I first ‘met’ Corey from Fifi + Hop last year over our shared passion of travel. I love reading about her adventures with her two girls from her home in New York state – there are just so many wonderful places in Corey’s back yard! However, in this week’s Holiday Snapshots she shares her Italian vacation with us in the stunning region of Tuscany. It’s made me even more excited about our trip there later this year.
Over to you, Corey…
What do you look for in a holiday?
We like to mix things up depending on what we’re in the mood for and the time of year. In the summertime we have so much beach activity as it is that we like to visit places where we can site-see and adventure around. In the wintertime post-holidays we are all about r&r and the beach. And we’re also foodies, so no matter where we are, we like finding good restaurants.
Where did you go?
We chose to go to Tuscany in Italy. It was actually a group decision with other family members. We decided on Tuscany for a number of reasons: we are big “day trippers” and Tuscany has endless possibilities for day trips; we wanted to rent a villa in the countryside where we could come back to a pool every day; we thought it would be a good place where we could combine both culture and sightseeing with end of the day relaxation; and simply, just to be in the pure beauty of the region.
My family (husband and two girls) and my sister-in-law’s family. In total, 4 adults and 4 kids.
Where did you stay?
We stayed in a villa outside of Cortona, which is in the eastern part of Tuscany and more off the beaten path.
Were there plenty of activities for the kids?
Having a pool was key. There were other features to the villa like a ping pong table and hammock, which made it all the more fun for the kids.
Our days typically consisted of going out and exploring a town, and returning late afternoon/early evening for pool time. While Tuscany may not be your typical “kids destination”, there is so much adventuring around to be had –winding streets, piazzas to run around in, beautiful vistas – that it was almost like one big playground. And of course all the pizza, pasta and gelato were activities in and of themselves as well.
Your most memorable moment/s of the trip?
There were a lot, but I’ll never forget when my youngest daughter, who was five at the time, came screaming her head off out of the Torture Museum in Montepulciano! It’s just what it sounds like it is – torture contraptions from medieval times.
I had no interest in it so decided to wait in the lobby. Good thing, too, because about five minutes later my daughter came running out at lightning speed and screaming bloody murder. The devices had freaked her out. I was secretly in hysterics… it was a priceless scene to watch!
But this meant we had a real bonding experience. We went shopping and it was fantastic weaving in and out of the windy cobbled streets and stores with her in one of the most beautiful settings in Tuscany.
Any sights, activities you want to shout about?
• We loved Cortona. Because it’s in the far eastern part of Tuscany, it’s a bit more rustic and not so crowded. It’s set on a hill, and every street is a treasure. My girls loved it because there was so much to explore – so many “secret passageways” and piazzas with music, etc. When we finally made it to the town’s playground toward the top of town, they were elated.
• Pienza is magical. Looking out over the countryside with a glass of wine while the kids played in a courtyard was sorelaxing.
• We had one of our best meals in Montepulciano, overlooking the hillside. I also want to give a shout out to Villa Loggio winery outside of Cortona. Talk about kid-friendly. It’s owned by a young family, and the father gave us a tour while our kids played with their kids, supervised by the mom. Doesn’t get better than that!
• And we had a great day in Florence, thanks to the help of a family tour guide, who steered us in the right direction for all things kid-friendly in Florence.
Was it good value for money?
Considering the villa was beyond any of our expectations, it was good value. As a whole – with renting cars, lots of restaurants, etc. – it did add up, but all so worth it for a European vacation my girls will never forget.
Your top tip/s for the area?
Leave one or two days unplanned. Some of our favorite days and “finds” were when we were just being spontaneous. There’s so much to discover in Tuscany and if you have everything mapped out every single minute you may miss out on some unique experiences. There’s a lot to stumble upon by accident in Tuscany – though I will say though my brother-in-law is half Italian and speaks the language fluently, which was a major help!
Which photo is your favourite and why?
You may have seen this photo before because lord knows I posted it everywhere! But if you want my favorite, this is it. We were having lunch at an outdoor restaurant in Pienza, with tables overlooking the country side, and a courtyard next to it where my girls were playing. I came to get them for dessert and we decided to go to the ledge (with railing) to take in the view. Upon closer look, as we looked down, we saw the pool, with a person swimming in it. I said to them “I want to jump in that pool” and they said they did too. It’s not visible from the restaurant, or as you approach – until you get there and look over and down. There was something so secret and peaceful about it, and we stood there for a few minutes reveling in it. It sort of epitomized the serenity of Tuscany for me.
Would you recommend to a friend?
Absolutely. In fact, I have a friend who just booked her first Tuscan trip! I would go back again and again, and we actually went two summers in a row.
What are the five holiday essentials you couldn’t live without?
iPhone, sunglasses, sunscreen, water, and a small game for my girls.
What is your most favourite place in the whole world and why?
I can’t say just one! I love dramatic settings and the Amalfi Coast swept me away. You feel like you’re on a movie set when you’re there. The Alhambra in Spain made a huge impression on me as a twenty-something doing my semester abroad years ago – and Big Sur in my own country is a wonder. Plus Tuscany now too– it’s as picturesque as they come!