October half term is not usually a time of year that we go away on holiday. We tend to just enjoy hanging around locally – embracing Autumn and prepping for Halloween. This year however was vastly different, because when “To Tuscany” invited us to visit Tuscany again and stay in one of their villas, seeing Italy in Autumn and catching some last minute sunshine seemed like an Idyllic half term break for us all. And so, a few weeks ago we enjoyed a lovely little family adventure (with Grandma) in the Chianti region of Tuscany in a quaint little villa tucked in the midst of vineyards. The views were incredible, the weather was wetter than anticiptaed, but it was a beautiful week together.

We have been to Italy twice before, but always in the Summer and with the intention to swim in lakes or hit the beach.This time however we were excited to see it clothed in Autumn and do things a little differently. Our Villa was in a teeny place called Montebuoni which is on the hill above Lecchi in Chianti and about 40 minutes north of Siena. This is a region we have never been to before and so there were lots of new places to explore and memories to make. I did some research beforehand and Grandma also had some great ideas too, but in the end the things we did and the places we explored were super interesting, very beautiful and a lot of fun for us all.

Here is our week in a nutshell, with the highlights and useful things to be aware of when visiting southern Tuscany with kids (whatever the season).

Siena 

Siena has never really been on my radar as a must see Italian City, however now we have been I would most definitely suggest it as a family day out whilst travelling/on holiday. It is easy to explore as it is smaller than other Italian cities we have been to, and it has lots of interesting things for the kids too.

To begin with we parked at the bottom of the hill (it was 12 euro for the day) and took about 6 (possibly more) sets of escalators up the hill to get into the city – the kids loved it! We explored a smaller cathedral before walking up into the city and down to the Piazza del Campo – the famous fan shaped main square. It was such a pretty place full of interesting facts and info. The kids loved running around it and seeing the fountain, but the highlight was climbing over 600 steps with daddy to the top of the Torre del Mangia (famous tower). It cost about 9 euro as children under 11 are FREE! Nath said it was a lot of fun and the views were brilliant!

Next we walked up to the Siena Cathedral – a beautiful black and white building that is famous to Siena and again the kids were free here too. Inside it was incredibly beautiful and its history very interesting. It took longer than planned to build as the onset of the plague took many of Siena’s residents, meaning the man power wasn’t there! Now it stands as an Iconic building, ornate and beautiful for tourists and those who worship!

Finally, after lunch we enjoyed a FREE visit to Siena’s Natural History Museum. Whilst small it is jam packed with animals (stuffed), geology and an underground exhibit. It is housed in the old monastery, which in itself is a beautiful place to wander. The kids really loved this part of our day and it was a lovely end to a lovely day.

Siena was a very family friendly place and we loved our day out there.

Pitigliano 

One of our favourite visits was to Pitigliano with it’s quaint old town known as “little Jerusalem”. It was a good hour and 45 mins away from where we were staying, but it was most definitely worth the drive. We decided to go here after Grandma had seen it on Jamie Oliver’s Italian tour. It is carved out of the hillside and has a long Jewish history which is both sad and fascinating. On the way we passed through another hillside town which was equally exciting to look at.

We parked near the new town (3 euro) and walked 5 minutes across the road and over a bridge into the old part. It was such an exciting and beautiful place to explore,with lovely views across the valley and a quiet chilled vibe.

We wandered the little streets – taking it all in and enjoying the mild sunshine. We headed down to the Jewish quarter where we toured the old Synagogue and learnt of Jewish tradition, as well as stories of the Jews in this area (specifically in world war 2). It was a great place to explore and we were touched by their stories.

After visiting the Jewish quarter, we did some more exploring before enjoying Bruschetta and “wild boar” lasagne for lunch in a cute little place down the main street.

We all loved Pitigliano and you need it on you wanderlust list for sure!

Hot Springs at Bagni San Fillipo

Thanks to several travel blogs, our research of the Chianti region led us to the natural hot springs of Bagni San Fillipo and I think it’s safe to say that they were the highlight of the trip (especially for the kids). We went late afternoon on our way back from Pitigliano and stayed til dusk – it was so surreal and Idyllic.

We paid a couple of euros to park on the road and then walked 5 minutes into the woods where  we saw several pools and people enjoying them. We all changed in the woods (which was pretty funny) and then walked down into the top pools just next to the bridge. They were shallow enough for the kids to play in safely and Megs enjoyed making the most of the “mud bath”! We couldn’t get over how exciting it all was and laid in those warm sulphurous waters in the middle of the woods till dusk – it was glorious!

I had no idea that Tuscany was so rich in Thermal springs (there are loads if you google them), but what a natural treasure they were (and FREE too!!). Whilst we all stunk a little afterwards, our skin was soft, our bodies relaxed and it really was the ultimate adventure for the kids and us all!

