When I think of Tuscany I cannot help but smile. It is such an idyllic place to holiday and I fell in love with it last year when we took the kids for a week for our Summer adventures. Rich in breathtaking views, stunning coastlines, quaint little streets, Iconic architecture and Cities you want to wander all day and get lost in – I couldn’t imagine a more culturally rich and splendid place to escape to! It is relaxing and yet so invigorating to all of your senses. It offers delicious foods, great weather, and I could quite happily return again and again!

When we visited last year, we stayed in a small village outside of Pisa known as Buti. Surrounded by olive groves and nestled in the mountains, it was the perfect spot to overlook impressive landscapes and yet be in easy reach of all that Tuscany has to offer. We enjoyed watching the sun set on an evening, listening to the crickets and seeing pomegranates, limes and olives growing in their natural environment. We watched the locals farm, ate plenty of pasta and dipped breads in oil. A short 10 minute walk, wandering up the hill we discovered a local 14th century church filled with stories and oozing with local history and culture. We loved everything about our stay as it was super dreamy, but next time I would love to stay in another part of Tuscany – perhaps with a pool, maybe coastal but charming and quiet all the same. To Tuscany have some enchanting and beautiful places to stay throughout Tuscany, that to look at would be the icing on the cake for a beautiful Tuscan trip!

So, if you too would like to escape to such a magnificent part of the world this Summer (or in a another season), then let me share with you our favourite places that invite you to really experience the well-preserved culture of Tuscany. Visit for the day or stay in and around any of them and you will not be disappointed – your heart will be full and I expect your bellies also!

Florence

Florence has always been a hotspot for artists, being home to so many famous masterpieces and oozing with Renaissance art and architecture. Whilst not my favourite Tuscan City, I still loved the day we spent there as it was both beautiful and impressive. The Cathedral was more incredible than I expected, with all of its grandeur and intricate sculpting and paintings. And I loved seeing the City squares, bridges and “posh shops.

Whilst not an artist I could appreciate what it has to offer it;s visitors and the amazing history that has been preserved. If you don’t mind spending to see things then you will really have an opportunity to get up close to famous arts and sculptures. Either way you can’t not visit and you can’t not be blown away by the many beautiful buildings and statues that line it’s streets.

If you choose to visit in September, you may have the opportunity to see their annual lantern festival, which sounds brilliant!

Pisa

Pisa is a fantastic little City that I simply loved exploring – so much so we had a couple of days there. The obvious attractions of Pisa are the iconic leaning tower, Pisa Cathedral and Piazza dei Miracoli. We decided not to go in the tower on this occasion as with 3 kids in tow it seemed risky, but we did go in the Cathedral. The Cathedral is free and most certainly worth a visit and setting aside time to explore. There was a little wait (obviously – it’s free and Pisa!) but I loved the scenes of the bible carved into the huge metal doors as we entered and the whole beauty of the building. The ceiling was breathtaking and we all (from oldest to almost youngest) enjoyed wandering around it.

When I first stepped foot in to the square where these famous landmarks are located, I had one of those moments of complete awe and it being such a surreal experience – I couldn’t believe i was actually there! We spent a little while exploring and snapping all of the “must take” pictures (who doesn’t want a snapshot of them holding up the leaning tower?) and it was such a joyful hour or 2! But for me Pisa was far more – Yes I loved all of that side of it, how could I not? But for me Pisa really captured my heart.

I loved wandering its little streets, crossing huge stone bridges over the river and strolling through its parks. I liked that around every corner there were new and equally charming sights to see (including buildings and a statue of Garibaldi) and we had some of the best Gelato here too! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing horses pulling carriages, little fountains and beautiful colourful buildings. Not far away from the City centre are lovely beaches and parks, but the City itself has so wonderful I simply enjoyed strolling round and feeling it’s spirit!

Yes Pisa truly is a splendid city.

Lake Bilancino

Beautiful, clear, turquoise warm waters; Lake Bilancino is a lovely spot to go for the day for water sports, and shopping at the local outlet. It is a man made lake not far from Florence and is a great place to see a different, less historic (but equally enriching) view of Tuscany. We enjoyed paddling and soaking up the outdoors, and of course the drive to and from was such a pleasurable experience also.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is quite possibly one my favourites in Tuscany and yet as we visited late at night, I have no decent images to show you (google it). It is a well preserved part of the coastline and is made up of quaint little fishing villages lined with colorful houses that cling to steep mountain sides. We wandered through Vernazza late one night and swam in the harbour whilst inhaling the rich smells of garlic and muscles – In that very moment my heart felt happy and full and we agreed we would return by train and spend at least a day and a night there to soak up more of its charm and beauty. I wanted to sit for hours on that harbour wall, admiring the little boats and dipping my toes in the med, it really is one of the most beautiful places I have been to! It is a spectacular part of Tuscany and all 5 little villages are worth exploring and will truly capture your heart!

