Just writing the word ‘holiday’ makes me a little blue that our fabulous Tuscan adventure is all done and dusted. We had spent six months dreaming about it and it didn’t disappoint. It’s been almost 3 years since Andy, Ava and I last holidayed abroad and this was our first holiday as a family of four. As DINKY’s, we were used to taking two foreign trips a year and perhaps we had become a little complacent about our ability to do so. There’s nothing like really earning your holiday to make you appreciate it just that little bit more and temperatures of between 25 and 35 degrees centigrade to warm the soul.
I hope you don’t mind me being a little self indulgent but I’m going to spread the holiday theme over two blog posts, starting with our holiday highs and lows. I’ll make sure I pack the blog posts with some holiday snaps but don’t worry, I won’t upload all 500 of them!
So what sort of holiday would a family of 4 with two young children plump for? A self catering driving holiday around Italy of course. Admittedly it was a grown up holiday with the kids in tow but Andy and I are easily bored and start to get twitchy feet after a couple of days relaxing by the pool.
No summary of Italy would be complete without the Italian clichés! First there’s the food – pizza, pasta and gelato, then there’s the leather handbags and fabulous shoes and if you can’t afford the genuine article, there is always someone standing on a street corner just waiting to sell you the next best thing! Finally there are the mopeds and no Italian house would be complete without a decent set of shutters.
Holiday Highs and Lows
13 days, 12 nights and 11 stops featuring Milan – Portofino – Genoa – Volterra – Pisa – Lucca – Siena – Florence – Lake Garda – Venice – Verona
Portofino – Simply divine. A small coastal village bathed in luxury (the ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ cruiser was moored in the harbour when we were there). Drive away from here and you’ll wonder if it was all a dream.
Genoa – A city of sharp contrasts. If you ever find yourself here (and I wouldn’t recommend making a special trip), dinner at sunset by the harbour is a must. Wonder beyond the harbour and you could find yourself accidentally wondering through the narrow alleys of the red light district as we did. Andy’s internal sat nav is rarely wrong when it comes to finding our way but it has no filter on it. Thankfully the children were blissfully unaware!
Volterra – A little piece of my heart will forever be left in this Tuscan town. It certainly didn’t disappoint with its red roofs, cobbled streets, lovely array of shops, fabulous views of the valley below and welcoming locals. The owner of our villa, Sara was the perfect ambassador for this region. Her family owns one of the patisseries in town and we were given preferential rates on our morning visits. She even knocked on our door with pizza she had freshly made one night. The villa was perfectly located down a windy road, adorned with poppies and perched on the hillside where at night you could see and hear the fire flies buzzing around. During the day, the pool offered a welcome break from the hot Tuscan sun.
Pisa – We left Pisa feeling rather deflated. Ignoring the advice of our Lonely Planet guide book, we headed straight to the ‘Pièce de résistance’, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and although an outstanding example of disastrous architecture, it was not in itself enough to sell the city. The guide book recommended meandering along the Arno river first, before finishing at the Leaning Tower and I can see why. Seeing the Leaning Tower first, is like someone spoiling the ending of a great book, leaving you questioning what was the point. The over zealous, mainly illegal, souvenir sellers, made us uneasy and added to our sense of disappointment.
Lucca – A hidden gem located behind Renaissance walls. The perfect antidote to Pisa (we visited it the same day). Charming and relaxed.
Siena – My new favourite Italian city. Majestically picturesque, an absolute must see on any Tuscan tour. The view from the top of the tower was one to behold and had Ava commenting ‘I can see for miles!’
Florence – It is said that your heart will either belong to Florence or Siena and mine belongs to Siena. That said, we had a lovely day wondering around Florence and exploring its Renaissance architecture.
Lake Garda – Having stayed in a beautiful villa with fabulous views and a swimming pool to ourselves for a week (we really were spoiled), the caravan park that we booked at Lake Garda wasn’t quite as appealing. The caravans were pitted nose to tail and the pool was overcrowded with young families (yes, we were one of them, with a tantrum throwing toddler to boot!). The added joy on the first night (we only stayed two nights) was that we could hear the disco with top tunes including the Macarena and Grease Lightning! That said Pescheria, the nearest town to our caravan site was delightful and Sirmione, our last stop of our holiday, was exquisite.
Venice – Technically Venice was not on our itinerary but when we realised we could drive to it in a mere hour and a half from Lake Garda, our promise to ourselves not to visit somewhere we had previously been as a couple (so as not to ruin our memories) was broken. The lure of going back to Venice where we got engaged 12 years ago was too much, although scary as hell with two young children! That aside, Venice will always be the place where Mr P asked me to be his Mrs P!
Verona – The city of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. A seductive place that lures you in. Our whistle stop tour took us to Juliet’s house and the famous balcony, where we etched our names on the wall alongside countless others. I suspect this wall is painted over from time to time but one day I intend to go back and see a performance in the Roman Theater and will drop by the wall to find out.
Italy must have the biggest concentration of beautiful cities in the world and I want to see more. Where should we visit next? Please post recommendations below.
‘I Did It Mummy’ fundraising for BIBS – https://www.justgiving.com/IDidItMummy