Saturday, November 1, 2014

October Travel in Tuscany--Gorgeous

     We recently returned from a long-anticipated (and long saved for!) vacation in Italy. Tuscany was the focus of our time there, with a few days in Venice before we joined an excellent AHI tour of Tuscan highlights. Over the years as we have dreamed of visiting Tuscany, I have considered various tours as well as the possibility of braving crazy Italian driving conditions and doing it on our own. This particular tour won me over immediately because one beautiful hotel was our home base--no packing up and moving several times to see various places.
     From our comfy nest at the Palazzo San Lorenzo hotel in the charming Tuscan hill town of Colle di Val d'Elsa, our delightful guide took us to a different destination or two each day. The excursions were varied and fascinating, from a sheep's cheese factory and tasting, to Siena and Florence, to an elegant winery, to tiny hill towns--each with its own distinctive history and charm--and to much more.

     The first four photos today show scenes in our home base in Colle, including the "new gate" (built in the 1200s--the center of town and its old gate further uphill are at least two centuries older) where we met the bus each morning.

     The other three photos were taken on a day trip to a couple of other hill towns. These images are from San Gimignano, a well-visited hill town with more medieval towers still standing than in most Tuscan towns. These towers were built by wealthy families, apparently to display their wealth and power. It was their form of competitive mansion showmanship. They may also have served defensive purposes at times. San Gimignano at one time had as many as 80 towers--14 still stand today.

     Even at midday, you can see mist partially covering
the tallest tower in the first San Gimignano photo. There was heavy mist in the valley that entire day, with sun breaking through on the hills. Atmospheric and lovely to see.

     According to legend, the Saint "San Gimignano" saved the hilltop fortress from barbarian invasions several times by miraculously calling in heavy fog to obscure the town and to confuse the enemies. The saint is credited with bringing Christianity to this area, which had been a Roman outpost, sometime in the 300s AD. The existing old city center and original walls date to the 1000s and 1100s. As at our other destinations, we enjoyed an informative tour of the town led by a local expert, then strolled on our own for some relaxed exploration before rejoining the group.
Question of the day: Have you traveled with a tour group? How do you feel about tour groups as opposed to travel on your own?


  1. Never really traveled with a tour group. I like finding things on my own too. That said, I'd probably miss something important if I didn't do the group. Maybe one day I will find out. The photos are gorgeous, Mary.

  2. Hi Sherry, thanks for your visit and comment. I keep you in my thoughts.

  3. I am glad yall had a great vacation to tuscany. I love the photos of tuscany very much. I always wanted to go tuscany I hope one day. I can go to when i win the lottle. I hope you will have a open house again very soon. And show your photos of tuscany. Because they are very nice. P.S. I always look forward to coming to your open house very much. Because your house is so lovey and very nice. P.S. I hope you will have a open house again very soon sometime. P.S. I always look forward to coming to your open house. I have been to your open house before. I always love coming to your open house very much. P.S. I hope you will have a open house again very soon sometime

  4. Thank you for your visit, Anon. I appreciate your nice comments about the art open houses we have hosted. Sorry to say that we will not be holding an open house this year--we have too much else going on.

  5. I love your photos and travel stories. We usually travel on our own. We did take a tour a year ago to Alaska with a group of about 30. I was careful to make our morning departures after 8 except for the first morning. The side trips were down to 8 or 9 travelers so it wasn't so bad. Everyone kept up! Ha. We learned more about the stops than we would have on our own which balanced out not spending more time in some places. Thanks for sharing photos!

  6. Excellent and helpful travel reflections, Jo--thank you. Your Alaska tour sounds great.

    You are welcome; I love to share travel photos. However, I have learned that even friends and family who express an interest in seeing travel photos don't need a description to go with each. I leave a batch of travel photos (with labels on the back) out for people to view as they wish. Works well.