Tuscany Day 3: Mist, Medieval Towns and Gelato Dondoli

It’s our second morning (third day) in Tuscany and I popped out of bed at 6am, hoping to catch another spectacular sunrise. Instead, I woke up to this.

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Tuscan mist. Wispy, eerie, magical. It blankets the hills and casts an other worldly air over the valley. Like the rows of perfectly coiffed Cypress trees, this is another of those iconic Tuscan scenes. Photographers travel far and wide to capture Tuscan mist so I was more than happy to wander the hotel grounds for a good hour soaking it in and watching it move and shift. I’m now very grateful for the relentless downpour that started at 4pm yesterday. If rain means mist, bring it on!

Here’s the rest of my top 5:

1. Medieval Towns: One of my favourite things about Tuscany so far, is exploring its picture-postcard hilltop towns. Almost all are surrounded by high stone walls and most boast gorgeous views of the rolling Tuscan hills, olive groves and geometric vineyards. Walking around their tiny, cobblestone streets and higgledy piggledy houses, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been transported back in time. We visited Casole d’Elsa, Volterra and San Gimignano today. The former is small and sleepy with some picturesque views while the latter two turned out to be popular spots on the tourist trail and were bustling with activity.

2. Il Colombaio: We had lunch today at Il Colombaio, just outside the town walls of Casole d’Elsa. Don’t be fooled by the random location and the nondescript exterior – the food is excellent (and they have a Michelin star to prove it).  Tuscan cuisine is renowned throughout Italy and the region is blessed with plentiful fish and seafood as well as lamb, game and even wild boar. If you’re looking for a modern twist on the classics, definitely check out Il Colombaio.

3. The Roman Theatre at Volterra: A number of people had recommended visiting Volterra but we arrived to find hordes of people milling outside the city walls. Inside, it was so crowded, it was hard to move. As it turned out, Volterra was hosting a renaissance fair and families had travelled from all over Italy to attend. Luckily, the area also boasts an impressive Roman Theatre just outside the town walls, so we contented ourselves with exploring that instead.

4. Panforte and Aperol Spritz: If I could go back and visit only one town in Tuscany, it would probably be San Gimignano. It’s popular and busy, but for good reason. We stopped at a tiny hole-in-the wall to sample some panforte and ended up sitting outside for a good hour, sipping Aperol Spritz and watching the crowds go by. Despite, the region’s wine fame, the Spritz may be Tuscany’s signature drink. On any given afternoon, you’ll see at least a few of these bright orange glasses on every table. It’s the perfect refresher for the dry summer heat.

5. Gelateria Dondoli: My final favourite for the day is a gelato shop, which also happens to be in San Gimignano. Sergio Dondoli has been running the place forever and has won the ice cream world championships twice (yes, there’s a world championship for ice cream). I’m usually not a huge ice cream fan, but when in Italy…well, actually it came down to the fact that Dondoli is kind of a big deal. The lines outside his shop were insane and he was coming out and personally chatting to every person waiting. When we told him we were from Sydney, his reaction was epic. Of course he’s been there! He’s consulted for Messina, no less… but that’s not his favourite gelato place πŸ˜‰ Picking the flavour was the hardest part and in the end we went for coconut, lime and his signature watermelon and fig. Delicious!