves, wineries, and in one case, a field of sunflowers.
Not only did we see some great venues with views overlooking Florence, we also really got a feel for what both Florence and Tuscany look like from car – and saw much, much more of “lived” Italy than we ever did as tourists.
On our way to our final venue, we stopped at a lovely food and wine resort for lunch – and it was absolutely delicious! We tried a kale, bean and squid pasta as well as an olive tapenade with fresh tomatoes.
Overall, it was an incredible couple days making our way through Tuscany!