Visiting famous Tuscan towns
We left the Cinque Terre and headed towards Pisa where we’d be based for a week. I was messaging my Mum photos of our travels in Italy and she replied saying “ooh I wish I could come!”, so I thought I’d check Ryanair for a laugh, and it turned out that you could fly to Pisa for £55 return. So, three days later we picked her up from Pisa airport! We booked a lovely Airbnb called Villa Rossana in Cenaia where we spent our time chilling and drinking copious amounts of red wine, then we moved to an apartment in Pisa so we could explore more of the region. We left Big Blue at a safe and free park4night location whilst at the Airbnb.
The leaning tower of Pisa is the most famous thing to see and we also went to the top (€18 each) to get a panoramic view of the city. I’ve been to Pisa before but the tower is still so cool to see. Whilst in Pisa, we also cycled 30km to nearby Lucca along the flat cycle path next to the river Serchio. (I saw this was advertised as a guided trip for €70, but from Pisa you just need to take the smaller roads to San Giuliano Terme, then head west to Pontasserchio, where you pick up the cycle path all the way to Lucca) Lucca is gorgeous walled town with cute shops and narrow alleyways to wander through. We also returned to Lucca on a sunny day to walk the 5km around the walls, then took the train back (€3.60 each) to Pisa.
On one of the sunniest days, we took the train (€16 return each) to Florence and spent a full day wandering through the typical touristy areas and looking for the cheapest place to have an aperitif.
After dropping Mum off at the airport a week later, we had a pit stop in Calambrone before heading inland to check out Volterra and Pari. Staying in Pari felt like the proper Tuscan countryside and we had an epic view out to rolling hills donned with olive groves and cypress trees. In complete contrast, we stayed on the Monte Argentario peninsula at a perfect park4night park up where we got to watch the most amazing sunset.
Thermal baths & rivers
I didn’t realise this until doing some research but Tuscany is famous for its thermal natural hot springs. There’s nothing better than having a free bath whilst living in the van! Whilst staying in Cenaia we took Mum to Casciana Terme outdoor thermal pool which was €10 each for entry. It’s basically in a park in the middle of village and it was nice for a float around on a drizzly afternoon. Further south, Pete and I went to Bagni di Petriolo which is a natural, free hot spring which you can smell before you see it. The water there is around 43°c so you can’t actually physically stay in it that long but it’s perfect for a 30 minute soak.
The most well known thermal hot spring is near Terme di Saturnia, the Cascates del Mulino. These are way more touristy compared to Petriolo and have an organised car park and a restaurant. However, they are a sight to behold and fun to explore. If you’re in a van and had to park in the camper parking, then you can access quieter sections of the hot river next to the road.
Vegan eats & treats
I had some epic vegan food whilst in Tuscany and a definite highlight was La Taverna di Pulcinella in Pisa. This little pizza spot off the beaten track had five vegan pizza options including Pete’s favourite, four cheeze! It was so good that we went twice. We stopped at I’Tosto for a quick lunch in Florence, I had the vegan toastie which was tasty and cheap. En route to the coast, we stopped by Grosseto and went to Essenza cafe/bistro, which was amazing. There was so much choice and it was all vegan, including jam filled croissants! The sandwiches were so nice, I had farinata (chickpea pancake), rocket and mayo in a tumeric flavoured roll.
Tuscany was so lovely and we had a great time exploring a new region of Italy. Next stop, Rome!