As soon as we decided we wanted to go to Cinque Terre I started checking other placed relatively close to continue the trip.
I have been a wine enthusiast for a while now and my boyfriend just recently joined the club, so we thought it was a great opportunity to rent a car and break through Tuscany and its vineyards.
Sometimes when you are planning on going on a not-so-short holidays and you have an endless list of pricey-to-go restaurants and fancy hotels, you start thinking where in the equation it is possible to cut corners; we have all been there! But believe me when I tell you that the car rental is not the corner you want to cut as there´s an endless list of things that may go wrong. We chose Avis and could not have been more satisfied with it.
If you don´t have that much luggage, how can you be in Italy and not rent a Cinquecento? Ours was dark blue (azzurro in Italian), almost new and exactly what we needed.
We picked it up in Firenze after spending 2 full days there. The former Italian Capital is only a two hours train distance from Cinque Terre so it was convenient.
We didn’t´t want to go crazy from one museum to the other, people always say you need to save activities for next time you visit, so we opted for strolling around the city, enjoying ourselves, drinking wine and having great food.
A must see is Piazzale Michelangelo, not because of the piazza itself but because of the scenic views; if you have time to spare I would strongly recommend going way before the sunset to make sure you have a good spot. Take in mind that you´ll need to struggle with hundreds of tourists and their massive cameras.
If you have never been in a Free Walking Tour before I would recommend you try it; you have them in most European big cities, it lasts around 2 hours and there are many companies that do it, giving you an outlook on the city. Our guide, Lázaro from Andalusia, was just perfect, easy going and super explanatory.
One of our favourites was the vegetarian and biological 5ecinque, located in Piazza della Passera. Attended by their lovely owners we shared a semola pasta with blue cheese and zucchini sauce (not a big fun usually of this cheese, but the combination is so smooth), a the typical Italian Cecina, also known as farinata (a type of thin panckake made of chickpea flour). And my to go dessert in this trip: tiramisu.
We came across the Cantinetta Dei Verrazzano,a typical old school caffe, beautifully decorated with some of the best pastries and rustic biscuits I have had in Firenze.
You know when you think back about your holidays and some meals just keep popping in your mind? Il Bufalo Trippone is that.. and was probably one of the best finds on Tripadvisor. It´s a tiny shop close to the Duomo, specialized in sandwiches and focaccias. I´m kind of a pescetarian (promise I´m not making this one up), which means I take fish from time to time but no other meat. But in Italy.. it´s almost a disrespect not to try their curated meats. The chosen one was the wild boar focaccia with rocket and black truffle (another Italian must eat).
The countryside of Tuscany is something I had never seen before; every village is surrounded by terracotta and mustard hills and vineyards and the quietness and restful atmosphere is almost tangible..As the towns are quite small and really close one from each other it´s really easy just to drive along and make quick stops.
WHERE WE STAYED
Agriturismo Malpensata, ideally located with a great breakfast that included home made pies and marmalade and figs from their garden. An Agriturismo is a vacationing farm house really popular in rural areas of Italy.
Agriturismo Casale a Poggiano– our favourite accommodation of the entire holidays. Isolina, the owner, woke up every morning 5am to make breakfast. It included something salty and something sweet, everything home made.
VILLAGES WE VISITED
Panzano in Chianti; our lunch spot was Oltre Giardino with an outstanding view and my first prosecco of the ride. I recommend the ricotta and spinach ravioli in sage butter and porcini risotto, finalized with.. tiramisu.
Montefioralle; where Americo Vespucio lived – the one responsible for America´s name – we had a wine tasting in a shop and left a little tipsy with a couple bottles of Papeo wine.
San Giminiano – walled medieval village well known for their 14 towers. We found Da I´Mariani by mere coincidence (will be forever grateful for that stranger that made us try it). It´s a tiny and cozy store with only 2 high tables, attended by their owner. We had the cheese and cold cuts board that included the best prosciutto I have ever tried, cheese aged in ashes and truffle honey, among other delicatessen.
Siena – another walled charming medieval village – we dined gnocchi filled with ricotta and green secret sauce at Osteria Nona Gina.
Arezzo – walled village – we got here kind of late in the afternoon but managed to get our hand on some tagliatelle al tartuffo and some ricotta and lemon ravioli.
Montepulciano – Le Logge del Vignola was one of the holidays´ favourite. We went twice and I had to repeat the dish which was seaweed potato gnocchi with octopus and crunchy olives. Still dreaming of it..
Pienza – another ravishing village, with breathtaking sunsets and great aperitivo.
We stayed only 5 days in this part of Tuscany but I have stayed much longer; definitely coming back!
Pictures taken by Joaquin Abreu & me