We spent a lovely long weekend in Tuscany with our friends from London during the fall. This trip was during our babymoon for us but our friends brought their two year old, so our recommendations here are vetted by their adorable daughter. We picked Tuscany to take advantage of the delicious food (and wine, for the non-pregnant travelers) during Italy’s truffle season as well as to explore a couple of Tuscan towns and enjoy the gorgeous countryside.
Where Is It
We visited San Gimignano and San Miniato during Italy’s truffle season. San Gimignano is a charming medieval walled city about an hour outside of Florence. Although we stayed in San Gimignano, we also spent a day in a small town called San Miniato, which is about 45 minutes away. San Miniato is the truffle capital of Tuscany.
How To Get There
The two closest airports are Florence and Pisa. We rented a car in Florence and drove down to San Gimignano. Florence is about an hour away. Our friends flew into Pisa and rented a car in Pisa. Pisa is about an hour and fifteen minutes away. A car is necessary to move around – the towns themselves are completely walkable, but the towns in Tuscany are best accessed using a car because there is some distance between them. Driving around Tuscany is generally a pleasure. The countryside is beautiful, with lush rolling hills dotted with farmhouses and vineyards.
Italy’s truffle season is a big draw during the fall! We all really like truffles and Tuscany is gorgeous with charming towns, beautiful countryside views, delicious food and wine, and a relaxed pace of life. There is actually a better location in Italy for truffle hunting – it is a town called Alba in Piedmont, roughly halfway between Genoa and Turin. However, we wanted to combine some exploration of Tuscany with our truffle focus. There is a fun truffle festival in San Miniato for the month of November and we found an amazing truffle hunter experience there that we really recommend (https://truffleintuscany.it/). This was the highlight of our trip for all of us, including our littlest traveler. On top of it being gorgeous to explore during Italy’s truffle season, San Gimignano has beautiful historical buildings and town squares as well as delicious restaurants, cafes, gelaterias, wine bars and interesting shops. The town is a delight and we highly recommend it. It is also an UNESCO World Heritage site, which speaks to its history and atmosphere, and the food and wine are excellent.
Culturally, we found Italians to be incredibly welcoming to kids and pregnant women. People could not have been more helpful, accommodating or friendly. The activities on the trip were primarily eating and wandering, two things that children do well, especially when it involves pasta and “things you can climb.” For the truffle hunting experience, we got to know a friendly truffle hunting dog and helped him do some digging, which was a particular pleasure for our littlest traveler.
When To Visit
Italy’s truffle season runs from September through December. We went in November, which is also when the San Miniato truffle festival happens. We were focused on truffles and we really enjoyed the lack of crowds while we were in town, particularly for our toddler buddy – it was easy to let her walk around whenever she wanted as opposed to keeping her in the stroller perpetually. However, it averages around 50F degrees in November and many wineries are closed to visitors, so if what you are looking for is nice weather or wine tasting, it may be better to visit during warmer weather.
First, we all really enjoyed learning about and eating truffles. During Italy’s truffle season, every restaurant offers truffle additions to entrees and we spent a day truffle hunting and visiting the truffle festival in San Miniato. I am convinced our child enjoys truffles because I consumed so many while pregnant with him during this trip.
As I previously mentioned, the highlight of the weekend was really this truffle hunting experience in San Miniato with “Truffles in Tuscany”. It was 150 euros per adult for a private tour, but worth it, particularly when you consider that the white truffles can sell for thousands of euros per kilo. Massimo took us on a truffle hunting walk with his friendly truffle hunting dog. This was a forest walk and lasted for about an hour where we watched the dog sniff out some truffles. Unfortunately, we did not find any truffles on our forest walk, but it was very cool to see how the process works and everyone enjoyed the peaceful walk through the woods. The walk was purposely comfortable for a toddler.
After the truffle hunt, we went back into Massimo’s beautiful kitchen and workshop, where he and his family served us an incredible multi-course lunch highlighting truffles for the adults (and some delicious but truffle-free pasta for the two year old, who joined the day for free). We cannot say enough positive things about the lunch – it was outstanding. The lunch also featured a truffle tasting component, where we tasted fresh black truffles, fresh white truffles and compared several types of truffle oils and truffle flavored products. After the truffle lunch, we also visited the truffle festival in town and wandered around the small town of San Miniato. San Miniato is a pretty town and the truffle festival was a pleasant way to spend an hour – think of it as a farmer’s market dedicated to truffles and featuring many other delicious Italian culinary delights .