Tuscany is an incredibly beautiful part of the world – The food, the coast line, the cities and views – there is more than enough to fill your schedule for a week or even 2! I can’t wait to return; this time to hopefully catch a glimpse of the miles of sunflower fields or beautiful Poppy fields, to visit Volterra and see where Twilight was filmed and immerse myself in the beauty of Vernazza once more!

Tuscany is a great place for couples, kids, best friends and lonesome travellers alike. Wander it’s streets, admire it’s views, fill up on its delights, and I dare you not to fall in love!

This post is written as an entry to a blogger competition hosted by To Tuscany. I have not been compensated for it and it is not sponsored. All images and thoughts are my own, and I am keeping my fingers and toes firmly crossed that I might have the opportunity to return to Tuscany with them and Mr Smith! 

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The main goal of our recent holiday in Tuscany was to relax, get some sunshine and visit the beach. We had lush sunshine and it was over 30 degrees everyday, but aside from a couple of beach trips, the trip was far from the easy relaxing trip we anticipated. It was jam packed with adventures, whining kids, late nights, pasta, and despite the madness, we still had a brilliant adventure in a wonderful part of the world.

Flying to Pisa and our Air B&B

We flew to Pisa airport in the evening of the Wednesday from Leeds/Bradford, and arrived around 11pm, so it was a late one but the kids coped well fuelled by excitement and the bag of Haribo they talked me into at the petrol station on the way! We stayed overnight in a guest house just down the road from the airport, and then picked up our rental car the next morning. We had booked an Air bnb in a village called Buti, which is just a little drive outside of Pisa, nestled in beautiful mountains and olive groves. It far exceeded our expectations and was simply stunning!

The house was part of a large farm house, nestled up the side of a mountain and surrounded by groves of olive trees dirt tracks and animals! We had our own balcony, modern interior and the neighbours were cute old Italian locals!

As it was a farm, the kids had freedom to see the animals, and especially enjoyed the new pups which the visited daily (once letting out the mum – don’t ask!!!). Up the track, was a tiny 13th century church, and at every turn was beauty and amazing views across the valley.  We has pomegranate trees, citrus, figs, bamboo, and at nighttime only heard the crickets and farm animals – it was most idyllic and one of the bonuses of going through Air bnb when you travel.

The Beach and Genoa

On our 3rd day we were finally settled in and ready for some sand and sea. By recommendation we drove a little ways up from Pisa to a gorgeous part of Italy known as “Chinque Terre”. We went to both Lavento and Vernazza and found it to be a beautiful coastline with quaint little streets and colour everywhere, and the smell of muscles, baked breads and garlic! 

We did a lot of driving up steep windy mountain roads and the whole experience was surreal and breathtakingly beautiful!

As we were only an hour way from Genoa, and it being a place Nathan really wanted to go to, we deiced to drive a little further north in the afternoon and spend a couple of hours there. Of course my kids were the rowdy ones, wading through the fountains when we got there, but I am glad we went because it was a really lovely city. The fountains were spectacular (and very inviting), and it was great to see history at every turn and amazing architecture … Christopher Columbus house was small but cool to stand on the forecourt of, and just to be in a place he lived, pondering upon his life and legacy! 

This day ended with the kids swimming in the sea at 10pm – perfection!

Florence and Lake Bilancino

The next day we drove to Florence, which I had high expectations for. I dont know why but its one of those cities people talk a lot about. It was a great city and had beautiful architecture yes, but wasn’t my fave. There was lots to see if you were willing to pay (which we didn’t see the point of with our rowdy crew), but being only 45 minutes from our house, it was certainly worth an afternoon to just wander and see the city as a whole. The kids found a carousel and we just took it easy admiring the buildings and cathedral. 

On the way home we took a different route and called by Lake Bilancino. It was beautiful, clear, turquoise and warm, and a lovely evening spent paddling and chilling together. I think next time it would be fun to spend a day there and do some water sports or just have a picnic, but we found to be a lovely spot enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. 

Pisa

Finally we saw Pisa and it was brilliant … we saw it Sunday afternoon following church and was totally worth the wait. Everything about it was charming and exciting and I had a lot of fun there. We did all of the cliche tower pics and it was a place that really impressed the kids too. Site seeing can sometimes be a challenge with kids, especially when its more old stuff in the blazing sunshine, but Pisa really grasped their attention and they loved it. We went into the cathedral, which was free and then walked around the little streets… it was a great 4 or 5 hours!

Pisa also has some great beaches and a park too that are very family friendly and we spent some time at these too later in our stay. The park in Pisa in on an archaeological site and has pretty little gardens as well as a play area that is well equipped. We spent a few hours here before flying home, and it was a nice relaxing morning and fun for the kids too.

The beach we went to near Pisa was on our last day and was quite busy but a great spot all the same. We found a little patch of sand amongst the other visitors to nestle down in for a couple of hours to chill, dig and swim. It had man made walls to make it into a large outdoor pool which at the deepest point was only up to Ethan’s neck! Pisa has a lot of currents so this ensured it was safe and the depth made it easier and more fun for families. It was a lovely beach and lovely afternoon soaking up far too much sun!

