Three years ago we were sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Venice at 11pm with our friends Lindsay and Michael, and decided to make the drive from Venice to Tuscany.
I can’t tell you exactly when my love for Tuscany started, but I would guess it happened right around the time I watched the movie Under the Tuscan Sun for the first time.
If you’ve seen the movie, everything you imagine Tuscany would be it is. And so much more.
So when we made the impromptu decision to venture to Tuscany I knew I would be changed forever, and I was right. If you ever have the chance to do something like this on a whim please, do it! This experience was probably one of my all time favorite memories and had we not be adventurous, we would have never known just how amazing Tuscany (and our favorite hotel) was.
Tuscany is one of my favorite places. The people, the fresh food and of course the wine and olive oil. But there is something else about it that is magical. Everyone there seems to really enjoy life.
Lunches are 3 hours. Dinners are 3-5 hours and it’s socially acceptable to start drinking wine at 11am. Every meal usually has wine with it, which I didn’t hate.
Life is lived and lived well there and I enjoyed every single moment that I got to experience everything that is Tuscany.
For the last 3 years we’ve been coming to one of our favorite places, Banfi. We found this place on a whim via google and I’m pretty sure it was a kismet moment. It was meant for us.The hotel was an old castle and there are approximately 15 rooms, each decorated differently keeping with the old world theme. The staff make you feel like you’re home with their hospitality and also greet you with a glass of champagne or wine upon your arrival.
There are 3 restaurants on the grounds. The poor bar that is open for breakfast and lunch. A smaller restaurant that is only open for lunch and you must make reservations at least a day in advance to ensure you get a table and finally the fine dining dinner restaurant with a beautiful outdoor patio. Each place serves authentic Tuscan style meals. My favorite part is the fresh bread and olive oil with a pinch of salt that we had everyday. The food is fresh and it is delicious.
The first day we arrived we opted for a nap because we had just driven from the airport in Rome to Tuscany. One of the small downfalls of this place is that there is not an airport that is closer than a 2 hour drive to get there. It gives you a chance to enjoy the Italian countryside en route. After our nap we decided to walk around the grounds of the hotel and then head over to the local pizza place, about a 10 minute drive away.The pizza place must be family owned. It seems like all the locals go there. But don’t get there too early like we did the first night, they open around 7:30pm every night and serve the yummiest pizza.
One of the days we did take a wine tour of some of the local wineries in the Montalcino region which was really wonderful. Tasting wines from different wineries was an experience. Each place does things just a little differently and each wine has it’s own unique flavor. Even though we had some really amazing wine I still love Banfi’s brunello the best. If you like red wine, please do yourself a favor and get a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. The bottles are pricier so save it for a special occasion and enjoy the smooth, fruitful taste!
Another day we took a cooking class where our chef taught us how to make fresh pasta, tortellini, lamb and chocolate lava cake. Oh my goodness! This food was amazing! There is nothing canned or frozen, everything was fresh! We spent the next 5 hours cooking, eating and drinking wine while enjoying our cooking class. Which then of course warranted a nap.
Tuscany is relaxing. It’s magical. It will forever be a place I love to visit. If you love wine and relaxing make sure to put this on your list of places to visit. You won’t regret it!
Want your own piece of Tuscany on your desktop courtesy of me? You can get one of my favorite images (that I didn’t post above) for your computer to have as travel inspiration. Get it HERE
Tips & Tricks
-The drive to Tuscany is at least 2 hours depending on where you fly into. This last time we flew into Rome and drove. Last time we flew into Pisa and drove. If you have a lot of bags or are traveling with more that 2 people get a large car. Make sure to ask how large it is, because European mini vans are the equivalent to American 4 doors so make sure you ask.
-We spent 4 days in Tuscany and honestly I could have done more. In the past we have spent 1 day (our first venture there) and last year we spent a total of 4 days in Tuscany as well. 2 at Banfi and 2 at another hotel in Montalcino. If you have a limited number of days you can visit I would say the minimum I would stay would be 3. There are so many wineries and places to see and it makes it hard to take it all in with any fewer days.
-Get Euros from your bank before you leave. It’s not always the easiest to find a bank and they don’t take American dollars so be sure to come with Euros in hand.
-Take a wine tour and get a guide/driver. They know the best places to go plus they’re driving so you don’t have to worry about enjoying all the wine you’re touring. If you book through American Express they will set up the driver and the tour for you but there are lots of places that will do that. Just call and ask. Often times your hotel concierge will be able to make arrangements for you too.
-Don’t forget your universal/international plugs. Some hotels have some that you can borrow or rent but I wouldn’t chance it.
-The weather is warm in August and September. Pack shorts, light cotton tees and some dresses. If you have room for a sun hat in your luggage put that in there too. Don’t forget your swimsuit and camera. Summer of 2017 was extremely hot in Tuscany which will make it a good year for wine (woo hoo)
-Take a cooking class. You will not regret it. Learning how to cook fresh Tuscan food is like no other. Just trust me on this.
-Ship your wine purchases. This will cost you in shipping and customs charges but it’s so worth it. Worrying about carrying travel wine carriers and weight isn’t fun. Just ship it. Expect to wait approximately 3 weeks or so for you wine though, it has to clear customs and could take a while but I promise you it’s worth it.
-Enjoy the long lunches and dinners. Americans are accustomed to eating quickly and having the server bring the the check. They don’t do that in Italy. You must ask for the check and be prepared to enjoy your food and company. You won’t look at dining the same way again.
Enjoy every minute you have while in Tuscany. It will go by so fast and then you’ll be wishing you had sat a little longer and eaten a little more bread, or at least I did.
I’m looking forward to our next trip! Next time I want to go to Cortona where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun was based off of 🙂
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