Second, we all really enjoyed wandering around San Gimignano. There are many interesting historical buildings and piazzas to explore and, in November, it was empty enough that our toddler buddy used the stroller sometimes but walked most of the time. The town actually has a skyline of fourteen very tall stone towers built by San Gimignano’s wealthy historical families in the 1200s. It is possible to climb the tallest one, called the Torre Grossa, for some terrific views (and exercise). It is roughly 12 stories high.
The Duomo in the town also looks uninspiring from the outside but has some beautiful frescos inside. There is also a lively piazza called the Piazza della Cisterna, which has a well that dates back to the 1200s – this square feels as though you have stepped back in time while you are wandering around, particularly when you visit at night.
Third, the adults enjoyed the wine. There is a 14th century fortress at the top of the town, which has a particularly atmospheric environment with some roving musicians around the ruins, a great view, working artists, and plenty of room for kids to run around. Right next door, there is a wine museum dedicated to the local wine called Vernaccia ((http://www.sangimignanomuseovernaccia.com/lang-eng.php). This type of wine is made almost exclusively in and around San Gimignano. It’s a simple and delicious dry white wine. The museum has a nice presentation on the history of the town, the wine and then a wine tasting experience where you can taste many different Vernaccias as well as several other Tuscan wines for a couple euros each. The wine is actually stored in wine vending machines and you help yourself using a card that you load with Euros in order to pay for each taste, which is fun. They also brought us some snacks for our toddler, which was thoughtful. We spent an afternoon here for our wine tasting fix but there are also several wineries in or very near to San Gimignano – San Quirico, Montenidoli, Panizzi and Tenuta Torciano were particularly recommended as beautiful and fun to visit, although we did not have time.
Tuscany is perfect for day trips or a roadtrip through the region – most charming towns are somewhat far from each other, so you can easily end up driving a fair amount between towns. Fortunately, driving through Tuscany is fun because it is so picturesque. On another trip when not pregnant, we would love to prioritize wine tasting throughout the region – there are some beautiful vineyards and delicious wines throughout the region. We also heard that there are some interesting natural hot springs and excellent spa-focused hotels in the area, although we did not focus on finding these during this trip.
Where To Eat
Our favorite place to eat in San Gimignano was Peruca (~$12-$15 for a pasta and $20-$25 for an entree). We particularly liked the beef tartar and the tipi pasta with cinghiale ragu. Tipi is a local type of pasta and cinghiale is the wild boar in the region. It’s delicious in pastas and stews. Of course, the seasonal truffle pasta was delicious as well.
Our favorite wine bar in town was La Vecchia Nicchia (~$7 for a wine, $10-$15 for a charcuterie board, http://www.lavecchianicchia.it/), which also had terrific meat and cheeses. The waiters who helped us were really enthusiastic about the different wines and gave us several interesting tasting recommendations, which we appreciated.
There is an outstanding gelateria in town called Gelateria Dondoli (https://www.gelateriadondoli.com/home-uk.html), right by the Piazza della Cisterna. In addition to delicious gelato, the shop also has a little gelato making and tasting class, which seemed like a huge win for kids, particularly in the summer.
We heard wonderful things about the Agriturismo Il Vecchio Maneggio Restaurant (https://www.ilvecchiomaneggio.com/). Here, the family makes a delicious five-course fixed menu daily for 35 euros with unlimited homemade organic wine. The family also runs a small farm, hotel, and horseback riding school on the property. We did not make it here while in town because we did not have enough evenings in town, but several people recommend this option to us.
Where To Stay
We stayed at B&B I Coppi (https://www.icoppi.com/en) for ~$150/night. It was a clean, simple and very family-friendly inn located a few minutes walking distance from the center of town – it was the perfect home base for us while we were in town. The inn had a crib, some toys for children, and plenty of space to run around. Breakfast was delicious each morning and included some fantastic homemade olive oil – we checked a bag so we could bring some home with us. There was also free parking, which was helpful because parking appeared to be in short supply in San Gimignano. Lastly, the inn had a beautiful view – it is like looking at a postcard of what you imagine the Tuscan countryside to look like!
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