Tuscany Family Vacation
Join me on a virtual family holiday tour through Tuscany!
I promised a follow-up post to my Postcard From Florence post in June. I’ve finally gotten a chance to sort through my pictures and share with you a taste of Tuscany. This is going to be a long, visual post, so go get yourself a cup of tea or Italian Prosecco if you prefer. I’ll be here.
Once we left Florence, the drive to our farmhouse for the month was about 40 minutes. Word of warning: do not, I repeat, do not, rent a car and drive out of Florence. Florence was founded by Julius Caesar in 59 BC. It’s OLD and the narrow cobblestone streets were not built to accommodate cars. One of the things I love most about Florence is that it’s a walking city, but that becomes a huge challenge if you need to drive out to the countryside. Trying to get out of the city is like driving through a narrow corn maze.
We rented a 16th century restored farmhouse in the hills just south of Florence, about halfway between Florence and Siena. Let me show you around!
Montefioralle, Tuscany, Italy.
Our farmhouse was in Montefioralle, a tiny village in the commune of Greve in Chianti. Montefioralle is thought to be the most ancient of the towns in Chianti. It’s still enclosed by its original circular walls, and is completely free of cars, making it a lovely place to wander.
Hi, I’m Marina and I have this thing for wandering around old cobblestone streets. Not all those who wander are lost… We travel not to escape the world, but for the world not to escape us.
Just think about when this village was built. There were no cranes or modern equipment. Each stone was laid by hand. Montefioralle dates back to pre-1085 and was the birthplace of Amerigo Vespucci.
There is only one restaurant and one cafe inside the village. We stopped in the little cafe a couple of times for cappuccino and gelati. I loved this cappuccino cup with a picture of the Florence Duomo.
A charming front stoop in Montefioralle.
Most of our time was spent here, floating around on donut inner tubes. Unlike when I travelled through Europe before kids quickly going from place to place, the idea with this trip was to settle in one place and do our normal things. Grocery shopping, cooking, playing, and working under the Tuscan sun. Even doing laundry, hanging our clothes on the clothes line to blow in the warm Tuscan breeze, was a delightful change of pace.
Some of my Instagram friends have asked how to go about renting a farmhouse in Tuscany for a month. As I work from my computer, spending a month away works. My office has never looked like this beautiful pool before though. We’ve been very happy with vacation rentals through VRBO, and that’s how I found this particular vacation home. My advice is to only rent homes that have reviews and to follow the company’s safety instructions. Though nice vacation homes are not cheap, they are much more affordable than hotels for the amount of space. The last time we were in Italy we actually did a home swap with another family, so lodging was virtually free! One friend of mine rents out her house for a month while her family goes on vacation. We also found food to be less expensive in this part of Italy than at home.
A few miles up the hill from the farmhouse we discovered one of my favorite restaurants in the world. We loved La Cantinetta di Rignana so much we visited for dinner three times. This restaurant is set in an old stone structure with sweeping views of the vineyards and hills. La Cantinenetta is an absolute must if you’re ever in the area.
Most every restaurant had delicious vegetarian options, but this potato ravioli topped with fresh spinach and insanely good tomatoes was my favorite. We also had white bean bruschetta, grilled artichokes, truffle everything, estate grown vino, and more.
There wasn’t much of anything other than hills and vineyards for miles from where our farmhouse was located. One of our closest neighbors, however, turned out to be the amazing Altiero Winery. A visit to this family run wine and olive oil estate was a highlight even for the kids. The Baldini family was so kind to us and my kids loved seeing their little girl, pets, and farm.
Other things to do around Montefioralle:
- Take a cooking class at Pasta al Pesto.
- Ride a bike. My husband rented a bicycle at Officina Ramuzzi in Greve and rode to a different village early each morning. The Tuscan hills are not for beginner cyclists, however. There are bike tours that would be more appropriate for casual riders.
Greve in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
Like other parts of the Chianti region of Tuscany, Greve is all about the Chianti Classico rooster symbol, bikes, motorbikes, wine, and truffles. And, well, nude statues. Sorry!
The Greve center has a handful of shops and restaurants. I wanted to take home all of these baskets!
On Saturday mornings the quiet Greve center transforms into a bustling farmers market. Not only is it filled with the most gorgeous produce, artisan food products, and flowers, but clothing too.
One farmer and I had a good laugh when I accidentally asked for 5 fish, cinque pesci, in Italian, instead of 5 peaches, cinque pesche. Oops! I was grateful for his kindness and the quick Italian lesson. When traveling abroad, locals usually appreciate when we at least try to speak the language. It doesn’t matter if it’s polished or not.
A scoop of each, per favore!
Don’t touch! Normally in Italy shoppers should never touch shop produce with bare hands. Fresh produce has usually already been washed and they don’t want everyone touching it. The farmer at this particular stand handed me a bag and said it was okay.
La Cantina Pizzeria in the Greve town center was a great place to stop for lunch, dinner, or take away pizza. The owner Alessandro is always happy to welcome guests in with a complimentary glass of prosecco. Why is that not a thing here in the US? The pizza is perfectly thin with fresh toppings. I also noticed several gluten free options on the menu.
Radda in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
Radda was probably the most picturesque town we visited. We stopped by for lunch and souvenir shopping.
I so wish I had bought a couple of these espresso cups in Radda. There are several beautiful artisan shops. I loved this ceramics store.
Red Vespas against a stone wall. Is there a more classic Italian scene? We stopped in Le Forchette dei Chianti for lunch. The food was delicious and the view of the green Tuscan valley was lovely. I had a great Italian chickpea salad I may have to recreate for you here.
Around the villa…
Checking out the local markets and cooking is one of my favorite things to do on vacation. Here are some of the things we made and ate. Above, risotto with spinach and shaved truffles. If I had to choose one most popular Tuscan food item, it would bet truffles. They are on every menu.
Tomato bruschetta is another Tuscan dish on every menu and one I made over and over. Here’s an authentic Tuscan bruschetta recipe.
As I’m sure you know, the pasta in Italy is second to none. We made this thick spaghetti al dente with peas and, of course, more truffles.
One night I stuffed zucchini blossoms from the farmers market. Instead of ricotta, I made a mash up of white beans, garlic, and basil. They were delicious but I didn’t write down the recipe. I’ll have to try this again next summer.
Just a bowl of gorgeous summer fruit. These little golden plums were amazing.
I thought these wild artichokes growing in our backyard were so beautiful. I never did get around to cooking them but we had some incredible grilled artichokes at restaurants.
I made myself a little power bowl salad one day for lunch. Here we’ve got a bed of greens, chickpeas, tomatoes, quinoa, avocado, olives, carrots, and basil with a few good splashes of balsamic. I could eat this every day.
I hope you enjoyed this little virtual Italian excursion. If you have any questions I’d be happy to help.
Ciao for now!