San Gimignano is a small town about forty minutes south of Florence. The town is well known for its setting and its incredibly well-preserved medieval architecture, in particular, several tall watch towers along the city walls. It is also a very nice town to explore on foot, as few cars are allowed into the city itself. One notable feature of San Gimignano is that it home to our (thus far) favorite gelato in Italy! If you happen to find yourself in town, be sure to stop off at Gelateria Dondoli. It is worth the line! We also dined at Ristorante Dorando, which was lovely.
We used this city as our base to explore Tuscany. Here are some photos:
We spent a half-day driving along route 222, which links many of the small towns in the central Chianti region, with hopes of stopping off for a few wine tastings. We soon learned that wineries in this part of the world operate a bit differently from others we’ve visited, as most do not have staffed tasting rooms where you can just drop in and visit. Most wineries that offer visits must be arranged in advance; tastings usually include an extensive tour of the facilities; and there is often a fee involved of at least 25-30 Euros per person. We did stop at one winery that was offering drop-in tastings – Vescine on the outskirts of Radda in Chianti. Here we enjoyed a variety of red wines and a beautiful setting.
On our way south from San Gimignano to Orvieto, we spent a half day exploring Siena. Siena is considered the ‘heart of Tuscany’. It is a very charming city with an expansive old quarter and a beautiful central piazza and Duomo.
We stopped off at a town called Castiglione del Lago on the shores of Lake Trasimeno. The small town is very picturesque with an old castle overlooking the lake - one of Italy’s largest.
Orvieto is a small town in Umbria located about an hour and a half north of Rome. One of the most interesting things about Orvieto is that is situated at the top of a natural tufa plateau rising above the surrounding land. Orvieto is another lovely little town with a beautiful central cathedral. There are also expansive caves beneath the city that can be explored.
Overall, we had a wonderful week exploring these regions. Next stop...Roma!