Greetings friends, clients, and trusted global suppliers!
Among Mark Twain’s many compelling quotes from his world travels in the late 19th century, one of our favorites is his description of Italy: “The Creator made Italy from the design of Michelangelo”. This observation also perfectly applies to the verdant landscapes of Tuscany. We feel Tuscany to be one of the truly bucolic settings in all of Europe.
Based on our various travels to the Tuscan countryside, we have included our favorite Tuscan hill-towns, as well as two of our favorite boutique, luxury hotels. If time-constrained, we suggest you use culturally-rich Florence as your base to enjoy full day excursions to various areas of Tuscany (only 1-2 hours away from all our favorite towns!). Amazingly, according to UNESCO, approximately 60% of the world’s most important art treasures are in Italy, with half of these in Florence… Donatello, Botticelli, da Vinci, Rapheal, Sanzio, and Michelangelo. Truly extraordinary!
Please enjoy perusing our various images/observations of this interesting, verdant countryside (+ Zen’s Journal!).
Many thanks & safe travels,
CEO Kipling & Clark and travNET
Beloved Tuscan Hilltop Villages
Lucca is one of our favorite preserved fortress towns in all of Italy. The city is noteworthy for its magnificent city walls built from 1500-1650, and which now accommodate lush, leafy parks and promenades lined with chestnuts and umbrella pines. You may pick up bikes in the central piazza from where you will ride up onto the great walls to enjoy the idyllic views of the gardens and Apuare Alps. Lucca is particularly engaging in the evenings with its various piazzas alive with families enjoying the unique Italian phenomenon of passeggiata (the art of taking a walk in the evening). San Columbano, a restored café, is a fun stop for refreshments outside the city walls.
Pienza is a nearby UNESCO World Heritage jewel with renaissance buildings and its famous ewe cheese, (pecorino di pienza – Bev’s favorite!). The center of Pienza was redesigned by Pope Pius II. We truly agree with Rick Steves who called Pienza a “pint-size Renaissance town”. Due to its uniqueness and picturesque scenery, Pienza tends to draw a large tourist crowd so we recommend a midweek visit over a weekend stopover.
San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, derives its name from the Bishop of Modena of the same name who, legend has it, saved the city from Attila the Hun. Most noteworthy are the 14 surviving medieval towers that remain out of the original 72 – it was common for prominent families to build towers taller than their neighbors’ as a sign of wealth and power. Its medieval architecture draws large tourist crowds, though a stopover is definitely recommended. Visit at night when the crowds die down and you can try some Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a wine made from grapes that grow in the region and considered by many to be one of the finest Italian white wines.
In large part unchanged in 800 years, the center of Siena’s life is undoubtedly its 13th century main square, The Piazza del Campo. This UNESCO World Heritage Site serves as the venue for the famous, annual bareback horse race, Il Pallo, held July 2nd and August 16th each summer. We feel Siena to be a significant, much less touristy (and perhaps livable), alternative to Florence. Our 2017 restaurant favorites: Enoteca I Terzi (Tuscan bistecca fiortina – grilled steak), Bar Il Palio (delicious lasagna + best views for people-watching at the Piazza del Campo!) and Tre Cristi (established in 1830, this is the go-to place for seafood in Sienna.)
One of twelve towns belonging to the Etruscan confederation at the end of the 4th century, Volterra, or ‘Velhathri’ – its traditional Etruscan name – has changed hands many times over the centuries until finally becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. Within the large, fortified walls is the Piazza dei Priori, dating back to the 12th century, surrounded by medieval-style Tower-Houses and the Palazzo Priori, a castle-like bell-tower and the oldest Town Hall in all of Tuscanny. Particularly noteworthy is the Acropolis of Etruscan Velathri where the Etruscans erected two temples to honor their gods, and the underground cistern that dates back to the 1st century and was responsible for providing water for the whole of the Acropolis – a most unique site!
Two of our favorite Tuscan Luxury, Boutique Hotels
Borgo Santo Pietro
Though there are many wonderful hotel/residence choices in Tuscany, we feel Borgo Santo Pietro to be a special place. This lavish 15-room boutique hotel, restored from a 13th century stone farmhouse, epitomizes idyllic Tuscan life and personal service. Located approx. 35 minutes southeast of Siena and about 90 minutes from Florence, the property is set in a rural corner of Tuscany, including lovely cypress trees among the 13 acre landscaped gardens. Being big garden fans, Bev, Zen and I particularly enjoy the lush, green lawns dotted with secret garden pathways, grottos, and traditional Italian roses – truly heavenly for one’s open-air private moments. We loved the hearty breakfasts served in the large, warm country kitchen (cooking classes and wine tasting available). We rate the Borgo Santo Pietro an A+ among Tuscan luxury properties!
Castello Banfi – Il Borgo
With only 6 rooms and 9 suites, this rustic country house property is set in a picturesque hilltop castle. We feel the luxury here is a very understated authentic style, in keeping with a relaxed Tuscan home. We enjoyed the cooking schools and the Castello’s outstanding dining and wonderful wines. Among the many picturesque areas of Tuscany, we consider the sweeping countryside views from any area of Castello to be unmatched – truly magnificent! We particularly like the historic Tuscan architecture of the facade, matched in luxury by the interior, designed by Federico Forquet, one of the most renowned interior designers in all of Italy. If extra time, we suggest opting for the all-day bike tour of the surrounding area!
Greetings Fellow Global Teen Travelers!
Happy Memorial Day Weekend, fellow global teen travelers!
With finals coming up the next two weeks, I am trying to end on a positive note (though I really hate the stress!)
My three tests include French, Science, and Algebra/Trig II
My other classes are projects, not tests, including a debate in History and a “TEDTalk” in English. One of my favorite TED Talks at Francis W. Parker this year was from former White House Social Secretary, Desiree Rogers – great delivery, Desiree!
I’m excited about my classes next year as a junior! I’m lucky to have wonderful teachers assigned for Physics and Applied Problem Solving/Statistics!