Dear September, I’m so glad you’re here. I sure do love me some fall food, soft scarves, and crisp leaves crackling beneath my boots. But, hang on. I’ve still got summer on the brain. So forgive me; I feel the need to revel in the warm sunshine just a wee bit longer.
What about you? Was your summer vacation a tad too short? Are you already drowning in lunch boxes, laundry, and loads of commitments? Then escape the grind for a moment, and dream with me about Italy. Italy! Eeek!!
After spending two contemptibly boring Augusts in southern Germany, I vowed to venture out this year and experience a true European “holiday.” Destination of choice? Italy in general, Tuscany specifically.
Unfortunately for me, Italy is terribly expensive and crowded in August. It seems the whole world loves this country and shows its affection by turning up once the sun starts burning the hills with her summer heat. Somehow, I managed to secure two somewhat affordable weeks of lodging – in villas with pools, no less – and the itinerary planning began.
In reading through my guidebook (more on that in a moment), a bucket list of sorts emerged. As our travels have increased, our appetite has changed. We’re no longer simply interested in seeing a place, adding a country to our list, snapping a few photos, and moving on to the next overcrowded attraction. Now, what we crave is the experience.
What does Italy smell like near the sea? Taste like when you make regional food with your own hands? Look like from a medieval tower? Feel like inside the stone walls of a hill town? Sound like in the bargaining chatter of the open market?
From these questions, I came up with a bucket list. Even with two weeks, it’s quite impossible to fully discover all that Tuscany was and is. Add kids in the mix, and you’re lucky if you get to do anything that doesn’t involve a pool and pizza. This bucket list is my happy place. It’s only a taste of Tuscany, but for now it’s enough.
Our Family’s Tuscan Bucket List:
- Swim in the Ligurian Sea and take in the Cinque Terre
- Cycle the walls of Lucca
- Learn how to make pasta, ravioli, marinara, and ragu
- Lounge at an Italian villa like a true European
- Sample the World’s Best Gelato in San Gimignano
- Explore tiny Tuscan hill towns: Montepulciano, Pienza, & Lucignano
- Climb Brunelleschi’s Dome in Firenze
- Gawk at famous paintings in the Uffizi
- Snap a cheesy photograph in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Drive through amazing Tuscan landscapes in the Chianti area
- Nerd out in Vinci at the Museo Leonardo
- Experience the famous horse race known as the Palio di Siena
If you’re planning your own Italian adventure, you might be curious as to how I came up with this list. Several items on the list have been personal dreams for years (Cinque Terre, the Uffizi, a cooking class). But I owe a great deal of gratitude to my friend Audrey (hi, Audrey!) who recommended the guidebook, Frommer’s Tuscany, Umbria and Florence With Your Family. Not an affiliate link – just an honest recommendation!
I’ll touch on this in later posts, but Tuscany is not exactly “kid-friendly” (which is not to say that it’s unfriendly toward kids). The Frommer’s Tuscany guidebook highlighted activities and attractions that my family could and would actually want to do. The budget restaurant recommendations were spot on. When I tried to squeeze in some extra research time for “Tuscany with kids”, I can’t think of anything I found online that was not in that book. Prices were out of date, but that is to be expected. The advice is still solid.