Spectacular cathedrals, picturesque streets and piazzas, beautiful countryside, delicious food - and yet the sight from our ten-day Tuscan holiday that will endure longest in the memory is that of an old man feeding ice cream to a parrot sat on his shoulder.
Despite the presence of both a three-year-old bundle of energy and my parents, the locals' driving skills (no wonder all of their cars are dented and scratched), and trying to fathom the opening times of anything (including the local tourist information office), it proved to be a very relaxing break. Our time was largely spent pottering around towns (we did Orvieto, Chianciano Terme, Montepulciano and Siena over the course of four days), enjoying/enduring dips in the cool supposedly thermally heated swimming pool and eating copious quantities of food and drink.
And oh what food and drink. Before we went, I was salivating at the prospect of pizzas, fresh pasta and lots of wine. I wasn't disappointed - though soon realised I should also have been looking forward to the coffee and the gelato. The holiday's gastronomic highlight was undoubtedly a date night trip to Da Gagliano, understandably ranked as Sarteano's top restaurant on Trip Advisor. The service was effusive, friendly and welcoming; the atmosphere was cosy (it only has space for 20 covers); and the food - Tuscan ham and sundried tomato salad, broad bean pie with asparagus and creamy pecorino sauce, Florentine beef stew, baked pork loin with artichoke and ham, warm custard and chocolate truffles, cantucci with homemade vino santo flavoured with orange and lemon - was uniformly sensational.
It's now even more incredible to think that neither of us had never been to Italy before. Suffice to say we'll be back...