For our 2015 honeymoon, which was by far the best vacation we have ever had, we went to the country that is the epitome of romance: Italy. For fourteen days, we immersed ourselves in the culture and created as many great Italian memories as possible. Zach’s favorite memory from Italy was driving a Ferrari around the Italian streets- surprise surprise. However, Steph’s favorite memory was wine tasting in Tuscany and exploring the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
With the tour company, we chose their “Tuscany Experience” tour which visits four towns in one day: Siena, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, and Chianti wine country. With it being only 60 euros a person, we had low expectations. However, since we try to make affordable decisions while traveling, we went with it.
We were also reassured when we learned this tour company caters to the younger population (18-39 year olds) because that meant we may have less down time and waiting around. A small, young, lively group of people could make the experience more enjoyable. So we were excited to go!
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At 8:45am we Uber'd to the tour company’s office in downtown Florence. We loaded into an 8 person tour van, met our guide, and we were off on our eight hour adventure through Tuscany. During the drive south from Florence to Tuscany, our tour guide was funny, educational, and friendly. All the tour guides for “Italy on a Budget” are local Italians who speak English, so it was nice to learn Italian history from someone who grew up in Florence and loved his country. [See Related: 2 Days in Florence: The Ultimate Itinerary]
Our first stop was Monteriggioni which was a super tiny town with just a few small shops. However it was cute, quaint, and oh so lovely. It is the town where part of the movie Gladiator was filmed and it’s also the most preserved medieval town in Tuscany. Being built in 1214 as a front line against war, the history here is apparent. Steph’s favorite part: each and every unique door!
The second stop was San Gimignano which was much larger than the last town and much more grand which is incredible since it was built in the third century BC. Known as the town with “fine towers” it also has beautiful views of Tuscany, and gelato that was to-die-for. In fact, the gelato here at Gelateria Dondoli is made by the world champion gelato maker, so you can’t miss out. We enjoyed wandering the streets, seeing the unique doors on all the little residences, and climbing up the hills for spectacular views.
Next up was the more well-known town of Siena which was first settled in 900-400 BC. The Piazza del Campo plaza here hosts Palio horse races twice a year and it’s simply beautiful to sit here and admire the grandiose medieval buildings all around. We grabbed some coffee, pizza, and calzones before proceeding to do a little gift shopping for family. We couldn’t leave before checking out the gorgeous cathedral or Duomo here as well.
The last stop was into Chianti region which is picturesque. The photos you see of Tuscany with rolling hills, wineries, and cute brick homes are from this region. We stopped at the Tenuta Torciano winery here for authentic wine tasting. A member of the family that owns the winery gave us a lesson himself on how to properly hold a wine glass, how to swirl the wine, and how to taste it to its fullest. Maybe it’s just the wine speaking, but we had so much fun here! We learned a lot, the wine was incredible, and they even let us try some truffle oil which was OMG amazing. Everytime we hold wine glasses now, we joke about holding them correctly and we can appreciate the specific flavors in wine because of that experience. Just take a look at these Tuscany vineyards.
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Riding back from this day tour, I thought to myself “wow, I can’t believe we got all of that for just 60 euros!” I would have paid much more. It took away the stress of renting a car, driving in a foreign country where you don’t know the language, and it took us to places we wouldn’t have gone on our own. Our Tuscany experience was exceptional and filled our trip with memories we will never forget. No, “Italy on a Budget” is not paying us. We simply think credit is due to the company that contributed to our honeymoon being the best trip ever.