The original plan for our European holiday was to stay longer in a little village in Tuscany, base ourselves for a month or two, and really live the dream and relax. Due to the difficulty of getting a visa for that long, we reduced our total trip to only three months and allocated only a week in the Tuscany area.
We had already spent some time in the Tuscany region, staying for three nights in Florence, and one day in Pisa. In addition, we based ourselves in a small hill village for five nights. Our search for the perfect place on Airbnb led us to Castelnuevo D’Elsa, a typical small Tuscan village, half an hour drive from Florence, and centrally located to other smaller towns in the area.
Castelnuevo D’Elsa is definitely not on the tourist route, which is what attracted us to it. In this leisurely town there are no tourist sites and not many shops, just a bakery, restaurant and pizza/coffee shop. There is practically no English spoken, which meant we were forced to practice our Italian!
The house we are staying in is on the edge of the town, which meant we got sweeping views of the valley from our balcony. The house is spread over several levels, which is typical in Italy, with the lower level having an outdoor dining area.
It was rather cold in the evenings and early mornings, so we mainly used it to sit and have a drink before dinner, or for lunch. The bedrooms were upstairs and also had great views.
The town is situated in a very green area with olive groves at our doorstep, and many areas with grape vines. In fact there is a famous walking track which passes near the town, called the Via Francigena, an ancient road which runs between France (hence the name “Francigena”) and Rome, although Canterbury in England is considered the main starting point. The Via Francigena passes through England, France, Switzerland and Italy, of which 400 kilometers are in Tuscany. Rob and I walked a nearby section of this path, although separately, on a gorgeous sunny day.
We had several days to explore the surrounding area. Some of these towns we have been to before, such as Siena, and Orvieto, so we chose different ones this time around. San Miniato is a very small village on a hill, only 10 minutes drive away. It has a tall tower on the peak, worthy of climbing up for the amazing views of the surrounding area. You can see all the way to Florence and Pisa on a clear day. The kids also love to climb towers, so why not.
Castellfloientino is a few minutes drive away, where there was a supermarket. We visited the Saturday morning markets in the rain, to check out the local produce and typical foods. We enjoyed some lunch here too!
The most special place we all enjoyed was Vinci, the birthplace of the famous Leonardo di Vinci (Leonardo from Vinci). There is a great museum, with different sections located in and around town, where you can see some of his amazing inventions, artwork, and his birth home. Vinci is really lovely to stroll around, it wasn’t too busy, and the town is very picturesque.
We managed to really relax for a few days with some down time for the kids too, which is just what we needed. Sitting on our balcony, consuming local produce, soaking up the afternoon Tuscan sun, listening to the birds and taking in the smells and fresh air of the countryside is exactly the recipe for relaxation! It has recharged us for the remainder of our holiday.