Itinerary: Tuscany, Italy
The good thing about essentially all parts of Italy is that there’s truly something for everyone. In Florence, you could spend weeks exploring the architecture and history, or you can explore the Tuscan food and culture. Florence is the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region and it’s home to many art and architectural masterpieces of the Renaissance. Because of this, it has a beautiful historical charm. It’s also pretty small and very walkabale. You really only need 2-3 days to see the entire city.
While I was here, I learned a lot of things. 1) My attention span only lasts for an hour (max.) when it comes to history tours and 2) Tuscan cuisine is actually very different than the stereotypical “Italian food” that we hear about here in the USA. When we came here, I thought we should order pasta after pasta (which we ended up doing,) but I quickly learned that Tuscany has a different cuisine than just pasta and pizza. Eating Tuscan food is like getting a hug from your hypothetical Italian grandma. It’s very comforting and hearty. Florence is known for its olive oil, saltless bread (yes, this was the biggest surprise to us), steak Florentine, crostini misti (a platter of crostini with liver pate, beans and bruschetta), and heavier meat sauce pastas I have to admit, we vibe more with southern Italian food, but it was definitely interesting to learn how different parts of Italy have different cuisines.
Florence is a rustic Italian charm. Give yourself 10 minutes to roam the streets, and you’ll find that you’re already forgetting about all the materialistic BS going on in the world, and on your phone. Here’s our itinerary, but I just want to note that you can plan absolutely nothing and just go wander around, and still have the best time.
Where I Stayed
Located in the heart of Florence, Hotel Lungarno is positioned along the south bank of the Arno River. It is steps away from the city center, shops, and many restaurants. It’s small, stylish and chic. There’s a cute bar/restaurant right on the water for anyone to enjoy. If you’re not staying here, I highly recommend stopping by to check out these views.
Where I Went
Ponte Vecchio, is a medieval bridge extending across the Arno River. Famous for its centuries-old jewelry shops, Ponte Vecchio is perfect if you’re in the mood to shop or search for souvenirs. To be honest, this is a cool historical place, but it’s so crowded and small that it’s worth walking through, and that’s about it. For reference, it’s the little bridge in the photo. You can see all the people, but also the beautiful old shops.
Piazza Della Repubblica
Piazza della Repubblica is a city square in Florence. Once the centre of the Roman city, this piazza now offers a wide variety of shops and cafes.
Piazza Della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is the main square in Florence. It is known for its immense political and artistic presence during the Renaissance. With its many sculptures, you will surely be blown away.
The church of Santa Croce is the burial place for both Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo. Located in the center of the city, It is walking distance from the Duomo.
There’s really beautiful architecture everywhere…
Going on a tour is great if you’re a history junkie, but if you’re walking around the city, you’re going to see all the beautiful architecture anyway. My favorite part of this trip was just wandering the streets.
Tuscan Country Side: Bike Tour + Wine and Olive Oil Tasting
While in Florence, we took a bike tour in Tuscany through We Like Tuscany. Not going to lie, my family was pretty scared for a hill-filled bike ride, but this ended up being our favorite part of Florence! We used the e-bikes, which required little to no work (if you wish, you can also bike manually) and we got to enjoy the scenic, breathtaking views of the Tuscan hills and countryside. Once we made our way to a private Renaissance villa in Tuscany, we enjoyed a private olive oil and wine tasting accompanied by local products and snacks at the Villa We also biked to the incredible Piazzale Michelangelo, which is a panoramic viewpoint that overlooks the city of Florence. This was only a half-day tour, so it gave us some time to relax afterwards, before dinner.
Lucca Half Day Trip
We spent one of our days going to Lucca and Pisa. Lucca is about an hour outside of Florence, and Pisa is an additional half hour or so. Lucca is a hidden gem of Tuscany…I’m almost reluctant to put it in here because it’s such a tiny town that I don’t want tourists to flood it and ruin the feel! So, if you go, just be conscious of the locals. Like Florence, it’s also known for its Renaissance walls encircling its historic city center and its cobblestone streets. It’s also known for its churches. We visited its famous piazzas and churches, as well as, enjoyed a delicious lunch.
Pisa Half Day Trip
Not going to lie, Pisa was cool for about an hour. We were super hot (it was like 97 degrees in August) and had already seen Lucca, which is like a more charming, less crowded version of Pisa. They are pretty similar, except Pisa is very packed with tourists. I will say, the tower is really gorgeous (pictures don’t do it justice!) If you’re already nearby, it’s worth seeing. But, I wouldn’t make a day trip out of Pisa alone.
Located amongst the beautiful hills of Toscana countryside is the gorgeous Biodynamic Avignonesi winery and vineyard. Upon arriving, we toured the estate, as well as, the aging cellars and the Vinsantaia. We then concluded the tour with a four-course wine-paired gourmet meal on a panoramic terrace. The wine itself is pretty standard, but the lunch was a fun experience that I think makes it worth it to stop by. We did this on the way to Rome, and it was the perfect pit stop to break up our long drive.
Villa La Vedetta
If you go to Florence during the summer, it’s hot. Like scorching hot. We really wanted to find a pool that wasn’t $200/day to go to, and we ended up stumbling upon Villa La Vedetta. It’s a little outside of Florence near the Piazzale Michelango, and it has stunning views and a beautiful pool. It depends on the season, but the rate wasn’t bad. I would call before you go and see if they have room for non-guests to attend.
Where I Ate
This is the spot to eat dinner in Florence. The ambiance, the service and of course, the food are all fantastic. If you come here, you have to get the pear ravioli and the carbonara. You also have to get the steak Florentine, which I sadly didn’t get, but it looked amazing when I saw it go out to other tables.
I kept seeing different people with these gigantic focaccia paninis and I finally figured out where they were from. There’s almost always a line here, but it moves very fast. Inside the sandwich shop, fresh prosciutto is being sliced, giant pieces of focaccia are being cut down, and toppings like black truffle cream and bufala mozzarella are being thrown on the sandwiches.
Borgo San Jacopo
This Michelin starred, fine dining restaurant offers classic Italian dishes with an innovative yet delicious twist. This was my favorite dining experience we had in Florence, but it’s definitely not the traditional Florentine home-cooking style food. It’s much more upscale and innovative, and less comforting. But, if you do go here, you must get the ravioli and the porchetta. Hands down. Also, I hope you get to enjoy the little whipped ricotta toast as a compliments from the chef…SO GOOD.