July 2019 archive

Italy 2019 – Tuscany

Home from our two week family holiday in Tuscany and as promised here is all the info on where we stayed and what we did, for those interested. Be warned its long! 😉

We spent one week inland at Sarteano then a week at the beach in Giannella near Porto San Stefano and ended with one night in Rome – to show the kids – who basically cared less!

We flew Ryan Air to Ciampino Airport Rome and then we hired a car from Centauro. It took as long to get the car sorted as it did to fly to Rome! The bus that takes you to the car rental only comes sporadically so we sat in the baking heat for nearly an hour till it finally arrived (suppose that’s what you get when you search Car Rental and filter “price low to high” 😉) Anyway, we finally picked up our little Fiat 500L and hit the road – the terrifying road.

The drive to Sarteano is about 2 hours, main road most of the way and yes the drivers are insane. Two grannies in front of us having the lols, chatting to each, high fiving, weaving all over the place, but hey, having the best time!

Sarteano is up on top of a mountain and be warned google maps does not like Italy – it’s like they took a siesta when it came to recording the smaller routes. So when we reached the town – first gear all the way up those hills – we couldn’t find the campsite. Then it started lashing and then some thunder and lightning. Sure why not. But still that was grand compared to Paul’s entrance into the town. One road was blocked off and Sat Nav was sending us miles away so Paul, in a very unlike Paul way, drove through the road closed sign. Well – he drove straight onto the street closed for that evening’s annual jousting festival. The road was all sand, hay bales and stadium steps. 3 angry angry Italian men leapt up from the pub, raced to the car, shouting, hitting the car, all the Italian curse words, one guy was missing a finger, even though he was pointing it at us. Anyway, we were told to carefully, carefully turn around and get the F off of their beautiful sand road – so off we went – leaving the trail of tyre marks behind. Paul was a wanted man.

We eventually checked into the parc with Eurocamp https://www.eurocamp.ie/campsites/tuscanycentralitalyelba/in018-parco-delle-piscine/ataglance.html and into our 3 Bed Mobile (Espirit). Anyone who follows me knows we love mobile home holidays, we have been doing them since Amy was 2. They are not for everyone but we just love the relaxation and the fact that a lot are off the main tourist tracks so you get to see some beautiful places, like Sarteano. It is picture perfect. A real pretty medieval style village with narrow cobblestone roads built around the beautiful castle that sits on top of the hill.

You can walk into the town, which is what we always want to do when looking for a mobile park location, and the food – AMAZING! Great value too. The town is really small and quaint but has plenty of restaurants. Our favourites were La Locanda dei Tintori, Chiostro Cennini (beautiful setting), Da Gagliano and Santa Chiara – the absolute best. Best dishes all holiday in the garden of an old monastery with spectacular views and sunsets. The truffle pasta is unreal and the caramalised pineapple with cardomon icecream. Delish. Drinks in the town square are lovely with free nibbles which are so good – parma & melon, mozzarella & tomato, nuts, crisps, olives. Beats a packet of Tayto.

I didn’t cook in Sarteano, usually do, but the food was so good and so cheap it made sense to eat out….I also knew I would be cooking at our next stop.

The parc is really well located to explore nearby places like Sienna, Montelepuciano (all the vineyards) and it a good base, but you need a car, and nerves of steel. We did one day trip on the only dull day to Saturnia, the natural hot springs. It is worth a visit but its fair drive. It would have made more sense to visit it from our second location. The area has lots of hot springs around and pretty much everywhere you look there are stunning hill top towns with castles. Very Beauty and the Beast 😉 San Casciano dei Bangi is 20 minutes away and is beautiful too.

The parc is small but I like that and you are not on top of one another. There are three large pools including a kids pool with slides, a big playground, sports and activities every day. There are also cooking courses in the mornings. We all did one and learned to make spinach and ricotta ravioli and you get to eat it too with wine, perfect lunch. There is a restaurant and bar onsite, but the town is so near we just strolled in each night. The supermarket is just outside the campsite too, so everything you need is there. The pools have views of the mountains on one side and then the castle and the town on the other.

We did a tour of the town one day – kids moaned from start to finish, standard, but Paul and myself enjoyed it and there is wine tasting at the end 😉 You get to go into the castle and walk up to the viewing point. Spectacular. All free as well!

After a week here we drove to Giannella, a small spit on the coast 2 hours away. Paul found an Airbnb (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/17584997) and it was right on the beach – that’s why he picked it as I’m obsessed with being near the sea and waking up to our own beach, so for a week I was able to pretend I lived this life.

The house was very rustic all dark woods and interiors, which wouldn’t be my style but it was very laid back & authentic I suppose. The views though! The views – that is what this house is all about and bar sleeping we spent 99% of the day outside. There are loads of outdoor spaces and full outdoor cooking facilities so we spent each day pretty much sitting at the main table eating and looking out to sea – brekkie, lunch & dinner. Addictive and so calming. The sunsets are SPECTACULAR!! And the morning beach with no one on it and that sound – heaven. The most chilled I have felt in a long, long time. Spent many hours just starring out at the sea – glass of Rose and tunes, simple but perfect. The water is so safe as well – so shallow for ages and its warm as well. There was an outside shower and loo too so sand wasn’t dragged into the house. The stars at night – no words – I have never seen anything like it because it so dark. Thought I saw shooting stars the first night – loads – till Paul was like, bats Yvonne, they are bats, put your glasses on….nah think I’ll leave them off thanks. Few lizards, toads and a squirrel too and giant flying bee moth things gave us a nightly scream but suppose you can’t get that close to nature without bumping into a few new friends. Also Paul was bitten by the mozzies. They don’t like the taste of me. Savage him. We had a few night time swims and lay on our backs floating looking at the stars. Nothing like it.