Boboli Gardens – Florence

On our last trip to Italy we had a day in Florence and whilst lovely, it wasn’t my favourite! This time however we had Nath’s mum with us and as an avid gardener we thought it would be nice to find a garden to visit with her. Our research led us to Boboli Gardens in Florence and all I can say is that they were mint!

One again kids were free here and as we went on Nov 1st it was “out of season” so tickets were only about 8 euro for each adult. The gardens were huge and are considered one of the most famous in Italy. Not only are Boboli Gardens beautifully landscaped and home to many lovely trees and plants, but it is also an open air museum full of fountains, statues, sculptures and exciting things to discover! The kids really loved it here – they enjoyed exploring and hiding and loved seeing Neptune, “a giant mento’s” and all of the fountains – I wished we had known about them on our last visit because they are an excellent family day out.

Boboli gardens aren’t flat and in some places incredibly steep. They do however offer hours of fun, great views of florence and beautiful art and landscaping! It was a lovely sunny day in Florence when we visited and I loved the views of it from this side of the city. The Piazza is included in the ticket price (which we didn’t do due to time restraints) but the gardens were certainly the highlight on this day out (as well as the Gelato). Our visit to Florence this time was certainly more enjoyable than the last and was only an hour and 10 from where were staying.

Volterra

I have been intrigued by Volterra ever since reading the Twilight books, and whilst it wasn’t the location for filming new moon (that was Montepulciano near Siena) it was the inspiration for it and it also has a magnificent history dating as far back as 7 B.C. Positioned high on a hill and surrounded by a wall it is a quirky place just waiting to be explored!

We only spent a couple of hours in Volterra as it is small and that is all you need (and because the weather meant it was a bit of a wash out too, but we won’t mention that!). We parked opposite the Roman ruins where it was significantly cheaper than the train station (it only cost us 4.50) and walked up into the town. We visited on the Friday of our holiday which conveniently turned out to be market day; hosting all kinds of local sellers with free samples happy to invite us to try! This made the visit extra exciting and from cheese to honey and chocolate to biscuits, we all embraced sampling and exploring the stalls. I bought some lemon pasta and the kids some mini jars of honey. It felt so lovely wandering the stalls and looking at all of the delicious treats and foods. I love markets, especially when on holiday, and I love looking at local foods and the things people have made.

From here we headed towards the Piazza – home to “The Volturi” in Stephanie Meyers “The Twilight Saga”! The downstairs of the Piazza was free to walk around and so we explored that together (and sheltered from the rain) before enjoying paninis for lunch. I hoped to tour the top of the Piazza too but due to language barriers they couldn’t agree a price for the kids (one said free one said 6 each?!)..Either way Volterra was a beautiful town in a beautiful location and we loved exploring it’s streets and visiting the market and Piazza. I am glad I finally went!

Pisa 

We flew in and out of Pisa, and so it was only natural that our trip to Tuscany would wind up here. It was a 2 hour drive from where we stayed, but armed with snacks for the kids and “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack on repeat, it was fine. The weather was 22 degrees C when we arrived late morning and it was a lush way to end our holiday.

We have obviously been to Pisa before as it wasn’t far from where we stayed last Summer, but Grandma hadn’t and so we enjoyed showing her our favourite spots. We wandered around the cathedral (which is free to look in – you just need a time slot ticket to manage crowds) and posed by the tower again. We then walked along to the river but didn’t have time to go to the park/gardens at the other side. Pisa is such a lovely little City and another kid friendly one too. It was great to spend a couple of hours here again in the sunshine before checking in and flying home to London!

I really love Italy – it is a place full of my favourite foods, and is also a place I never tire of exploring. The weather was pretty nuts whilst we were there (as were the kids) with a couple of big storms and a power cut, but we also had some lovely days of mild sunshine that saw us dipping our feet in the pool and wearing just T-Shirts.

We had a relaxing stay with “To Tuscany” in the Chianti Hills, eating local foods and playing games in front of the wood burner by night. The places we went to and the memories we made, made it a wonderful Autumnal adventure for our half term and we loved it (mostly). Our villa was quaint and ample and the views were breathtaking – I loved waking up every morning and taking them in! With a pool only 2 minutes away from our villa, I can imagine in the Summer it is quite the place to sample foods, wines and sun rays – far away from the ordinary and truly picturesque!

Thank you To Tuscany for a memorable and relaxing Tuscan adventure this Autumn – we had a fab time!

* We received this holiday complimentary from To Tuscany after winning their blogger competition. All images and thoughts are my own and we are incredibly grateful for this adventure. 

