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April 22nd 2012
Published: July 1st 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

Our 4 days in Tuscany started near Sienna, where we stayed in an amazing spa hotel in Montaperti, about 20 mins out of the city. The first morning we started by driving through mist and showers to the Chianti region, where we stopped at the small villages of Gaiole, Radda and Castellina. Here we visited some Enotecas or "wine libraries", where you are able to taste and gather information about the local wines before you buy. And thus we acquired the first of many "souvenirs" to fill our wine cabinet back home.

Afterwards, we headed to San Gimigiano for lunch. This was the highlight of the area for me, a beautiful walled medieval hill town. We had one of the best meals of the whole trip in Osteria del Carcere, where we ate amazing platters of cold meats, cheese, pates and breads. The restaurant was full when we arrived, but the free Prosecco we were given while we waited helped to pass the time. The service, decor and food were outstanding and now I better shut my mouth as I am starting to salivate at the memory.

After another hour or so walking the town, we headed back to
Lunch in San gimignanoLunch in San gimignanoLunch in San gimignano

A little overwhelmed by the food on offer and the free glass of Prosecco while we waited for a table.
the hotel, stopping in Sienna on the way to admire the cathedral (Duomo) and Piazza del Campo. Definitely would have loved to spend longer here, but alas time was running out and we wanted to get back to watch the sunset from the roof terrace of our hotel (which ended up being a somewhat chilly, cloudy disappointment). There was so much more in this area that we didn't have time to see, including Volterra, Monteriggioni, and of course Florence that I feel it would be rude of me not to go back and visit. Olives, wine, cheese - you just can’t go wrong in Tuscany really.

The next day we got up early to drive to Piombino where we caught Moby, the ferry to Porto Ferraio on Elba Island. Although it was a ferociously windy, we spent the whole 2 hour journey on deck (thanks to someone who hadn’t been on a ferry in 10 years).

The afternoon we spent a good amount of time looking for somewhere to have lunch (we had missed the 2 o'clock deadline AGAIN), and ending up eating in a fairly average pizza and pasta bar in the harbour. Bitterly disappointed at the prospect of paying for this crap spaghetti del mare, I was pleasantly surprised to find a large fly in my pasta, resulting in the whole meal being free. Or at least we guessed that was what the waitress was saying. No one chased after us when we left the restaurant without paying in any case. We spent the rest of the day exploring Portoferraio, climbing to the top, but failing to find the entrance to the fort at the top of the hill.

The next day we set out to explore the rest of the island, driving to Capoliveri in the South East of the Island, where we found some possibly free parking (at least the car didn’t get towed), and downed a couple of double espressos in search of the motivation required to climb Monte Calamita, our chosen activity of the day. We had found a pamphlet (in English!) detailing a variety of walks on the island, and this one provided us large, but not toooo large, hill. The weather wasn’t amazing, but thankfully it didn’t rain and the views were still beautiful. It was very peaceful, and we only encountered one other couple the whole walk (possibly also due to the fact we spent 60% of the time off-piste, and not always on purpose).

After returning home for showers, we ventured in the other direction to the West of Elba for dinner and to find the amazing sunset we had been searching for the whole trip. After a very scenic drive around the coast and through the mountains, we had an awesome dinner in the small fishing town of Marciana Marina. In one of the only restaurants open, we were served the delicious and very filling ‘pizza sandwiches’. Continuing around the island we found a nice place to stop (somewhere near Chiessi I think), and with gelato in hand, we walked down to the ragged shoreline where the sea crashed savagely against the waiting rocks. It was beautiful here, and we spent an hour or so walking around the rock pools, and avoiding getting wet in the sea spray.

The following morning, we had to catch Moby back to the mainland, to continue our journey up the coast to Cinque Terre (via Pisa for the necessary cheesy photos), our final Italian destination of the trip.

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