Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Tuscan Weekend: Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca (with an overnight stay in Umbria's Perugia)

My parents, Alan and Gaye, came to Italy to spend a week with us before they went on a 12 day cruise to Croatia, Greece, and Turkey. Since they had spent nine days last year in Naples and Rome, we decided to spend some time in other regions of the country. Hurricane Sandy almost spoiled our plans, but thankfully their flight arrived (albeit 6 hours late) and off we went to our first stop, Perugia.

Perugia is the capital of the Umbria region of Italy and is known as a university town and for its annual chocolate and jazz festivals. After we checked into our castle hotel just outside of the city, we made our way to the city center and walked around town. We came across Piazza IV Novembre which forms the center of Perugia. It consists of a large fountain named Fontana Maggiore, which was built in the 12th century, and the Cathedral of San Lorenzo which was finished in the 15th century. We were fortunate to be in Perugia for an international arts festival so we were able to browse through multiple vendors selling their products and crafts. There were many musicians playing sweet-sounding tunes as we strolled through the crowded streets and as we came across beautiful views of the Umbrian countryside from the city center.

A nice view from Perugia

Piazza IV Novembre with Fontana Maggiore in the center.

The castle we stayed in was amazing. In the past it had been used as a military base and nowadays sees visitors from around the world looking for a different kind of hotel/b&b experience. The grounds were spectacular and the views of Perugia and the rest of Umbria were breathtaking.

Enjoying some wine before dinner

Near our room at the castle

Umbrian countryside
Perugia from afar
Jon and Dad on the roof of the castle

The next day we drove 1.5 hours to Siena. Jon and I had visited Siena last year and wanted to show mom and dad how beautiful it is. Piazza del Campo was calling out to us and after a long wait in line we were able to climb the Torre del Mangia to look out onto the rest of the city.

From the Torre del Mangia

From the Torre del Mangia
Mom and dad in Piazza del Campo
Hello there! In the Torre del Mangia.

We then went to our first wine tasting stop at Dievole, about 20 minutes from Siena. Our tour of the winery and grounds had a unique twist to it where we tasted a different wine at every place we stopped in. They were deliciously paired with different salamis and cheeses.

Afterwards, we drove to San Gimignano where we stayed in a wonderful agriturismo overlooking the town and the Tuscan countryside. Stunning views were seen from all angles and the hospitality could not be beat! It's amazing how vastly different the regions of Italy can be, namely Campania and Tuscany... we almost forgot how beautiful it is up here! Dad and I were able to take a run from the agriturismo into the walled-in town without any cars honking or trash at our footsteps! Simply gorgeous.

In San Gimignano before dinner
The view from a different wine tasting venue. 

Taking a stroll in San Gimignano

San Gimignano
Gorgeous Tuscany!

After two days in San Gimignano we packed up the car and headed to Pisa. We had one goal here and that was to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Soon after construction began in 1173 the tower began to tilt. The unintended tilt of the tower now leans at about 4 degrees (prior to restoration work between 1990-2001 it tilted 5.5 degrees). It's one of the most famous structures in Italy and seeing it in person was very exciting!

Of course we couldn't leave without taking the stereotypical Pisa pictures...

Trying to push it down
Jon tried to kick it down, but we just couldn't get the right shot!

Mom using her strength to hold it up!

After Pisa we decided to stop in Lucca. We had heard that this was a beautiful city and that we had to visit it if we were in the area. It certainly didn't disappoint, and we thought that the small narrow streets with the locals riding bikes through them were very charming. We found a restaurant appropriately named Gigi's (Gigi is what our nephew Matt calls my mom) and it was one of the best meals we had throughout the whole trip.

Lugging our valuables around so they wouldn't get stolen from the car...

We couldn't stay too long in Lucca as we had to make our way to Florence in order for Jon to catch a train back to Naples. We had such an amazing time in Tuscany with mom and dad and we were so excited to show them this part of Italy. Up next is Florence and Venice with Al and Gaye!

1 comment:

  1. After reading all the wonderful and exciting previous blogs, it was a little strange to read one that talked about Alan and me, and to see pictures of the both of us! But all I can say is that we had an absolutely wonderful time with Cheryl and Jon! The places we visited with them were amazing and so beautiful! The castle in Perugia was gorgeous and it was very different staying overnight there! (I can honestly say that we never stayed over in a castle before!) I loved staying at the bed and breakfast in the beautiful Tuscany countryside! The B&B was so quaint and very charming! The Torre del Mangia was very interesting, especially when we climbed up over 450 steps to get to the top! And I think the most amazing structure on this trip was the Leaning Tower of Pisa! I've seen so many photographs of it, but after seeing it in person, it's just absolutely amazing! It's so weird to see a huge tower leaning to one side! We loved every minute of this trip, but it was very special spending time with Cheryl and Jon!