 

 

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Welcome back to another week of #MyHeartyLife – an opportunity to celebrate the small moments of gratitude, success and beauty from the previous week. Life is so busy (and at times hard), that I find it therapeutic and empowering to look back on the previous week and notice the little ways I succeeded in my life, and the moments that made me appreciative and grateful. I love recording and noticing the beauty in life, because together these things make me see that life is good and blessed, despite the really hard days. They help me smile and feel good.

I hope you will join me, either by linking a blog below, or sharing something on Instagram with the # “MyHeartyLife”. I love to see all of the little moments that are bringing people Joy!

This week…

This week has been so surreal. We were in Utah when it began, and enjoyed a lovely reunion with great friends there, and now 7 days later we are home in Yorkshire attempting to fight Jet lag! In between we have been to Vegas and Hollywood, flown 10 hours from LA to London, eaten lots of rubbish, watched some great films on the plane, and driven home. It has been quite the adventure, and I have loved it all.

Grateful for …

I am grateful this week for my faith and religion. This last weekend was our churches semi-annual General Conference, and I loved being able to sit and watch it live on TV.! Nathan and I also had tickets for the Sunday morning session, and so had a couple of kid free hours, to go to Salt Lake City and watch Conference in the Conference centre. This is rather a rarity as we usually just get the broadcast of it in the UK, but we watched some beautiful pieces sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir followed by the conference session. It was incredible and felt so enriched being there in the midst of it on a lovely sunny Easter morning.

I am also once again so grateful for old friends and being able to pick up right where we left off. For all of the laughs we have enjoyed with them, and the lovely fake cafe Rio meal that was put on in our honour last friday evening. We are grateful for our Family for having us stay in America, and a lovely Easter dinner too, as well as unlimited root beer’s, copious amounts of tasty rubbish food, safety whilst travelling, and generally just the opportunity to travel as a little crew and make memories!

Succeed at …

We successfully made it to Vegas and then to LA driving – It was quite the journey, but a most beautiful one too! We also successfully made it home again from the states on a 10 hour flight with the 3 kids, and without any accidents or drama. The kids did well on the plane (mostly), and whilst that final drive from London to Yorkshire felt the hardest with only a snooze on the plane, we did it!!!

Found beauty in …

Children hunting eggs on a sunny Spring day, bright blue skies and the sun on the Salt Lake Temple. Friends faces and hearing of their lives, laughter with loved ones and time with family, followed by driving through Canyons – all of these things were beautiful to me this week and made my heart full!

I was rather sad to have to say goodbye to it all and I wished we could have an extra week. But, like one of my friends said as we left “No time will ever be enough”!

I love seeing old faces who we share great memories with, and I love seeing such majestic natural beauties! This week has been greatly blessed and I am thankful we have had an opportunity to live the dream. Now back to reality and some more local adventures in East Yorkshire!

#MyHeartyLife Rules

You can link up one post a week that fits into either or all of the “Prompts”, and I ask that you at least comment on mine and one or 2 others too. Kindness costs nothing and a comment on your blog feels amaze!

Please use the #MyHeartyLife on Social media whenever you want to share the goodness and cheerful moments in your life that day! It might also help when summing up the week into a blog post to link up!

 

The Hearty Life


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Hello from Arizona! I was considering not blogging whilst away (I am on holiday after all), but then decided that it was important for me to capture our little moments of joy and gratitude along the way, and see the goodness in the small moments of our journey, as well as the big posts I will most likely write when we get home. So here we are – another week of #MyHeartyLife!

This week has been so out of the Ordinary for us, as after lots of excitement and anticipation, here we are in America. On Wednesday we left our home in Yorkshire at 7am and drove to London. We then flew 11 hours from London – LA, had a mega long wait at boarder control once arrived (with an extra helping of me near to a meltdown), found the car rental place, navigated American highways, and eventually got to bed about 24hrs later in a rather shady looking Motel!

We have had already had a lot of fun, plenty of sunshine, and are so pleased to be here together.

Grateful for…

The biggest things I am grateful for this week are friends and safety! I am grateful that our flight was uneventful, but most of all that it was safe. I am grateful we have driven over 400 miles from LA to Arizona safely and that as yet, no injury or drama has come our way, and the kids are happy and enjoying it. Alice isn’t a fan of the heat, but she is adjusting well.

I am also grateful for old friends. They have been so welcoming and hospitable to us all, and its been so lovely to see them, catch up and hang out. One of my good friends here in Arizona has opened up their home for us, and given up their room for us too, and another friend made us a lovely picnic dinner last night. Small things like this make family travel simpler and I am thankful for such kindness in my life! It’s nice to have a home from home!

Succeeded At…

My biggest success this week is most definitely travelling to America with 3 kids in tow, battling jet leg and staying sane! We are just about evened out to this time frame, and getting in some good chunks of sleep.

