My first time in Tuscany was 18 years ago this September. I had just moved to London in August and was missing my friends. One of my best friends from New York, Dianna, decided she would meet me for a week in Florence and Venice. I was delighted to catch up with her and hang out with a familiar face.
We picked Florence and Venice for several reasons. My friend had never left the United States except to visit the Bahamas. She always wanted to see these two cities in Italy. They were her top choices if she was going to cross the Atlantic. I had never been either and they were on my bucket list. We were not disappointed!
We spent several days in each city people-watching in the sidewalk cafes and sightseeing. In the balmy evenings, we would do more people-watching. I remember vividly a ‘showdown’ between two buskers at Piazza della Signoria, a knife thrower/swallower and a fire juggler. Each was trying to outdo each other and draw the attention of the crowds. We found it amusing even though the buskers were getting increasingly agitated with each other’s attention-grabbing antics.
When Tuscany Now contacted me about who I’d nominate for a weekend away in Tuscany I immediately thought of my friend Dianna. All those years ago, she conquered her fear of long-haul flights and flew to comfort me in Tuscany. Believe it or not, now she travels ALL the time. She spends her vacation time in Europe, Africa and Asia. Travelling long distances and flights don’t bother her at all. In fact, she is now working in Abu Dhabi having left New York, where she had previously lived all her life. I’m very proud of her for daring to try something new and then discovering an interest in travel she never knew she had!
Where would I like to take Dianna in Tuscany now?
We would, of course, wander through the streets of Florence again. Although we are older (and wiser I’d like to think), we now have the discretionary income to enjoy some of the nicer things Florence can offer. See there is a positive side to being older!!
This time I would definitely visit the pharmacy at Santa Maria Novella for the most beautiful fragrances. I have their home fragrance pot pourri throughout my house and it smells heavenly!! It’s a little trick I learned from uber-trendy interior designer Abigail Ahern who has it sprinkled in little pots around her house.
There is the most amazing chocolate store, Venchi, near Piazza del Signori which I will have to visit. It’s a non-negotiable treat. We have a Venchi in Hampstead which I find completely tempting every time I walk by it. I would also love to do a Taste Florence food tour because we can’t live on chocolate alone (although I would be happy to try!).
I’d love to hit the designer outlet mall just outside of Florence for Italian brand names like Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci for almost half-price. Who doesn’t love a bargain?
I would also love to see the coastal part of Tuscany, the Maremma, because I have never been there. I was mesmerised by the photo gallery of the Maremma which appeared on the website for Conde Nast Traveller. Unlike 18 years ago, I am now comfortable driving in Europe. We could visit the little medieval towns, rolling countryside and the stunning beaches edging the bluest of seas.
Ok, I might have to extend our weekend by a couple of days – there’s way too much to do!
Who would you nominate for a weekend in Tuscany? The winner receives a Limonaia villa, a charming 18th century villa in the outskirts of Florence overlooking the city. There’s still time to participate in the competition.