Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Day 4 - Florence, Pisa and Lucca

Tuesday morning, we left our cute little 1600's farmhouse and headed towards La Spezia. We stopped back in Florence on the way to visit the Duomo and Bell Tower. Even in the off season, there are long lines and the tickets to enter the Duomo are on a time schedule. We didn't want to spend the whole day in Florence, so we decided to just go up the Bell Tower and skip the Duomo.

Any time I visit another city or location and there is a means to get higher and have a bird's eye view, I like to take it. John enjoys the highest points, too, so up we went! The pictures below are from the first day we visited Florence.

Bell Tower from our first day in Florence.

We bought the tickets and headed up the tower. I just love the stairs and the anticipation of arriving at the top! This one was particularly fun because there were multiple levels at the top - I think maybe 3 in all which made for a fun little adventure!

Inside the tower.
Thankful for sunny skies and warmer temperatures!

View from the Florence Bell Tower. 
Next, we traveled over to Pisa. As John drove, I tried to see about buying tickets online before arriving. The websites I found said there were no tickets available to climb the tower for that day, but that didn't deter us from at least going to see it.

The first thing we did in Pisa was eat lunch!! Next we walked to the tower to see if we could get tickets. It wasn't very crowded at all, so I am not sure why there were no tickets available online. It worked out to our benefit, because it was cheaper onsite than online.

We had to wait about 15 minutes in line before we were able to go in. It had never really occurred to me, but since the whole tower leans, so do the stairs! The stairs are circular around the outer part of the tower with a hollow center so on one side of the tower, you lean one direction and on the other side, you lean the other. It was kind of funky and kind of threw off your equilibrium.

I love the shadow on the ground!

Cuties with one of the bells at the top.

This pole indicates what straight should be.

Proof we were all there ;)

Had to do it
It was amusing to see all of the people holding up the Tower of Pisa. Of course, we had to join in!

I didn't really take note until later, but all of the columns are made out of different types of stone. The outside columns on the cathedral were different, also. Kind of cool!

We also went to Lucca before heading to La Spezia. Lucca was not my favorite, but the rock wall that they have added a walking trail to was pretty cool.

Tomorrow was my favorite day on the whole trip. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Day 3 - Part 2 - Siena, Monteriggioni, San Gimignano

Part 2 of the little hilltop towns of Day 3 in Italy. After lunch, we headed towards Siena. 

Beautiful Tuscany!
Nice building in Siena

Bell tower at the piazza in Siena
This bell tower was open (yay!), and they allotted a 15 minute time at the top. The walk up was fun through a very narrow passage at times - 463 steps to get to the top! Thankfully, we only encountered a couple of people who were coming down. The weather was beautiful, and we enjoyed our time at the top. Once we returned to the check-in point, the attendant told us we had finished just in time. There was a large school group going up right after us and it would have been crowded! Crazy to think how we would have managed if we would have been coming down while they were going up.

I love the look of these bells.

View from the tower

Nice view x2!! 

Aren't they cute?!?

Parts of the stairs were very narrow.

Love the colors in this pretty courtyard 

Street lights.
Even the street lights are cute! It was probably about 4 pm, when we headed towards Monteriggioni. Since this is the "off-season", a lot of things close at 4:30-5:00, if they are open at all.
Moteriggioni wall and tower
There is a small walkway built along the inside of the wall for tourists to pay a couple of euros and be able to "walk on the wall". Unfortunately, it was closed, as Hadden really wanted to experience that.

Piazza in Monteriggioni
Monteriggioni is primarily a tourist town and was very quiet this time of year. It is fairly small, but I absolutely loved the quaintness, the colors, and the architecture. Some of my favorite pictures were taken here. We didn't spend a lot of time here, as everything was closed.

One of my favorite pictures from Italy.

My favorites!

Another favorite picture.

One of the gates into Monteriggioni

Standing on part of the wall outside the gate

We walked on the outside on the wall going back to the car.
Next, we headed to San Gimignano - the town of towers. I think there are 12 towers around the perimeter.
San Gimignano
We were very hungry at this point, so food was our top priority. We hit the first restaurant inside the gate. John and Hadden both decided on rabbit. Savannah and I were debating on a couple, so she ended up choosing gnocchi and I had pumpkin ravioli. Our waiter said I had made the best choice. The boys enjoyed their meal, however no one was a huge fan of gnocchi. Poor Savannah survived on the bread. My pumpkin ravioli was very tasty and I offered to share with her, but she isn't a fan of pumpkin, either.

Cute little restaurant

San Gimignano at night
We walked the streets of San Gimignano for a bit, but the temperature really dropped after the sun went down. This was one of our favorite days in Italy - medieval architecture, Tuscany countryside and quiet, old streets.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Day 3 - Part 1 - Montepulciano

This day was so full of beautiful Tuscany and the little hilltop old towns, that I broke it into separate posts. We woke up on this morning to a beautiful sunrise peeking through the clouds. On the way, we took a wrong turn and took some back roads to my delight as I am one who enjoys the less traveled road. Where else do you encounter the unexpected?

Cute "fixer-upper" in Tuscany
Tuscany is breathtaking. Rolling hills with very few trees to block the view. If I had to choose another place to live, I would choose Tuscany. 
I could live here - Tuscany is stunning!
We happened onto this spot on the back roads. :)

We drove first to Montepulciano, a beautiful fortress on a hill surrounded by a massive wall and gate. Since it was off-season, it was very quiet and we mostly had the place to ourselves. We did meet an English speaking couple originally from Colorado, but he is now a pastor to the military and stationed up near Venice. We walked along with them for a short while.
Gate to Montepulciano

Pretty displays outside the wine shop.
We found out later, that Montepulciano is well-known for their wine. The displays are very pretty.
The colors!

It was pretty hilly. Love this color, too.
We loved Montepulciano! The architecture, the colors, the quaint streets and alleys, the view are all favorites of ours. The place just "feels" warm and inviting.

Brick and stone.

You just can't recreate this beauty.

Arches over the streets. Can't really tell, but the view goes for miles.

It was a very quiet walk in Montepulciano.
City on a hill, so the walk was a good workout. Alleyways led to overlook points where you could see for miles.

Isn't this inviting?
An old well in Piazza Grande in Montepulciano. Kids enjoyed talking into it.
This was Piazza Grande at the top of Montepulciano. The tower is open certain times of the year, but unfortunately was not while we were there. The kids had fun talking into the well and hearing the echo.

Beautiful building in the Piazza Grande.

View from Montepulciano
 So very pretty! I am not sure we could afford to live there, but it is beautiful!

View from Montepulciano, including the wall a little. Love the birds.

We spent the morning at Montepulciano, and then drove towards Siena. We stopped for lunch at a high point on the road in the middle of nowhere.

Lunch spot