It was with no great amount of joy that we took off from a very rainy Liverpool and headed to Tuscany a few weeks ago. If I felt any trepidation about leaving the kids behind, and having to deal with the turbulence caused by the clouds, it was soon dealt with when we landed in Pisa and I breathed in the gorgeously warm air of true summer.
Our trip to Tuscany was a pretty unusual one, and one I don’t think we are likely to repeat any time soon. We decided to go away, just as a couple, to celebrate my 30th birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary. It was an absolutely beautiful trip and although I wish we’d had the kids with us, it was also so nice to have some quality time together as a couple.
Not that it wasn’t without its pitfalls. Everything had gone so well, from the flight to the hire car and then…and then. We got lost. On the winding roads of the Italian countryside where there is no right lane and wrong lane. It is just every car for themselves and he who swerves at the last minute, wins.
It was funny because we drove past a small holding type place and I commented to James that it looked a lot like the AirBnB we had booked to stay in. But the trusty sat nav reckoned we had another 15 minutes or so in the car so we dutifully carried on. An hour or so later and one poorly executed phone call to our host (who spoke limited English alongside our limited Italian) and we finally made it. To the very place we had driven past!
Not that we hadn’t taken the time to enjoy and appreciate our surroundings, of course en route. Just outside of Volterra, there is this unique installation which we think must have been placed there to encourage people to stop and admire the views. Which is just what we did, whilst also scratching our heads and wondering where we were meant to be going!
It was a welcome relief to step out of the car and into our holiday apartment, and to be welcomed by a very gracious host who gave us a quick language lesson, pointed out some of the ‘must-sees’ in the area, arranged for breakfast the following morning and then left us to collapse into our bed.
We decided to stick close to home on our first full day in Tuscany and visited Volterra, the town closest to where we were staying. Volterra is probably best known in the current age for its connection with the Twilight franchise and there are plenty of vampire-related tours you can take of the town but the scenes in the movie weren’t actually filmed in Volterra (fun fact!).
It’s still a very pretty town to visit with twisting cobbled streets, views over the Tuscan hills, delicious gelato, roman ruins and lots and lots of alabaster. You can’t visit Volterra and not notice that there are shops selling alabaster on almost every single street and it has been mined for centuries in this part of Italy. I was quite surprised (and disappointed!) to discover how heavy it was which limited what we could bring back in our cases as there were some truly stunning pieces which had been created from this gorgeously white stone.
We didn’t spend all of our first day exploring here; we saw the main highlights and enjoyed our first real Italian pizza before heading back to the apartment to get changed. One of the main things that we actually liked about Volterra, especially when thinking back over the other towns and cities we visited, was how quiet it was. There were tourists and tour groups but not nearly as many as we had been expecting and we’d often turn a corner and find streets which were totally empty of people, which was actually very nice!
As I said, we didn’t spend all day in Volterra as we had also made reservations at a restaurant in San Gimignano; home of the tall towers so we headed back to the apartment for a quick shower and got changed before heading out again. This was something we absolutely wouldn’t have been able to do had the kids been with us so it was a real novelty.
And I’ll tell you more about our explorations of San Gimignano in Part Two later in the week!