Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Travel Diary: A Weekend In Tuscany

These are a series of posts covering my 5 weeks in Europe, and each country I see in bite sizes. Or as my best friend likes to say, “speed touristing.” I'm in most places for 3 to 4 days, with some exceptions and I wanted to bring you guys along! Follow me on my adventure to see what I love and don't love, and tips and tricks I might pick up on the way

A Weekend In Tuscany


Starting off in Italy was such a great way to immerse myself in European culture. Instead of heading to the more well-known areas, I opted to join my cousin and her friends on a girl’s weekend to Tuscany and Verona for 3 nights. We spent majority of our time in Tuscany, and did lunch stops in two places - Bologna and Sirmione.

Bologna

Bologna is, and I honestly don’t know why I didn’t believe this in the first place, famous for Bolognese. I know right? We stopped between our drive from the airport to our destination to have lunch whilst seeing what Bologna had to offer. It’s not a small town, but not as big as Verona either. There isn’t a whole lot to see but when we arrived there was a market with cheap clothing and the town square was lively. We were adamant on trying bolognese based pasta before leaving. The restaurant we ate at offered a variety of pastas famous within Bologna. Between the two that I tried - Tortellini Bolognese and Pappardelle Della Nona - the pappardelle actually won out. The pasta was thick and just the right texture, the sauce so flavoursome and fresh. It was my first taste of authentic Italian pasta and I was impressed.


Tuscany


Our main destination was Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort, located in Vicchio. The place sits high on a hill away from any other towns, offering some peace and quiet, perfect for an R&R session. There's also a pool available for nicer weather, just on the edge of the hill, overlooking a number of small towns. Alongside that are activities that can be undertaken, including cooking classes, spa session and truffle hunting when in season.


We decided on doing a Wine Tour (surprise, surprise), which gave us the option of visiting multiple wineries or just one. The resort organised transportation to and from the place and we set off to Frascole farm, a short drive from the resort to learn about wine production and try the variations that came from Tuscany. Frascole is located in Dicomano and the scenery was so lush and green. We were actually expecting the weather to be absolutely horrible, but it was warm and sunny thankfully. The owner of the winery was a lovely gentlemen, who is meticulous in his wine production and treats his different wines as his babies. During the tasting we were also given a light lunch of cheese, Italian meats and bread, which was amazing. It was a really pleasant afternoon and we felt so welcomed and comfortable by the end of it. There is an option to purchase the wines after tasting with a courier service if there’s no way to transport it home.

When we were at the Resort, the staff were super accommodating and friendly, catering to our needs - or in our case, endless amount of wine and prosecco orders. We took full advantage of the weekend to try wines after wines after wines, along with constant pizza and pasta dishes. The Resort had free all-you-can-eat breakfast, with fresh oranges and grapefruits that can be placed in a squeezer for juice. That was amazing!! Both mornings there were slight variations in meats, cheeses and pastries available. In the evening there is a 3 course dinner if you decide to dine in. I chose a Grilled Octopus starter, Spaghetti for the main and Tiramisu for dessert. The starter was beautiful but I wasn’t crazy about the main or dessert.


Sirmione


We left early Sunday morning to drive to Sirmione, a resort town south of Lake Gada. Sirmione was stunning. It’s really hard to express how pretty the place is unless you head there yourself. It is quite touristy, but doesn’t lose its cultural aspect. We were lucky enough to have really warm weather so we sat in the sun during lunch sipping on Aperol Spritz, whilst eating, yes, pasta and pizza. I’ve noticed Aperol Spritz is a huge thing in Italy, or at the very least in Sirmione and Verona. Back at home it’s just begun to pick up and pretty much only in Summer when the Australian Open is on. If you’re after blue skies and cute cobblestone alleyways, this is the place to be.

Verona


Verona was exactly what I imagined Europe to be like. It’s famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and they definitely take advantage of that by having a balcony, known as “Juliet’s Balcony,” for tourists to visit. It’s really just a balcony. The town square is bustling with market stalls selling trinkets and the vendors are all dressed up in historical costume. There’s quiet a bit to see so take a walk through the smaller streets, towards the lake and back around. During the warmer weather it’s no surprise to see cafe tables filled up outside as both tourist and locals sit around to chat and day drink. We had our last meal at a really cute restaurant, with tables set up in the alleyway and fairy lights, which admittedly caught our attention. We shared a number of starters and each had a pasta dish. The Pappardelle and Truffle pasta I had was nice, but I think I would’ve liked another element to the dish rather than just truffle. I know, stupid, considering I ordered it knowing it was just truffles. 

I’d have to say the weekend in Italy was amazing. I’m a little sad I’m not doing more of Italy after seeing a part of it, but would highly recommend Villa Campestri if you want to treat yourself whilst on holiday. It is a very quiet area though, and most of the guests are couples of smaller families who are looking to get away, so if you want big nights and crowds this isn’t the place. Verona was great as well, not too big but had a lot to offer. 

Travelling There

Driving to the Villa was roughly 3 hours from Verona airport. From the Resort to Sirmione was 2 and a half hours and Sirmione to Verona was only 45 minutes. We decided driving was the ideal option as there were 7 of us and hiring a minivan was more cost effective. Make sure you get insurance if you do hire, and be prepared to see some pretty crazy driving. The roads aren’t hard to navigate, but driving through the highway and using toll roads weren’t really cheap. There are multiple airports to fly into though, if you want to head to Tuscany, and accessible public transport. One of the girls flew to Piza and took a train to a station close to the Resort, calling ahead to make sure the Resort organised transportation from the train to the Resort for her. Average prices of food for the places we went to were roughly 10 euros for plate of pasta and alcohol was 4 to 5 euros. 


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