You would need a car here too and there are loads of places to explore. Porto Santo Stefano is nearest town – picture perfect and the lights of the town can been seen at night from the house. Pozzarello is the cove nearby where we went snorkelling. Canelle is another stunning cove but the drive to there, jaysis! – a sheer drop one side of the car – my side – so I was gripping the door handle the whole time and nearly sitting in Pauls lap. Add in the fact that the car went in first gear and the alternative route Paul took back – I’m surprised we are still married! He only turned back when we all started howling and the road turned into a dirt track, one lane wide with “Danger, sheer drops both sides” – ah now c’mon!!!!! Needed a double dose of Rose that lunchtime.

There are two other spits as well – Orbitello which is much bigger built on the lagoon with Flamingos, and the Dunes is another spit. I preferred Gianella. There is also another port nearby Port Ercole.

There are no restaurants you can walk to really only one beach bar “Il Tramonto” – but it’s a beautiful bar! Amazing sunsets with nibbles and Aperol and a lovely restaurant too – not the best food we had but if you just order pizza and the fried mixed fish, wine and views it’s all worth it. Paul and myself strolled here a few nights alone – for some kid free sanity and left Amy minding the boys. It’s a 1km walk along the beach and so relaxing – after a relaxing day you need some more relaxing 😉

The highlight of this trip was the boat trip to Il Giglio the nearest island. It’s like a postcard. Pink houses, blue seas, all so so pretty. We jumped off rocks, snorkelled and had a delicious fish dinner in La Vecchia Del Pergola. This was everyone’s favourite day trip.

You could do a lot more exploring but we get lazier as the holiday goes on so just read, swam, ate, drank on repeat.

On the last day we decided to bring the kids to Rome for one night only. Paul found another Airbnb just off Campo Di Fiori and so 5 minutes from Piazza Navona (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/14051319) He found overnight parking in Giulio which was perfect so we could ditch the car. The Airbnb was perfect and a bargain too. Very clean and a great location to explore although the kids were so not bothered by this part of the trip. Just wanted Wifi!!! Anyway we ate lunch and explored – Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps – kids whined – its soooo hot, we’re tired, the usual. That night we ate in Campo di Fiori. The Taba Café is a nice spot and they do an amazing cheese meat sharing platter. Then we had dinner in Mercato Hostaria – it was grand. We didn’t get the best food in Rome – although beside the car park I spotted a Michelin Restaurant “Per Me” – looked so good – but with no kids 😉

There was a storm that night and it rained the next day so we had a quick brekkie in Café Peru – yum custard and chocolate croissants – and then did bus tour. Again, kids not impressed – why do we bother!!!! The only want pool/sea, food and ice-cream. That’s it…oh and wifi!! Anyway, we persevered. They saw the main sights and we got off at the Colosseum and had lunch nearby – it was gross – the only bad meal of the holiday and then we drove back to the car rental and home. So safe to say Paul and myself will save the city breaks for the two of us – kids can stay home! The amount of times I was screaming – “why don’t you appreciate where we brought you?!!!” “give mommy and daddy a break!!” “can you stop moaning for 2 minutes!!” “no you are not getting anymore ice-cream” “let’s get another drink Paul”

Holidays with kids are a mixed bag aren’t they. We had some epic meltdowns. Matthew is the classic “are we there yet child?” followed by the day one “can we go to the pool now, can we go to the pool now?” “someone play with me” “I’m bored” “I hate reading”. Then after 24 hours he adjusts and chills a bit. Day 3 there is always some blow-up – kids picking away at us and then something minor happens like Luke spills water all over the table and I lose my mind!! (Luke spills or knocks something over most days so usually I’m grand – but there is always that one night “HOW MANY TIMES DID I SAY TO LEAVE THAT GLASS ALONE?!”

But it has got easier and 2 out of 3 kids read now – bonus! Over the years the kids refused to do any kids camps – always stayed with us, much as we tried, but we did always put them down for a siesta and then bed in the evening early so Paul and me could chill but now they are with us all the time but it’s nice and it’s a whole lot easier than bottles and nappies and buggies. Its mad though how time flies. Amy is nearly 16 so not sure how much longer she will want to sit around with us playing cards or spot the intro – the basic Melinn nightly entertainment. There is a lot of bonding! Which probably leads to the fights but sure if you can go on holiday and not have meltdowns who even are you?!

Also, my holiday wardrobe – basic. Brought wedges and heels – never wore. Flats everyday. Lots of shorts and a few wrap dresses and THE worst holiday hair ever and I gave up on makeup after about day 3….but it all felt good. Who cares! Penneys bikinis were a disaster – offensive – wore them as best I could then binned them…you would need a full body wax to get away with wearing them. Dunnes bikinis were very good.

So think that’s it. Hopefully its useful to anyone thinking about Italy. The food, the weather the scenery, it’s a hard place to beat. Did I mention the food……?

All the videos are saved to two highlights on instastories http://www.instagram.com/ystyleireland