A week under the Tuscan sun
Florence. It captivates and enchants with renaissance architecture, masterpieces of art by the greats, and sun kissed piazzas. And as I recently discovered, it’s a city to fall in love with.
Florence found it’s way into my heart after I spent a week wandering it’s cobble stone streets. Part holiday and part research assignment for Amici Collective, this visit gave me the chance to truly immerse and explore, and experience a taste of Florence beyond the tourist zone. Here is my guide to a week under the Tuscan sun, enjoy!
Choosing the best accommodation for your stay depends entirely on what matters to you. For me, location matters. I love being in the heart of it! I stayed at Relais Tosinghi and couldn’t recommend this place more for the location, comfort and customer service. Located inside a historic villa on Via Tosinghi, this guesthouse is just steps from the Piazza del Duomo. Newly renovated, my room was more like a boutique apartment than a room. With a small lounge area and views of the Duomo Bel Tower and Cupola, it was the perfect little haven away from home.
Florence can be incredibly crowded, particularly in the summer months, so planning ahead and pre-booking your tickets is a must! Pre-booked tickets give you timed entry so you avoid wasting time in long queues, and in some cases it will ensure you avoid the disappointment of missing out on seeing something that you have your heart set on.
If you’re feeling energetic, the panoramic views that greet you at the top of the Duomo Cupola del Brunelleschi, are well worth climbing the 463 steps! The climb also gives you a chance to admire the frescoed interior of the dome up close.
You also don’t have to enter a building to admire it. Most iconic landmarks in Florence are flanked by piazzas, with numerous wine bars and alfresco eateries from which you can admire the views while sipping prosecco during aperitivo hour.
The entire city centre is a Unesco World Heritage site, so for those of you that just love to wander like me, Florence is a treasure trove of beautiful architecture and hidden finds. At night the piazzas are beautifully lit, so take a walk after dark, indulge in some gelato, and soak up the atmosphere.
Florence has all budgets covered with luxury stores, local artisan boutiques, and open air markets.
The San Lorenzo market is the most popular destination for leather goods, but I suggest exploring the boutiques surrounding the market and Ponte Vecchio for more unique finds.
As the birthplace of iconic fashion houses Ferragamo and Gucci, their prestigious flagship stores are the place to go if you’d like to take home a piece of Florentine luxury.
Watching the sunset is one of my fave rituals on a holiday, and the colours of a Florentine sunset are magic! Some of the best vantage points are:
Ponte Vecchio is one of the most popular and most crowded places to see the sunset. For a less crowded alternative, head further down the Arno river to Ponte alle Grazie, for a view of the sunset framed behind famous Ponte Vecchio.
A sunset climb of the Duomo Cupola will give you an unforgettable view of Florence as the sun kisses the rooftops.
To enjoy a more relaxed vibe, head across the Arno river and up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo. Pick up a pizza from the many pizzeria’s along the way, choose your drink of choice from one of the carts at the top, and enjoy a truly spectacular sunset picnic.
As a rooftop kind of gal, my personal fave was sipping Prosecco and watching the sun go down from La Terrazza, above the Hotel Continentale.
FOOD + WINE
In Florence you really can’t go wrong, with endless restaurants and wine bars offering a smorgasbord of gourmet Tuscan cuisine and local wines. No experience would be complete without tasting at least a few of the local delicacies, so here are my favourites:
Antipasto plate - always!
Parpadelle al Cinghiale – flat wide pasta with a ragu sauce of wild boar
Tagilatelle Funghi Porcini e Tartufo – flat thin pasta with a sauce of truffle and porcini mushrooms
Bistecca all Fiorentina – very large T-bone cut of steak cooked the Florentine way
Chianti Classico – it wouldn’t be an Italian meal without enjoying it with a glass of Italy’s most well known red wine.
Having Italian heritage I’m embarrassed to say that my Italian language skills are basic at best, so learning Italian is something that has long been on my to do list. Where better to learn Italian than in Florence, the city where the Italian language was born?!
On arrival I checked myself into a language school and absolutely loved the experience! A few days of classes gave me a better handle on the language, but it also gave me something else. Through the routine of going to class and studying, I felt like I was part of Florence life, even if it was just for a few days.
If learning Italian is on your bucket list, I can highly recommend Instituto Il David. In a central location just steps from the Piazza della Repubblica, their class structures cater for any length of stay, with private lessons and weekly group classes available.
As the capital of Tuscany, Florence is the perfect base for exploring the countryside. With rolling hills, vineyards for days, and charming medieval hilltop towns such as San Gimignano and Montepulciano, Tuscany is best explored by car. But if you don’t have time to hit the road and explore, there are many day tours from Florence that will give you a glimpse. Wine tasting tours are a great alternative to typical day tours, as they offer a way to see the countryside while experiencing the best wines of the region. When in Chianti, it would be rude not to really.
I highly recommend Tuscan Wine Tours by Grape Tours for a fun and educational day out. As a boutique operator, they organise private visits at carefully selected family owned wineries. In true Italian style, wine is paired with delicious local cheeses, and other delicacies. If you love reds, then the Super Chianti tour is for you.