Explore San Gimignano
Spend a morning or afternoon strolling through this beautiful little town, UNESCO recognised, famous for its tall towers. It originally had over 70 towers, ostensibly constructed to defend the inhabitants but also somewhat of a competition to build the highest one! Only a few remain but they still make a striking skyline. There are many fine examples of medieval and Renaissance art to see, or the Torture Museum is a slightly gruesome alternative. Go early or late and you will avoid the coaches that come throughout the day.
is a fascinating place, with a history dating back to the Etruscan era, when it was a centre of alabaster extraction. The warren of streets are dotted with restaurants and lead up to the Piazza dei Priori at the heart of the town, dominated by the impressive Palazzo dei Priori which serves as a town hall. Night tours of the town are available through most of July and August.
A 'must do' on anyone's list is to experience the 'passeggiata'
In any town or large village, especially on a weekend or holiday, the inhabitants will congregate in the main square in the early evening, to promenade around, talk to their friends, have an aperitif or ice cream, before dispersing for dinner. It is the perfect time to people watch!
The weekly open-air market is part of Italian life
Stalls laden with produce, scents and smells filling the air, and a crowd of Italians - finish the morning's shopping with a coffee in a bar. San Gimignano's market days are Thursday and Saturday. Stock up on fresh bread, cheeses, salamis and salad to enjoy back at Vista Le Torre.
Have a lazy day
Get out a book and pull up a sun lounger by the pool, looking up every now and again to enjoy the fabulous views.
Note that the Palio takes place on July 2 and August 16 - they are either days to avoid or days to visit! Narrow streets lined with cafes and shops lead to the heart of the town - the unique Piazza del Campo, the shell shaped slanting square - a perfect place for a coffee.
Colle di Val d'Elsa
A town of two parts: the working town at the bottom of the hill, and the old walled village on the hillside. The old village has beautiful stone houses and cobbled streets, and is famous for its crystal glass production.
Go out for an ice-cream
Children will love the 'gelateria' or Italian ice cream shop. Watch their eyes pop out on stalks when they see the rainbow-coloured display and so many different flavours to choose from! Visit the famous ice cream shop in San Gimignano's main square and spot the celebrities in the photos on the walls.
Sample Chianti wines
You are in Chianti - home to some of the best wine in the world. The tourist office will have maps and suggested wine itineraries to follow. The annual Chianti wine festival is held in the small village of Montespertoli between the 30th May and 6th June, a celebration of this famous wine and the first chance for the public to try this year's vintage.
If you are driving into Florence, follow signs to Piazzale Michelangelo.
Not only will you find free parking in this square, it is also the spot where you will have the most fantastic view over Florence. A short walk down the hill takes you to the Ponte Vecchio, over the river into the heart of Florence. Go early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds!
When in Florence, head for the Piazza San Spirito
if you want somewhere quiet to eat. Cross the Ponte Vecchio and turn right and you will soon arrive in the square. Popular with the locals, there are some good restaurants there, away from the tourist traps!
to a spa day or massage at Spa San Lorenzo in Colle Val d’Elsa. Facilities include hydro-massage pool, sauna, steam room and sensory showers. A perfect way to totally unwind on holiday!
Play a round of golf
at Castelfalfi, approx. 20km from the villa. Castelfalfi is the largest golf course in Tuscany, with 27 holes altogether, comprising the challenging ‘Mountain Course’ (Par 72, 6351 meters, 18 holes) and the more manageable Lake Course (Par 37, 3171 meters, 9 holes). There is also a driving range with grass teeing grounds, and a clubhouse. Tee-times need to be pre-booked.
Discover Tuscany’s olive oil
Olive oil is widely used throughout Italy in cooking and as a condiment. Most families with a patch of ground grow their own olives for oil - and if you are visiting, you can buy direct from the grower. This is quite easy, as almost every wine producer also produces olive oil so that oil can be bought at any of the very numerous “Olio”, "Vendita Diretta" and "Degustazione" places dotted along the country roads of Tuscany.
Greve in Chianti
Greve is a small town in the heart of the Chianti region, whose charming 'square', Piazza Matteotti, is actually an unusual triangular shape. The piazza is lined with porticos under which you will find a number of shops, cafes and restaurants, and a weekly market takes place here every Saturday morning, where you can take in the atmosphere of a typical Tuscan market day. Also don’t miss the famous Falorni butcher’s shop, where you can taste a platter of meats & cheeses accompanied by a good bottle of local wine.
Hunting castles in Chianti
There are lots of castles, towers and fortified abbeys in the Chianti region. Go exploring and get the kids imagining who used to live in these impressive (sometimes ruined!) places. Pick up a leaflet in Gaiole in Chianti; there are six different itineraries to choose from.
A day in Pisa
Pisa is a very pleasant city set on the banks of the River Arno, a bustling university town where everyday life carries on despite the tourists that descend on it! The main hub is the Campo dei Miracoli, where you will find the cross-shaped Cathedral, the Leaning Tower and the Baptistry, as well as the Cemetery. All are incredible works of architecture and no matter how many pictures you have seen, nothing really prepares you for seeing them in real life. If you have a late flight out of Pisa, you could plan lunch and a wander in the city before heading to the airport.
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