Off The Beaten Path: What to do in Tuscany That Doesn't Make You Look Like a Tourist

June 7, 2021

The tour leaves Bologna at 7 am to avoid any traffic jams heading south towards Florence, but hit them anyway. Everyone is restless as the bus crawls slowly but resolutely forwards. 

“This is Bologna!” Marvin looks out the window, throwing up his hands. 

“We left Bologna an hour ago, Marv.” Wayne MacGyver’s remark draws chuckles from everyone, a tut and an eye roll from his wife Bella. 

Wayne gets up and walks a few seats down the aisle. “What’s the matter Marv? Enjoy the air-conditioned splendor.” He waves towards the window. “Behold! We are in Tuscany. The cradle of the Renaissance.” 

Marv turns and brandishes his guidebook. “Not a mention of those Tuscan Raiders anywhere.” Francine turns and nods. “He’s been on about those all night.” Wayne laughs and shakes his head. “Well, he should rent Star Wars when we get back tonight.”

Eating Panini in Florence

The drive from Bologna to Florence normally takes an hour. That’s assuming an even 100 mph. Upon arrival, the bus lurches to a sudden halt; the driver yelling a series of curses as a moped cuts him off. 

“Your attention please!” The tour guide presses the buzzer on her megaphone. Everyone places their hands quickly over their ears. “Sorry. Thank you. Remember we need to stick together.” Her attention is focused on the MacGyvers. “Mr. and Mrs. MacGyver? That means you.”

Marvin laughs and turns to look at Wayne and Bella, angelic smiles filling their faces.

Fifteen minutes later the MacGyver’s have ducked into a back alley and moved quickly away.  They can hear the tour guide calling their names over her megaphone.  

A glass of white wine each, they share a panini filled with smoked salmon and asparagus. “I feel bad for Marvin and Francine. Let’s take them with us next time.” Wayne nods as he returns to the table, carrying two Ristretto in tiny white ceramic cups. “Sure. Why not. We had a good run. Berlin, Paris, London - all to ourselves. Let’s ask them.” 

Wayne smiles as Bella heaps sugar on her tiny spoon. He watches as she slowly stirs, the sugar dissolving into the deep, oily blackness. He leans over and kisses her. “I love you Bella.” She smiles. “I love you Wayne.”

Historic “Procacci” is located in the heart of Florence, on the centuries old Via de’ Tornabuoni. The wine bar offers customers wines by the glass accompanied by an array of traditional Procacci panini.

Cooling off with Gelato in San Gimignano

As the bus takes the curve, it slows down, allowing everyone a few moments to savor the view of the towers as they rise above the hills. “Oh! It’s like seeing Oz.” Francine squeals in delight. “The Wizard of Oz.” Bella looks out the window and turns to Wayne. “She’s right. It’s beautiful.” The bus ride from Florence to San Gimignano is a brisk thirty minutes, and this time you are one of the few vehicles on the road.

Marv and Francine are not as practiced in the art of deception and initiate a comic pretense of forgetting their sunglasses in the bus. However, they sit perched on their heads. The group makes their way towards the crowds in the Piazza del Duomo, and the Macgyvers suddenly move with them behind a postcard stand.

“I don’t think you’re cut out for stealth, Marv.” Wayne hisses as he peers over the top of the postcard stand. “Well, you didn’t give us much notice.” Marv straightens himself. “I need to prepare. Mentally.” Wayne and Bella exchange glances. Taking Francine and Marv by the hand, the four quickly cross the street and dart down an alley filled with tiny bars. (A cafe is actually called a “bar” in Italy.)

“Well?” A short while later the four of them enjoy their ice cream and admire the view from the balcony. Tart and creamy Sorbetto Limone placed in hollowed out lemon skins accompanied by four small glasses of Prosecco. “So, this is what you two do when you disappear?” Marv nods his head approvingly. Bella and Wayne laugh. “Well, it’s one of the things we do.”

San Gimignano is one of the best-preserved European medieval towns. It is one of the must-visit hidden gem in Tuscany. UNESCO declared the town as a World Heritage Sites.

An Inspiring Moment in Siena

The tour bus reaches Siena in thirty minutes. The parking is full, so there is another thirty minutes before they can park and disembark safely. The exhausted tour guide walks to the back of the bus and hands Wayne a slip of paper. “My phone number. If you are going to keep disappearing, and before you take any more of the tour with you,” she smiles.

Siena’s Cattedrale Metropolitana di Santa Maria Assunta is stunning. The cool shade of its interior is a welcome change from the hot, Italian sun. Go in just before it closes to watch the sunset from the roof.

Wayne goes for the holy water font as soon as they enter. “People dip their fingers in like they’ll burn themselves. Who are these Vampires anyway? It’s not perfume for God’s sake." “Oh Wayne. Don’t be such a drama king.” 

For some reason there are a few coins lying at the bottom of the font. Can you still buy indulgences? Is it so casual now? “Marv, I’m grabbing a few indulgences for Bella and myself. Can I get you one? Francine? Indulgences? Well, I’ll toss in a couple of Euro anyway …”

"Shh! Wayne. Let's watch the sunset."

The "gate of heaven" opens up to visitors as though they were climbing the ladder in Jacob's dream that reached up to heaven with "the angels of God ascending and descending on it".

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