The sun shone brightly as we loaded the people mover with our luggage at Venice Airport.
Sweat poured down our foreheads as we packed suitcases and groceries like Tetris in our van. James safely navigated us down the freeway away from Venice as I danced in my seat to Italian folk songs and the kids entertained themselves with their iPads.
We ventured off the highway to visit Bologna but found the ENTIRE city was closed for some unusual reason. From what we saw, the city looked very charming although deserted.
We stopped at several road stops along the highway which proved to be a busy and challenging task with 3 small children. Tour buses overflowing from their parking bays meant the lines for food and bathrooms were always a long wait.
Once we pulled off the freeway in Tuscany, the roads narrowed and wound around trees and tiny towns as we reached our gorgeous little villa named Casaro, just north of Chiusi in the Chianti region of Tuscany.
The kids literally threw the car door open and were so thrilled to see grass, trees, the pool and most of all, wide open spaces all to themselves. No time for a change into swimming costumes, they decided to jump right in for a nudie swim, which meant poor Marlee had to follow suit and jump in too.
Our villa was owned by a local family who were very house proud. Every morning at sunrise, the owners would discreetly appear to clean the pool, pull some weeds, tidy up and then leave just as quietly as they arrived. Their son managed the villa for them and he was so delightful. We were very mindful of how beautiful the house was, and were constantly cleaning up in case we offended Nonna. This became a running joke for us the entire week.
The local produce was absolutely devine. The cheeses, the wine from the local wineries, the fresh meat and eggs, it made the whole week of cooking so enjoyable as we cooked in the villa every night.
We were in the middle of nowhere in a valley between two small villages. The occasional car or farmer on his tractor plodding home after a day in the fields were the only people to pass our door. Those Italians do like to drive fast!
James and I ventured over to Perugia one day to visit a party shop in preparation for Abi’s 6th Birthday. We drove through a horrendous summer storm which was pretty hairy and were glad to arrive safely at the local mall which had the largest hypermarket I have ever visited in my life. It was like Wal-Mart on steroids! We managed to buy some party supplies and stocked up on several special items that weren’t available in the smaller, local supermarkets.
We visited several small towns during our week long stay. Cortona was a short drive from our villa, a walled city perched high above the town. This was absolutely gorgeous although very busy with tourists on the day we visited. We had some delicious gelato and enjoyed exploring the churches and narrow alleys.
Castiglione Del Lago was a 10 minute drive from us which was our primary spot for groceries. A huge lake sprawled several towns and the locals here were friendly and welcoming.
Chiusi was a 10 km drive to the south and was recommended by our hosts. It was such a delightful town. Another walled city, yet much smaller than Cortona. This was very much a locals only town with quaint little shops that served the locals their daily bread, meat, fish and veggies.
Driving around the area was a breeze and we were spoiled for scenery at every turn which almost always included HUGE sunflower fields, hay bales and rolling fields, lakes, mountains, the odd winery and the sweetest little towns that might have only 50 residents at most.
Time here went slowly. Days were peaceful as the kids swam, devouring simple meals including fresh bread, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, parma ham, prosciutto, Prosecco, red wine and champagne which was so cheap, it was criminal NOT to drink it.
Our bedrooms were all in a wing off the main house, which were kept cool in the day with huge floor tiles and large timber shutters over the windows. Our bathrooms were large and modern, in the master ensuite we had an oversized spa bath which the kids absolutely loved. Every night, we would draw them a bath and watch them prune up in the bubbles while reminiscing about the day’s activities.
Abi’s Birthday was a huge success, a day that deserved it’s own post to follow.
We fell in love with this area of Italy, the locals were so charming and welcoming. And just like that, our time in Tuscany was over as we packed the car and headed north for Florence. We made a pit stop in Siena on our way up north and marvelled at the pretty streets, gorgeous open plan piazza and churches. An overwhelming amount of tourists didn’t cloud the beauty of the city and we especially loved stumbling on ‘Tiger’, a Danish discount store. Every single item in the store was amazing and Marlee and I stocked up on crafts, paints and treats for the kids.
A gorgeous scenic drive put us in Florence in a few short hours. Time for art galleries, gelato and some of the prettiest landscape in Italy.