Tuscany is the perfect destination for a family trip, but also a place I would love to go just Nath and I. It has a great balance of beach, history and nature and is in great proximity to visit a whole host of famous and breathtaking sites. We paid just over £600 for our flights and accommodation, and I would definitely recommend hiring a car to make the most of your visit and turn it into the ultimate adventure.

I loved our week in Tuscany – the food, our little farm house, the adventures, the sun. But mostly the company and the memories made there. It was the ultimate adventure and a great Summer holiday! 

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The adventurous and sometimes lazy days of summer will merely be a memory in the coming weeks, and this time next week we will be back to school runs and schedules. I cannot even begin to think of having a child in year 2 and another year 1, but until then we are making the most of our remaining freedom and being grateful for the adventures of summer! Oh what memories we have made and August particularly has been good to us.

Our family in August took the ultimate adventure (of the year so far) to Italy! We flew to Pisa, stayed in a farm house in the Tuscan hills, and enjoyed the Mediterranean weather. We saw Pisa, Florence, Genoa and Rome, and swam in the med on several occasions. We ate Gelato galore, and far too much pizza and pasta…I am in love with Italy, and it was all a beautiful and treasured experience (aside from over tired and whiny kids), and holiday we absolutely loved!

I love venturing and travelling – seeing the world and the lives of others. I love the sun on my skin and walking where millions of others have, just to catch a glimpse of landmarks that are known world wide through generations. I wonder about those who built them and how amazing it is that these things are still here for us to learn from and enjoy.

I love to see our food growing on trees and foreign languages on road signs. I love to soak it up and I love to see it through the eyes of my kids. It’s funny to hear them whine about these wonderful buildings because “it’s just another old building”. And as stressful as travelling with 3 kids was… I would take it every time for the memories and joyful heartiness of being together on an incredible adventure!

The pictures I have chosen this month, in case you can’t tell, are taken on 3 separate days whilst away in Italy. One is of us at “the leaning tower of Pisa” (which the kids loved and laughed at) and the others at the Vatican in Rome.

I love them all because both were taken by random tourists who I thought could better understand me if I put on a foreign accent, and both capture moments we have dreamt of. They capture the whiny, sweaty and resistant kids we had in tow, and whilst no where near postcard perfect, they are us!

We had so much fun doing the cliche shots by the tower, and wandering the charming streets of Pisa. And we walked for almost 9 miles the following day soaking in Rome. By the time we got to Vatican city the kids just wanted to colour and didn’t care that right there in front of them was the biggest church in the world, or that it held so much for so many people flocking to it. They didn’t care about hearing of the Sistine chapel and it was just so funny that colouring outside was their priority!

The question of going inside was out of the question and we will forever remember that in August we saw some incredible sites, in an incredible country, and we travelled 1000’s of miles to colour outside of them!

In August we are grateful for

*Holidays

*Time to be together

*Adventures

*The opportunity to see some incredible sites.

*Sun tans

*Cousins

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I am so very much looking forward to this bank holiday weekend, and what perfect timing following a week in Italy! It just feels like an extended holiday!!

What’s extra exciting is that the forecast here in Yorkshire is not only set to actually feel like Summer, but as per every August bank holiday we have our annual Smith “Family Fun Weekend”(with the added bonus of Nathan’s mum’s Birthday)! I cannot wait for the laughs, banter and adventures ahead!

Despite being in Italy for half the week, I still have bagged myself a few deals and even made some thrifty choices whilst away too…

New Look Sale

New Look reminds me too much of being a teenager, with it being the only decent shop we had growing up in Bridlington. And so I admit that I rarely shop there. They do have a few nice things but the majority of it feels too feminine and florally for me! I do however LOVE their shoes and so happened to call in yesterday whilst on my desperate search for some new (and comfortable) sandals. I was not disappointed and came away with a lovely pair from £20 down to 10!

Whilst there I saw a top that was down to £7 from £22 and was debating it too-It was a lovely pale pink, long sleeved blouse with black embroidery!So of course today I went back to get it! I was delighted to find that they had an extra 20% off SALE and so bagged it for a fiver! If you’re passing a New Look this weekend, it might be worth a look with such great bargs on offer!

A Train to Rome

This choice was one we debated for several days. but in the end decided it made financial sense (haha!). We decided whilst on our Italy holiday, to get the high speed rail to Rome and so booked some tickets in advance before we left the UK.From Pisa it would only be a couple of hours and for all 5 of us would be £140 return. Yes it’s a lot more than we would usually spend on a day out but WAY less than we would have spent to go see Rome on a separate holiday- hence a thrifty choice and one that has saved ourselves  few hundred pounds in the future!

As well as that we saved money by buying the majority of our meals from the supermarkets and had a really great trip!

I hope to get some posts up next week about our Italy adventures, but for now I am off to enjoy this rather sunny looking bank holiday! I hope you do too (and grab a few bargs along the way).

 

 

 

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