Sunday, July 2, 2023

Florence and Regions of Tuscany

I fell in love with the region of Tuscany when I first saw the movie and then read the book, Under The Tuscan Sun. The rolling hills, cypress trees, rich culture, architecture, and cuisine... it just was so tranquil and naturally beautiful. We chose to stay in a rustic but beautiful hotel right in the center of the Centro Storico (historic center) region, a few blocks away from the Ponte Vecchio. Florence is a very walk-friendly city and it is easily accessible for exploring new restaurants, museums, and attractions all around. 

Since the other regions we wanted to explore were quite far from Florence, we joined an all-day tour which drove us to the beautiful areas of Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and even included an amazing lunch at an organic family-owned winery in Chianti

Unless you plan on renting a car or perhaps being in an airbnb for awhile as your home base, I would suggest staying in Florence and then choosing the tours that take you to the other isolated Tuscan regions.


Ponte Vecchio: Literally translated "old bridge" spans the Arno River. It is the only bridge in Florence that was spared from destruction during World War II, and was home to butchers, tanners, and farmers. Today it is occupied by luxury jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers. In the evening there are often musicians that play their beautiful music to people strolling by. It is really romantic and very picturesque.

Il Duomo: Majestic structure that inspired many architects and artists throughout history, it set the scene during the Italian Renaissance. It almost looks cartoon-like with the white marble and bluish lines, but if you look closely the marble is actually an array of pastel colors.

Giardino di Boboli (Boboli Gardens): Beautiful park that was designed for the Medici family. It has panoramic views of the city of Florence. 

Galleria Dell'Accademia di Firenze: Museum most famous for Michelangelo's David and many other sculptures. *Tip: You can purchase tickets ahead of time and arrive on your time slot. You can also buy them at the museum like we did because they were sold out online, but the line gets insanely long if you don't have a time slot. So we made sure to be one of the first ones in line outside the museum about half hour prior to it opening.

Hotel La Scaletta: This hotel was so charming! It was in the perfect location, in the Centro Storico only a few blocks away from the Ponte Vecchio. Our room was located on the first floor with a beautiful Tuscan style courtyard. This hotel also has a rooftop terrace and restaurant with a beautiful view of the city of Florence. 

Tuscany Day Trip with Lunch at Chianti Winery: This day trip took the entire day (around 11 hours) but was very pleasant. We stopped in three different cities: Siena, San Gimignano, and lastly Pisa. We were given sufficient time to explore on our own, ate an amazing lunch at a winery in Chianti, and were also given history bits along the way by our super sweet tour guide. I definitely recommend it if you'd like a taste of the different areas of Tuscany.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa: We ended our day tour in Pisa. It was a small but cute town, and of course we didn't leave without our obligatory leaning tower of Pisa pose. 

Food & Dining

La Bucchetta Restaurant: Cozy little bistro with amazing food. We tried the mozzarella cheese tasting, traditional Fiorentine stew with potatoes, tagliatelle...

La Grotta Guelfa: We tried the famous Bistecca Fiorentina di Chianina (the steaks vary by the type of cow) here with le patate al forno (roasted potatoes) and it did not disappoint. Their Antipasti di Terra varying with different cuts of meats and cheeses was also so fresh and delicious.

Gelateria Perchè No: Delicious gelato in the heart of Florence with high ratings.

Enotica Vigna Nuova: We took a one on one pasta making class at this restaurant and it was amazing! We made fresh homemade gnocchi, tagliatelle, ravioli and individual tiramisu cups for dessert. I love to cook so The chef was so nice and explained the whole cooking process and at the end cooked all of our pasta and made us an entire meal with each pasta with wine.

All'Antico Vinaio: This is the panini shop of all panini shops. In many regions of Italy, street food is very popular and so after reading about this legendary shop, we came here the evening after the all-day tour to try their famous schiacciate flatbread sandwiches. They serve your selection of meats, mozzarella, even vegetables on a warm and toasty flatbread, wrapped up to takeaway as you walk (believe me you will). I tried their La Summer schiacciata which had prosciutto, fior di latte mozzarella, tomato, and basil, air kiss. I was so excited to find out there is also a location in New York City!

Fattoria Poggio Alloro: This is the family-owned winery we stopped for lunch on our all-day tour and everything we were served was incredibly fresh, savory and let's just say I don't like goat cheese, but I loved it here. Definitely stop here if you are nearby and have a chance.

Gelateria Dondoli: On one of our stops on the tour in San Gimignano, we were reccommended to taste this world champion gelato. The line does get very long, but don't let it scare you, they go pretty quickly. It isn't my favorite gelato I've tried, but pretty good and they did have many unique flavor combinations.

Cantucci: Almond biscotti that originate from the Tuscany region, delicious dipped in a cappuccino or espresso.

Vin Santo: Translated "Holy Wine", is a dessert wine that is served in a tiny shot glass wine cup. It was served with our Cantucci cookies which are traditionally dipped in the Vin Santo.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina: When in Florence, you need to try a Bistecca Fiorentina. Yes it was a bit too rare for me personally, but the tenderness, simple seasoning and rich taste served with crispy rosemary-seasoned cubed potatoes on the side was truly an experience.


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