I haven’t tried driving here yet (translate as Nathan won’t allow me to lol), but he has successfully driven many many miles and its been quite the adventure already. We love our rental car and especially love how unbelievably cheap the fuel here is – it only cost £24 to fill the tank and that gets us over 400 miles. We didn’t know which “Gas” to put into it, but again we eventually succeeded at that too. It’s safe to say that we are basically being ripped off in England when it comes to fuel!

Found Beauty In…

It has been a beautiful sight to see the kids playing so well with each of my friends kids, but mostly the beauty has been seen in the gorgeous rugged desert scenery and my favourite – The Arizona sunsets! I miss them and never tired of them when I lived here. Its such a beautiful skyline.

The kids have been going nuts over seeing such massive cactus everywhere, and it’s so beautiful to hear and see the awe in their little faces over all things American. Whilst we haven’t done a whole lot (aside from across state driving and socialising) we are enjoying cruising around, spending time together with our friends and eating lots of treats!

#MyHeartyLife Rules

You can link up one post a week that fits into either or all of the “Prompts”, and I ask that you at least comment on mine and one or 2 others too. Kindness costs nothing and a comment on your blog feels amaze!

Please use the #MyHeartyLife on Social media whenever you want to share the goodness and cheerful moments in your life that day! It might also help when summing up the week into a blog post to link up!

The Hearty Life


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There is nothing like being surrounded by snow and on a countdown to an epic holiday in the sun, that get’s your mind whirling with ideas of all of the other places you might want to go to next! In just over 2 weeks we will be heading out to LA to kick start our 2 week America holiday, and being in true holiday mentality, I have found myself wondering where we might go to next. I have been dreaming of, and researching several other places I want to discover with our little family in this beautiful world …

Caribbean Dreams

Maybe it’s having “Havana” on repeat whilst I clean the house every day (and dancing to such cool beats), or perhaps it’s the amazing memories of our honeymoon in Cancun, but just recently I have been thinking a lot about how much I would love to go on another Caribbean holiday, and see such beautiful beaches and seas!

In 2009 Nathan and I Honeymooned in Cancun, and the white sands with turquoise warm seas were out of this world! The food was incredible, as was entertainment and stuff to do – from snorkeling around coral reefs and body boarding, mixed in with jungle tours, ChiChen Itza, and general chilling in paradise, all just felt like an absolute dream! I knew as we headed home to start our life together that one day I would love to return to that area of the world to discover more beautiful places with our family, and right now, Cuba looks like a splendid option for us all in the near future.

My 5 Reasons to want to go to Cuba …

Cuba is the biggest of the Islands in the Caribbean and is also a cheaper option to see that part of the world! Destinaton2 has some great deals that make it a great holiday choice for both a luxury Couples retreat, or general fun and adventurous family holiday. Here are my reasons (inspired a lot from my in-laws recent visit) as to why I would love to take our family to Cuba too!

Paradise Beaches/Sea/Sunshine – Being an Island in the Caribbean it is guaranteed hot weather, white sands and warm turquoise seas. This is obviously the main reason to visit, that and because I would love for the kids to experience such beauty, as well as enjoying it again for ourselves! I imagine even with kids in tow it would be a relaxing and chilled spot to holiday together!

Culture – Cuba is a very culturally diverse place, with wonderful people! I really love to go to places that immerse me in a new experience and really feel the vibe of it! With Spanish, African, American and Asian influences I feel it would be amazing to soak up all of it’s music, food and festivals, for a most memorable experience!

I love the pictures that show colourful 1950’s cars and buildings and I feel like wandering around from beach to city would be so exciting, as well as spontaneous music and dancing with the locals!

History – Cuba is full of History and this is often a huge element to what we look for in a Holiday too. I always think there is only so much beach time you can have on a trip (even in the Caribbean), and so it’s important for us to have things to learn about and look into further!
Being Communist, this in itself is super interesting, as well as it’s roots as far back as Christopher Columbus’ discovery and Colonial architecture. It is most definitely a super, historically interesting place I am keen to explore.

Organically Grown stuff! – Cuba grows Sugar cane, Tobacco and Aloe vera, all of which make it famous around the world, and to see these things being grown in their natural environment would be so fascinating! I think especially for the kids to see and learn more about these things close up would be another highlight and day long adventure!

Swim with Dolphins – Whilst the thought makes me slightly anxious, I think for us all to be in the sea, swimming with such beautiful creatures, would be an out of this world experience and a lot of fun! I know the kids (Megs especially) would be living the dream doing this on a family holiday!

Cuba would be an incredible holiday for us all, and a place I want to go to soon so as to really capture the culture before it becomes too Touristy! I hope it is a destination we get to experience very soon for a family adventure in the Caribbean!

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