In celebration of our 5 year wedding anniversary, we selected Tuscany for a weekend getaway. According to tripadvisor.com, Tuscany is one of the world's most romantic holiday spots. With amazing views, beautiful cities to explore, and plenty of Chianti wine to consume, the trip was certaintly romantic. However, it also had its share of adventures!
Our trip started immediately after landing in Pisa. We picked up our rental car and since automatics are rare and significantly more expensive, I once again was appointed captain (note to self...Jignesh is getting manual driving lessons for Christmas!). For a navigator, we decided to spend the extra money and rent a GPS system. We figured that you cannot possibly get lost with a trusty GPS. Right? Think again! Not so lovingly nicknamed "Gladys," our GPS thought it was fun to give us directions about 50 meters after our intended turn. I have had nightmares about the words "route recalculation" for the last few nights. If it was not for the hefty deposit we were required to leave, Gladys would have found herself as road kill. Add signs in Italian, crazy motorcyclists, and one-way streets, and we definitely had some adventures on the road.
Despite Gladys and her delayed response, we somehow made it to the leaning Tower of Pisa. We joined the masses and snapped some pictures of the impressive tower and surrounding buildings. After viewing the tower, we meandered through the town and eventually found our car. It was off to Florence we go!
After some twists and turns, Gladys surprinsingly led us to the motorway which landed us in Florence in less than an hour. Finding the hotel is another story for another day. Luckily we were in wine country and could solve our driving adventures with some great Chianti (yeah, that is our excuse!). Our hotel was the Hilton Garden Inn. Although it was a short bus ride from the center of Florence, we received a room upgrade and free breakfast (all those business trips for Jignesh are finally starting to pay off!). Oh, I also loved the blind that could be controlled by the touch of a button from the bed. After dinner at a decent restaurant in Florence, we hit the sack relatively early so we could hit the city running bright and early the next day.
Florence is an absolutely beautiful city of narrow, winding streets filled with restaurants, gelato shops, and old buildings. We started our tour of Florence by climbing 463 steep steps to the top of the Duomo. The largest masonary dome in the world, the Duomo was completed in 1436 and reached 115 meters in height and 42 meters in width. Our hour long wait in line was rewarded with some staggering veiws of the city. Next, we headed to the see Michelangelo's David. This famous statue definitely lives up its expectation. The detail on the 1o foot plus work of art is amazing. Despite Jignesh's best efforts (yes, he got busted), we were unable to get a photo of this masterpiece and were forced to join all the other tourists and settle for pic of one of the many replicas scattered throughout the city. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the city, including the Ponte Vecchio (Florence's famous bridge) while endulging in one of Italy's specialities, gelato!
After a rest at the hotel (and a stalking by Guido), we headed for a special anniversary dinner at Cafe Cibreo. This trattoria is a casual version its Michelin rated sister restaurant, Cibreo. Both restuarants share the same kitchen and virtually the same menu. Our meal was simply amazing. We wined and dined on foods that I cannot even try to pronounce or describe. All I can say is that we were in food heaven. We finished the night with a sprint throughout a rain shower to the bus delivered us to our hotel.
After a day in busy Florence, we decided Sunday would be the perfect day to spend in the country. With Gladys as our guide, we eventually found our first destination. Siena is a quaint Italian town with narrow streets and a car free historic center. With no agena in mind, we simply strolled the streets, shopped, and (of course!) ate some gelato. After a morning in Siena, we drove through the rolling Tuscan countryside to San Gimignano. Surrounded by picturesque hills of winieries, this town was simply breathtaking. San Gimignano is distinguished by its 14 (once numbering as many as 72) towers that loom up like Middle Ages versions of Manhattan. Our afternoon in San Gimignano was undoubtedly our favorite part of the trip.
Our final day in Tuscany was spent back in Florence taking in some final sights, shopping, and a simple lunch on the River Arno. As we headed back to Pisa and the airport, we were definitely sad to say goodbye to Tuscany. Our weekend of views, wine, and gelato was the perfect way to spend our 5 year anniversary!