Farming is a wonderful life but we don’t get to go on holiday as often as we would like to.
I don’t dream about beach holidays as much as I used to because I don’t think having three children-two of them energetic under threes lends itself to hours on a sunning with a cocktail in hand.
For that reason, I have been looking at Italy in general and Tuscany in particular.
Located in the central region of Italy, Tuscany has stunning countryside ( to make us feel at home) a beautiful coastline and all the culture you could possibly want in it’s main city, Florence.
Not only that, it is also home to Pisa and it’s famous leaning tower as well as gastronomy to suit even the fussiest eater and art that is truly magnificent.
Years ago, a holiday meant the place I was going to rather than where I stayed. With a family, roughing it is just not an option and a home from home is what I am looking for or, better still, somewhere more luxurious than home.
Thankfully, there are some amazing Tuscan holiday rentals that really do offer something for everyone.
Once you’re settled on your accomodation though, what then? What is there to do and see?
I have researched some activities suitable for families and the first is a must for any fairy tale fan.
Parco di Pinocchio is top of our list in the town of Collodi where Pinocchio’s creator, Carlo Lorenzini (he changed his name to Collodi after the town) was from. There is the house the gardens and Pinocchio park to visit over almost a hectare of beautiful Mediterranean scrub land and you can play at spotting the 21 bronze sculptures dedicated to the character.
Then we found Parco Preistorico which, for my dinosaur mad little one is practically law to visit.
It has large models of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures set amongst lovely park land. It is also near Pisa so you could quite easily go to Pisa and then visit the park after.
My parents went on a Mediterranian cruise a few years ago and their ship stopped at Livorno which is the main port of the region. It is also home to the Acqvario di Livorno-the aquarium.
It is home to more than 1700 animals and a tunnel and touch tank so well worth a visit if you want to get out of the heat for a while.
Florence is instantly reconisable on phots for its terracotta-tiled cathedral or Duomo as it is called in Italian. The cathedral was designed by Brunelleshchi and the bell tower by Giotto.
You can climb the step to the top of the Cupola and, while it is hard work-especially in summer, the views you will be rebarded with at the top are worth the effort.
It is a work of art in itself but for art lovers, Florence really is the place to go.
The city is home to Michelangelo’s David sculpture and a visit to the Uffizi Gallery will provide you with more classical art than you would usually get in an art book.
As well as Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation, you can also see The breathtakingly beautiful Birth of Venus by Botticelli.
All paintings inside the Uffizi are displayed chronologically, so it is like an art history lesson just walking through.
As with many places in Italy, the museum itself is a work of art and was built between 1560 and 1580. It is one of the most visited museums in Italy.
Even though the Tuscan region is the most historic and art-laden of places, it is also a coastal region so, if beach dwelling is your thing, you will not be disappointed.
Versilia is for the cool people. It is famed for its nightlife in the summer and is the place to be seen.
While the leaning tower is the main pull of Pisa, the town also has a beach although the sea tends to be quite choppy in this area so care needs to be taken-especially with children.
Livorno is probably the most popular seaside destination and it is geared up to holiday makers with cafes, bars and most importantly, gelato sellers for the hot and weary sun seekers.
So you have had a taste of what you can see and do in the region but now the important bit-what to eat and drink.
The region is famous for Montepulciano and Chianti wine which I don’t think I need to say more about other than cheers. You can visit the vineyards though and have a wine tasting which sounds good to me.
If you have always seen yourself as an Italian cook, a cookery course might be the thing for you and Tuscany is the perfect place to learn. With such wonderful ingredients on your door step ad a number of amazing cookery schools in the area, you will be cooking like an Italian mama (or papa) in no time. There are even classes which children can partake in so mama and papa could well sit back with the afore mentioned chianti while the bambinos rustle up dinner.
We can dream, right?
While many people associate Italy with pasta and pizza, regional food is different throughout the country. I visited Venice in my teens and north east Italy is famous for risotto.
In Tuscany, it is all about the beans but you can also find extra-virgin olive oil, saffron, white truffles, walnuts, cheese and salami. That sounds like the perfect picnic to me.
Saluti. I’ll see you on the riviera.