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Tuscany and Italian lakes

When your husband asks you at 5pm on Friday, shall we go on holidays tomorrow, you think straight away - have you lost your f* mind? But you also straight away answer what a wicked idea, I love you, let’s go! This is pretty much how the Grants’ grand 4 week long Tuscan road trip adventure came along. It was just the two of us... plus 3 kids (one 10 month old) in tow and the car packed to the brim with everything but the kitchen sink! And I do mean everything :) Because Corona...!   I only forgot a spade to dig poo out of the child seat when the crisis struck. On the very first day too!  But hey, no good story starts with a salad or a car seat stinking of poo for that matter! 

Why Tuscany? Tuscany has always been on our bucket list, how could we resist going to Italy yet again?! We are in love with this country, so given the opportunity to spend our holidays amongst idyllic olive groves, letting the kids run between the rows of sangiovese grapes and let our hair down while sampling some of the best wines, we just couldn’t say no. And to see beautiful countryside dotted with picturesque villages, rich in historic treasures. To drive through white, unpaved roads lined with cypress trees meandering through spectacular landscape. 

To explore it’s heart- Florence, a centre of art and cultural heritage, absolutely fascinating and magical. Especially when you happen to be there at sunrise and admire an iconic panoramic view of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo. 

To indulge in traditional Toscan food, so simple yet so delicious packed with authentic flavours. Picci with truffles, garganelli with colonnata lard and fossa cheese, sea bass tortellini, pasta with sausage and fennel, torta della nonna (type of sweet pastry with pine nuts) , ricarelli (almond biscuits) or crostata di fichi (tart with figs)- just to mention a few. Espresso and corneto for breakfast was a must to blend in with the locals and became our family holiday tradition. 

Wine. Yes, I did mention it already, but so hard not to come back to it when it is ranked amongst the best in the world. There are so many, but the ones that the region is famous for and on the must try list are Chianti, Vino Nobile and Brunello. I must admit this trip completely changed my views on wine. From being an avid white wine drinker I became a devoted lover of reds! Having tried Chianti from Barone Risacoli’s estate in Chianti Classico region or my absolute favourite (more budget friendly too!) Chianti Superiore from Fattoria del Colle in Val d’Orcia …...I am converted!!

Tuscany has an abundance of wine yards - you cannot see them all in one visit!  From lage well established vineyards, to the small independent, family run ones.  We stayed in only vineyards and visited so many more!  My husband’s favourite was Vitticio, where we spent his birthday. I really enjoyed our wine tasting experience at fabulous Castiglion del Bosco famous for their Brunellos. Apart from learning about the art of wine and food pairing and how they enhance each other flavours we got to explore the spectacular Member’s Cellar. What a place! Gringotts bank from Harry Potter comes to mind...Stunning interior design, mood lighting, lots of little lockers with a collection of vines acquired by rich and famous from around the world. You could spot names like Justin and Jessica Timberlake or Karolina Wozniacki. Members one time only fee at this place comes in at a bargain price 15k euros!  

No day is a good day without some drama tho. While I was soaking the ambiance of this stunning place my daughter in her infinite wisdom decided to do a backflip on a puff that she was sitting on until a second ago. Fortunately for my purse the only thing that was smashed was her head!  

It’s so hard to give justice in just a few sentences on how amazing our road trip was.  Apart from living the dream and having some moments feeling like Jackie Onasis, there were no doubt some downs too. Kind of expected when you travel with kids and change location every few days - a logistical f* nightmare. Sometimes it’s due to your husband’s booking skills that might not be up to scratch on occasion. Not just once either! At one point our luxury villa (creme de la creme, the one we were looking forward to the most), courtesy of Ricasoli Estate at the heart of Chianti Classico with private pool and rolling views over the vineyard turns out to be a triple room over a bar by the main street that we can’t quite fit in! No pool either! 

There was also this one time at band camp (pun intended) when my husband booked this amazing apartment in an absolutely stunning Medici residence in the middle of nowhere (as we like it). So called “timeless dream”…. And it was! I shall add that it would be but not in August at 38 degrees heat… we had an absolutely stunning south facing apartment with massive windows to appreciate the beautiful views, unfortunately equipped with no shutters or aircon…!

