Tuscany, Italy: Siena, Chianti, and Pisa
It’s #TravelTuesday… Whoot! Today I’m sharing more on our time in Tuscany, focusing on Siena, the Chianti region, and Pisa.
As you read last Tuesday, we had such an amazing experience in Tuscany, we had to split it into two posts. Last Tuesday we discussed the tiny hill towns speckled across the tuscan country side. Today we’re focusing on three specific places in Tuscany that left a dramatic impact on us.
Just south of Florence is the famed Chianti region of Italy. A region so focused on producing wine, they regulate the water usage, the amount of bottles that can be produced by each wine maker, and even the amount a grapes used for wine-making off each vine.
These regulations (and more) are set to ensure that only the very best wines come out of Chianti.
There are vineyards as far as the eye can see along the roads through Chianti.
What’s even better? There are road side wine tasting stands down nearly every country road. You could spend days, even weeks, sampling them all.
Our friends at CulturalItaly.com set up a VIP-style tour and wine-tasting lunch for us at the renowned Castello Verazzano.
Castello Verazzano is famous for several reasons. Not only do they make spectacular wines, they are one of the oldest estates in the region (over 1000 years old) and were the first winemakers in Chianti to open their doors to the public for wine tourism.
The original owners, the Verazzano family, have a long standing history of wine making, yet have made their mark on history in other ways as well.
Giovanni Verazzano was a famous explorer who sailed to the new world. He created some of the earliest maps of the Wilmington area, and is thought to have discovered New York before the Dutch. There is a statute of Giovanni Verazzano in Battery Park in New York City, FYI.
Learning the history of Castello Verazzano, touring wine cellars that have stood the test of time, and peering out over the scenic tuscan countryside created a day that is marked as one of our favorite days in Italy.
On top of that, the wine tasting lunch was something to experience. The 5 course lunch with wine pairing was one of the most monumental meals of our trip.
I highly recommend this…
After roaming the Chianti region, we headed south to spend a couple days in Siena, Tuscany’s premier hill town.
Siena, is the largest of Tuscany’s hill towns perched on top of 3 hills. The oldest section was once completely walled, yet the remains of the wall give the city a whimsical romantic quality.
Although there are museums and plenty of shopping along the streets of Siena, the main attractions are Il Campo, considered one of Italy’s best city squares, and the lavish Duomo with statutes sculpted by Bernini and Michelangelo.
We enjoyed walking the narrow streets of Siena, poking around in various shops, and resting by the 15th century Fountain of Joy in Il Campo.
As mentioned in my Travel Tips Post, it’s a good idea to research different festivals and events at the time of your travels. We discovered that the annual Palio horse race around Il Campo, was during our time in Italy so we planned our trip to Siena around it.
This ended up being one of the the biggest highlights for the kids!
Siena is made up of 10 neighborhoods of strong heritage. Each year, seven of the ten neighborhoods are selected to participate in the race and they send a rider to the squares for several days for trial runs and trace on the final race.
The outer circle of Il Campo is covered in dirt for the horse track.
The center of Il Campo is reserved for viewers. You have to early, because the gates close before the race.
Just look at the people!
Even on the trail days, a heavy procession of each clan parade to the square wearing their neighborhood flags, then file into the thin bleachers around the outside of the square to cheer on their horse and rider.
As each clan began to chant and sing, maddening anticipation filled the air.
The horses parade round the ring to line up for the race.
Interestingly, we learned that even if a rider falls off, his horse can still win the race if it crosses the finish line.
Once the race begins the horses and bare-backed riders circled Il Campo at high speeds.
Luckily we were on the edge of the fence, so we had a great view.
The thrill of being in Siena, and inside Il Campo, during this year’s Palio race is something we will never forget!
Finally, I’d like to discuss Pisa.
To go, or not to go to the Leaning Tower of Pisa… that is the question.
We saw and climbed plenty of towers in Italy, even another leaning tower, so personally I was fine to not visit Pisa.
However the kids wanted to see it.
And I mean, they REALLY wanted to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is after all a Top 10 attraction in Italy. I can see the appeal.
So on the day we left Tuscany for Liguria, we made a detour through the town of Pisa.
Pros and cons for visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa:
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa, and coordinating Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) with Church and Baptistry are remarkably beautiful.
- The Leaning Tower is one of the most recognized monuments in the world.
- You can still climb up to the seventh floor of the Leaning Tower.
- Because it’s so famous, Campo dei Miracoli is crowded. You will never get a clean people-free shot of the Leaning Tower.
- Because it’s so famous, climbing the leaning tour and visiting most of the other attractions on the grounds are expensive.
- Because it’s so famous, unless you buy tickets in advance, the wait time to climb the tower is usually over three hours long.
All in all, the kids are glad they saw the leaning tower (because all their friends ask) but none of us consider our time in Pisa as enjoyable as so many of the other places we visited.
If your trip is short, I would spend your time elsewhere… like in Chianti or Siena!
See you next #TravelTuesday for photos and tips on visiting Cinque Terre.