Rental cars are extremely helpful when traveling around Tuscany and allow you to visit areas that are difficult to reach by public transportation.  However, renting a car in Europe can be interesting for Americans!  I usually let my husband do the driving when we are traveling, but the last time we were in Tuscany my husband wasn’t with us.  I had to figure out how to drive a stick shift after over a decade since the last time I drove a manual transmission.  I got into the car and had to back it out of the agency parking lot directly onto a busy road, get it into 1st and then quickly get out of the way of oncoming traffic.  Talk about pressure!!  Ready, Get Set, GO!  Ummm… Let’s try this again… I tried and tried, but I could not get that car into reverse.  Good grief, talk about embarrassing.  I had to run back into the office and ask how to put the car in reverse and it turns out you must press down on the shift bar, while pushing it into first gear, so my point is that you might want to ask the ins and outs of the car’s gear shift.  Some models might have a button to press and others might have different features, but they are not the same as all American manuals.

Thank goodness that was figured out and I made my way without stalling out.  A great day trip is Pienza and Montepulciano, which are in proximity to one another and ideal to visit both cities in a single day.  These are hill towns and tend to have a different temperature than the valleys of Tuscany.  We visited during a time that was very windy and chilly on top of the hills and required coats after we were sweltering in Rome a week prior.  Make sure that you dress yourself and your children in layers, so they will be warm or cool depending on the season you are visiting.  Another great thing about Tuscany is that there are lots of wool items to be purchased if you do find yourself ill prepared.  I bought my favorite Winter scarf in Pienza and love snuggling into it on a cold day here at home.  It makes me think of Italy.

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My favorite part about visiting a hill town is the food, the shops and the ambiance.  I like to relax on my vacations and try really hard not to jam pack each day with a bunch of sites.  My children don’t like marching from boring site to boring site, so I try to make sure that they are learning as much as possible at the same time they’re having fun.  As a homeschooling Mom, I believe that learning should be fun and not something that is dreaded.  I’m building life long learners here and want to make sure their experiences with the world are wanderlustful!

Pienza and Montepulciano are wonderful towns to eat, drink, walk around, visit the local church, peer over the wall at the stunning countryside and have a thick cup of liquid chocolate.  Ahhhh……. how I love Tuscany.  Here are some photos of our time in these quaint towns.

Montepulciano

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There are so many picturesque spots in each town that I could spend a day photographing everything.  Unfortunately, my kids will not cooperate for too many photos!!

 

 

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Walking along the ramparts of each city gives you the chance of seeing a beautiful view.  Just be careful you don’t blow away!

 

 

 

Pienza

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My family is not Catholic, but we encourage our children to be respectful of other religions or denominations of Christianity and we always encourage prayer.  Just about every cathedral or Duomo in Europe allows you to light a candle for 1 or 2 Euros.  My children enjoyed doing this at any church we visited.

 

 

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European hot chocolate is something to be experienced.  It’s not Swiss Miss, folks!!!!  😉

When you visit Italy, don’t miss out on the quaint hill towns of Tuscany, they give you a chance to slow down and enjoy a piece of la dolce vita!!