Sometimes the downs were due to Google. When researching "can you swim in Lake Trasimeno", the ever so helpful websites will tell you ‘yes!’ however one should ask do you actually want to?! A smelly swamp with muddy bottom and lots of vegetation. It was shallow tho so perfect for the kids to muck around until you spot some not so alive, floating fish...

Other times the mood was set by far too many bottles of ever-so-good wine you constantly need to take in and out of the car every time you move as it’s too hot to leave it in the boot. Unless you want to drink £25 worth bottle of vinegar that is. 

Travelling with a 10 month old is not easy in any shape or form. The damn thing wants to be on the move all the time and refuses to sit still strapped in the buggy. Admiring city landscapes in peace and quiet is also a no go. So to survive the day we had to do a few stops to release the beast and expend some energy. Now, not walking is a slight problem, especially in coronavirus times… Touching a cup in the apartment is challenging let alone letting a child on the ground… 

You look on the map and can see ample green space and parks around the centre… winning you might think!… Apart from the fact that by August all grass is not existent and your ever-so-active toddler needs to crawl on what looks like prairie! Oh well...he needs to do what he needs to do. And if he picks up a few cigarette butts on the way, cest la vie! You stop having a heart attack after the 20th one! 

During a month away you might also make some other discoveries like for example you realise your husband is a dumb ass when he refuses to sit down in a decent place for a drink (because it’s apparently too expensive! 10euro for Veneziano) and chooses the most expensive ice cream in the whole Florence instead! Ah, let’s not forget about the Veneziano in a plastic cup to make mummy happy! The whole lot i.e. 3 ice creams and the Veneziano in said plastic cup came to a mind blowing 31 euro! WTaF!

Digression no 1- on questioning whether said husband lost his fucking mind, he said he didn’t ask for the price (conveniently none on a display) as the only thing that mattered was that they had unicorn ice cream! I rest my case!

Digression no 2- I would have paid 10 euro for Spritz Veneziano in a glass, that I could enjoy sitting in the middle of a beautiful piazza, relaxing, people watching…

As I mentioned Spritz Veneziano or Aperol Spritz- heard so much about it, tried it, can’t live without it! Very acquired bitter taste, but very refreshing and surprisingly amazing! 

On our way we managed to explore Lake Garda and Lake Como. Both beautiful and so picturesque. If you don’t want to become a camel though, don’t visit the lakes with a baby! I mean if you really want to explore it in and out. Lots of hills and stairs that are not particularly pushchair friendly. Planning your shopping is also essential. Forgetting baby milk or more importantly a bottle of wine when you are back at the very top of the mountain might just put you over the edge, as they say…

Just some random thoughts that came to my mind as I bring this to a close:

  • Feeding a 10 month old normally is not a biggie, unless you don’t have a high chair handy.  The bathroom sink will do just as well!

  • When your son is a fussy so-and-so and likes only one brand of dummy that is nowhere to be found and you are down to the very last one of said dummy you watch it like a hawk! If you have to rescue it from the middle of the road after 5 cars went over it so be it. You need to sleep too!

  • When the ice cream man tells you to go for hazelnut ice cream, you go for it! Gosh they were to die for! So good! Even if I say so myself and I am not a fan of ice creams at all. Italian gelatos are just perfect. Not too sweet, not too heavy, not to watery… just fab! You literally can’t resist. Fitting through the door after a month of indulgence might be a small issue….Worry about it later tho! 
    (And of course only go for hazelnut if you fancy paying substantially less than for unicorn ones!!!)

Learning points from the first day that saved our life...We have three children. One of them is 10 months old! Some are whinging, some are naughty, some need a wee (that is usually not synchronised too)! Allora... Plan ahead more. Try to see and do less. Relax more. Enjoy more. Live your life more, tomorrow might be too late!

Below I include just a small selection of pictures from our family holidays in Tuscany. Tuscany as I saw it and experienced it...My Tuscany... smelling with jasmine and rosemary, tasting like fresh caprese salad and warm focaccia. And Chianti! 

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