The name Tuscany or Toscana has originated from Etruscan Civilization that started in 800 B.C. until it went to disappear from the history around 80 B.C. by the Romans.
Tuscany, along with its neighboring region called Umbria, is one of the most endearing places for many to visit as well as to live. Cyprus trees... vineyards, wine... cheese... pasta... olive oil... winding roads... sunset... green and golden color fields... castles... villas... You name it and Tuscany has it.
We decided to explore and experience Tuscany after our trip to Southern Italy and Sicily in which we thoroughly enjoyed Pompei, Amalfi Coasts, Capri, Sorrento, Alberobello, Matera, and Sicily, such as Agrigento, Taormina, Palermo.
The journey started from Rome, Hotel Santa Constanza. Our tour leader was Peter, an English man with beard. He was a freelancing tour leader with low-key detail-oriented somewhat quiet personality. The driver was Giovanni, the same driver for the Southern Italy and Sicily. What a pleasure! I called him Don Giovanni. He said "That is too much." Don means a big boss or godfather, particularly for the Mafia.
From Casa Elena, we received a ride from the husband of Elena to the Sorrento station. That was a big help! From there, we took the train to go to Naples Central Station. From there, we took another train to go to Rome. From Rome's central station, we took a bus to go to Hotel Santa Constanza after 4 short stops. I suggested that we took a bus, but Kristin suggested that it is a short enough to take the bus. Her frugality is commendable. Indeed, it was a rather short trip and the hotel was around the corner from the bus stop. This time, we did not have any issue with the hotel. Mike was waiting in the lobby to greet us and others.
From the first day, we had a happening. Apparently, Peter put his small bag on the bus and a thief took it and ran away. I saw a couple of guys rushing into a small car that zipped away in front of my eyes. He got his passport and cash stolen. Fortunately, he had his phone and credit cards kept with him. It seems to be a common stealing method around the hotel where group tour stays. Particularly on the first, people do not know each other and they do not pay attention to the belonging of others. Well... Peter had to make a trip to Rome to make his temporary passport on one of the optional excursion day.
The first stop was Monteriggioni, a small town built on a hill by Siena to defend against Florence, Siena's arch rival in the region. On the way, we saw vast fields of sunflowers, another unique scene of Tuscany.
The protective walls of Monteriggioni are approximately 800 years old but remain pretty intact and from the walls you could see the surrounding areas. We saw vineyards lined up perfectly with the grapes growing ripe towards the harvest time of September.
There was a small museum that exhibited the life of the knights and peasants.
The town had countable number of shops and restaurants. A water fountain was everywhere we visited and the water was potable. I drank it and it was cool.
It was a disappointing start, but I kept my hope high. - Jeffrey