We've been fortunate to get some time to explore the surrounding regions of Florence by car, thanks to a friend of Estelle's who let us borrow their wheels. I thought I'd do a quick round up of some of our day trips in case you were heading this way (and also to picture dump here to save me from holiday spamming on instagram... or will it...).
First up we hit the beautiful medieval village of San Gimignano, set high up in the Tuscan hills, the drive there was worth doing alone - vineyard upon vineyard, grove upon grove - stalls on the side of the road selling the good stuff fresh. I don't know what I was expecting of San Gimignano but in all honesty it was exceeded by a million times. The village itself is small, winding around enormously tall 13th century walls and full of classic Tuscan culture - round every corner reveals a breathtaking scene of old buildings, ancient statues, artisan shops and sprawling piazzas. We rambled around, stopping for pasta, cooling down in the shade with gelato and browsing all the beautifully made crafts, linens and trinkets. Some serious self control was needed, especially when it came to the wooden crafts made out of natural olive wood. I settled for a couple of chopping boards and some utensils...
It sounds cheesy to say it now but at one stage I looked around at my little family, walking in the sunshine, drank it all in and felt a bit emotional and full of gratitude that we get to be here, in these incredible places, experiencing this all with each other.
As usual, the kiddos have trumped my expectations of them - walking for miles, being patient, trying new things and generally being awesome. Kids are the best teachers.
I'll say it again, the heat here is something else completely. It is tiring, sweaty, and thirsty work but we are not killing each other because of it so I'm grateful for that too. There is always shade to be found, something cold to have and I've found that feeding Ada has been a great punctuation mark for us all - slowing down to meet her needs has given us all a chance to rest in the day. I just wish there were less punctuation marks throughout the night. It seems the 4 month sleep regression is a thing and mama is TIRED.
Having heard so much about Siena from friends and family that have visited before we were so excited to get to see if for ourselves. We took the drive down on Sunday, enjoyed the breeze blowing through our little Fiat Panda, me squished between the two snoozing kiddos in the back. Again, we were blown away by the beauty of the city itself - so much history and heritage, enormous intricate architecture and we just happened to time our visit with the Palio parade - an annual festive parade that precedes the famous horse races in the main piazza in July and August every year. There were flags and men singing old festival songs in the bars on the street - you can imagine we felt right at home, being from Northern Ireland!
More pizza, more gelato (I think between us we have exhausted trying every flavour in the region) and more wandering around, people watching and exploring. We sat in the main square for a good hour, taking in the sights and sounds, letting Levi run around, fill his water bottle in the fountain and pour it into cracks in the pavement watching it race down the zig zag patterns of the stone (oh, the simple things).
We made it home tumbling into bed weary and warm but with full hearts and bellies.
Tomorrow we'll take our last day trip out of the city - hoping to find a cheese farm with goats and sheep! I can't tell you how flipping excited I am about that. Cheese is my spirit animal.
Ciao for now - I've got a pizza waiting for me in the kitchen.