Travel in Tuscany: Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Sienna, right? We all know these wonderful and famous places. But aren’t we always secretely looking for off-the-beaten track destinations, the lesser known places?
The secrets of Tuscany
I will show you how to find these places in Tuscany. Places that will give you that exciting feeling of having discovered something special.
We were lucky to spend some time with Laurel Perry Turner and Tommaso Becucci of Capturing La Vita. Laurel and Tommaso have their base in the little village of Impruneta, half an hour south of Florence. They organize special Tuscan immersion tours and guide you to these special places.
Let me first take you to the small town of Impruneta, the start of our own Tuscan immersion tour.
We were invited by Laurel to visit Impruneta to join part of her tour. Our family was spending some time in Florence were we took the local bus and arrived at Impruneta 30 minutes later.
Impruneta is a lovely hill town famous for terracotta and ceramics. Its name is derived from inprunetis meaning “within the pine woods”. The city has around 15,000 inhabitants.
Laurel was hosting a group of people for one week, showing them the real Tuscany: vineyards and wineries, beekeepers, cooking classes, etc. Her tours are different and will connect you to the authentic places and people of Tuscany. Our family joined the group for one day.
So we arrived with no idea what to expect. It actually felt very comforting to put ourselves in the trustful hands of these Tuscany experts. We were totally ready to be surprised!
Laurel and Tommaso brought us to a terracotta factory (kiln). Not your regular terracotta kiln as the owner explained. The factory M.I.T.A.L. is run by the Mariani family, where the godfather of this “furnace family”, Anselmo Mariani, started the business in the early 1900s.
The terracotta from Impruneta is famous all over the world. The soil in this area is so pure that they don’t need to add any artificial ingredients to create terracotta products. “We can directly use the clay that the artisans dug out of the ground themselves!” Mr. Mariani explained from inside the furnace. You can see he loves his job!
It’s great to see the artisans at work, just look at their range of materials. As the owner explained: “It’s all about good earth and ancient traditions….”
Royal Palace ‘Het Loo’
When I tell the owner we are Dutch he quickly runs inside to get a book of a Royal Palace (Het Loo) in the Netherlands. His factory delivered all the terracotta flower pots for this Palace. He is a supplier to our own Royal Family! The great thing is we live a 15 minute drive from the Palace….how special is that!
You can walk around and watch the huge collection of handmade terracotta products, some of which are also exhibited in the garden next to the factory. The garden actually looks like a museum! If you want to have something really special in your house or garden, pick any of these. They also have miniture versions of the Florence cathedral (all the tiles of the Dome are actually Impruneta terracotta)…
The factory normally does not do tours, but for Laurel and Tommaso they make an exception as they intend to show the real authentic Tuscan life. The people from Tuscany realize that and are happy to open their doors for selected groups like these.
Starting point of all their tours is The Bellavista hotel. The hotel has been run by Tommaso’s family ever since 1906. This is such a place where the whole staff knows you and everybody is excited to have you as a visitor.
We enjoyed a great lunch, all with local ingredients and locally produced wines. And I have not even mentioned the view from the rooftop terrace with the town square of Impruneta (with the Basilica of Santa Maria) on the left and the hills of Chianti on the right…
How to get to Impruneta?
From the Florence bus station (next to the Florence train station) you can take either CAP or SITA busses. Make sure to pick the right bus station as you have several around Florence station.
Travel in Tuscany
I have known Laurel for some time now but this was the first time we met in person! Both Laurel and Tommaso are truly wonderful people, sharing their contagious enthusiasm for Tuscany. Their trips are done with small groups. Of course you will see highlights of Florence and visit San Gimignano and Siena, but the real value is in the unexpected. The program can change at any minute: if a special place suddenly opens its door, she will not hesitate to turn around to visit it. Please visit their website that offers all the information you need about the tours.
Soon Laurel will publish her own book with Tuscan travel tips for families!
Laurel and Tommaso, thanks for a great time!
You can get in contact with Laurel through her blog, Twitter or Facebook page.