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Quintessential rolling hills of Tuscany

The overused phrase “Under the Tuscan sun” may sound hackneyed but the beauty of Italy’s Toscana region is nowhere near cliche. Tuscany trumped all my expectations.  She made my face light up, much like what Christmas morn does to a kid by the Christmas tree. Tuscany blew me away.

Even though our adventure in the beautiful Italian countryside started with a snafu due to a booking mishap, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise (or a tragedy depending on how you look at it). Despite the fact that we didn’t get the GPS with the rental car, it turned out they also rent out Wifi boxes. It’s basically a mobile router that allows you to connect any number of devices to it. As luck would have it, our hotel (Villa Vignamaggio) does not have wifi. For the exorbitant amount we paid for a room, you’d think wifi would be part of the deal. For those wanting to really get away, this might just be exactly what they desire. Personally, I still want a little bit of digital life when traveling for this is how I keep my loved ones updated of my whereabouts.

Local wine shop in San Gimignano

Here comes the fun part: driving from Pisa to Tuscany and all around Tuscany. If you’re intent on soaking in the beauty of the Italian countryside, it’s impossible to accomplish this sans a car. There are no public transportations to take you around the villages and the hill towns from your agriturismo. If you can’t handle Italian driving, then your SOL. I do think it’s part of the adventure. However, driving in Italy is not for the fainthearted. First off, their roads are so much smaller than what I’m used to in United States. It’s also a bummer that there are all those scenic routes and wonderful sights to see but there is nowhere to park. We constantly found ourselves having to pull over illegally in order to take photos, whereas in US there are ample signs to tell you where the vista points are and there are always dedicated parking to these vista points.

But what really makes me panic is the endless number of roundabouts. Have you seen one in Europe? I don’t mind the wide ones in Barcelona but the ones in the Italian countryside are notorious! There are usually 4 ways to exit a roundabout but that really is not the issue. In Tuscany, there are roundabouts that have tens and tens of signs that point to different locations. (See below)

Tuscany roundabout

To make matters worse, what the GPS/Google Map tells you is nowhere to be found on the signs. And don’t forget that there are cars behind you! So you have no time to read the signs (and anyway you won’t find the signs the GPS is telling you) and you can’t stop because there are cars behind you so round and round you go in the roundabouts until you figure it out. You see, there is no hidden meaning to the name: its name reflects its purpose! I can see it working when everything was horse drawn but in this modern age… no bueno! When we drove from our home base in Chianti to visit the Italian hill town of San Gimignano, we had to go through at least 15 roundabouts! I almost gave up on the process.

IMG_5006But here’s the reason why should plow through and learn to conquer your fear of roundabouts.

Enjoy these photographs that are so close to my heart! Thank you for reading.

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