Archive for April, 2010

Accommodation Tuscany-Offer you a luxurious stay in cheap rates

You have decided to go for a holiday but confused where to go? Then don’t worry and just pack your luggage and go Tuscany for your dreamed holiday. It can be one of the best places for your dream holiday. As the climate, the people, cuisine and the wine all are so good in Tuscany. Infact when reached there you feel that your long trip is short and will not be enough for you and after returning back to your home you will be wishing that you had visited that you have to spend your some more time. You have never been disappointed where ever you have been in Tuscany and your holiday was no exception causes all the places that you see there and the memories will stay with you for years. Tuscany is no doubt one of the most beautiful regions of Europe in addition the several amazing towns and cities like Florence, Siena, Lucca and Arrezzo that ooze culture with their art galleries.

When you decide to go somewhere your first priority is accommodation and same is at the time of holiday in Tuscany. In order to staying Tuscany farmhouse rentals are scattered all over the region and available in different sizes to accommodate all whether smallest of families or up to the largest of holidaying groups even staying in a hotel in one of these cities and towns will only give you the very tip of what Tuscan life is really like.

Tuscany has several most beautiful aesthetically pleasing towns and cities of anywhere in Europe that made Tuscany one of the most great and beautiful place for an unforgettable holiday trip to all the people. Tuscany has rightfully won over the hearts of the millions upon millions of tourists who have visited the region. One of the most promising thing that let you sure of is that you will receive a really warm Tuscan welcome wherever you go.

If you wish to enjoy your vacation the local restaurant, bars and markets are all hot beds of activity that are great fun to investigate and meet people. In order to make your vacation unforgettable and booking a Tuscany farmhouse rental property can be the just the start of the most amazing vacation that you have ever had as several farmhouses have all the facilities like a swimming pool and all the facilities that you would expect from top class accommodation.

This city is one of the great and biggest tourist attractions in the region with plenty to see and do. Infact it is a small place and enough to walk to most places even offer several attractions that keep you interested for weeks as there has a wide range of hotels in this city. The farmhouse accommodation can be one of the great opportunities for all the people who want to have a great vacation which can’t be forget and has captured the heart of so many tourists over the years.

Tuscany Holiday Villa offers holiday accommodations and rentals.For more information visit accomodation tuscany , tuscany apartments , villa rental tuscany


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 29, 2010 at 12:12 am

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Wealth and Comfort in Florence Italy

Florence Italy accommodation as hotel and cottage are concerned, let your imagination go from richly furnished five star hotels either in the heart of the city or smaller town accommodations, hidden away in the green hued country. From palaces to castles beautifully decorated and pensions or guesthouses owned by friendly area folk. These all year round lodgings have a wide price range but you can guaranteed that good bargains are to be found in the quiet season. Florence welcomes everyone to be cosy and caters to everybody’s budget.

Wealth and Comfort in Florence Italy

The Savoy Hotel is a fave for those wishing to fulfil a wish for luxury sleeping, not forgetting the shopping gallery and glorious cuisine at the restaurant. The Hotel II Guelfo Bianco on the Thru Cavour right close to the San Marco Square has antique art treasures and original paintings and glorious commodities. Or perhaps a stay at the Grand Hotel Baglioni with its sweeping grey stone stairway so common of many Florentine monuments and wooden beams decorating the ceiling all which give you that special sense of peace and relax.

Florence town should be visited in an extended period of time and if this isn’t feasible, then short visits are perfect to take in all the museums. And for me, one of the finest tactics to do that is by staying in a tiny city cottage near Florence and with your Florence auto rental, enjoy tiny joints into the town. One of the cutest medieval towns nearby is San Gimignano, situated in the triangle of Siena, Florence and Volterra. San Gimignano is undoubtedly known for its thirteen remaining towers of the first seventy-two which once existed. Here, you can have sweet dreams sleeping in a mansion from the 14th century and have breakfast in a dear terrace. Or in a rural house with high ceilings and worked iron beds.

Praise Good Italian Cooking

At some of these farmhouses there are cookery classes and it’s here where I learned to cook Stracotto or ‘Pot Roast’. This a very popular weekend Sun. meal in Italy as well as in Great Britain and North America. The Italians serve it over a tasty noodles bed of pasta enriched with the Chianti wine sauce where the others serve it with potatoes. Here goes……

Stracotto ( serves 4-6 persons)

- 3 to four lbs. top round beef
- 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
- three medium thinly chopped carrots
- 3 medium diced onions
- rosemary leaves
- 2 cut up celery stalks
- two cups water
- one lb. ripe tomatoes ( peel, seed and cut them )
- 1 fourth cup olive oil
- one and a half cup Chianti or dry red wine
- 1 tbsp. Softened butter
- 1 tbsp. flour
- salt as you like
- 1 lb. pasta of your choice

Roll and tie up beef and then make small holes to put the garlic into.

In a shallow pan, warm the oil and slowly cook the carrots, onions and celery till soft and add in the rosemary. Push these veggies to one side and put the meat roll in the middle and brown on all sides at the same time as you are sauting the veggies. Add in the tomatoes and when they’re getting soft, add the wine. Boil until the wine liquid has been consumed to about one half cup and add 1 and a half cup of water and let cook for almost one hour more. Separate the beef and veggies from the broth and let the meat cool. With remaining half cup of water mix the flour and the softened butter in with the broth and cook, consistently stirring it for 3 minutes. Slice meat and put the pasta and the sauce in the middle of the plate and 2 or 3 beef slices to one side and top with some more sauce if needed. Bon appetite!

This is just one of the Florence Italy recipes that I learned. Stay tuned for more!.

If you find this article useful, you may also visit famouswonders.com to read more about some of the best places to visit and have a look at Uffizi Gallery.


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 27, 2010 at 12:36 pm

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In The Search of Tranquility: How to Choose a Good Tuscany Villa Rental

Italy is fast becoming a hot favorite among the tourists due to its pristine locale. Tuscany is one such place in Italy which provides an idyllic environment suited for perfect carefree vacation. Tuscany is world famous for its charming beauty and stunning landscapes apart from being the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Tuscany is also home to some legendary artists like Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Tuscany being a charming holiday destination can offer you the perfect blend of old world charm with modern wonders, however choosing the right accommodation is the key to that perfect vacation.

Vacation villas: The best way to enjoy a Tuscany vacation is to hire luxurious and exquisite vacation villas which are located all around. Vacation villas do not come for cheap, but they definitely are the best option as they offer an old world charm blended with modern luxuries. Tuscany villas provide spacious and elegant quarters. Some villas even have their own swimming pools and other facilities amidst the nature. The blend of natural beauty, old charm, art and culture will make you forget your busy life back home. You can just be carefree and relax without worrying about anything.

Facilities offered: Often for many travelers, privacy is the reason they choose villas over other accommodation options. Villas offer exclusive privacy which is not the same when staying in hotels and rented apartments. The villas in Tuscany are unique when compared to other villas in Europe. Villas in Tuscany provide the traveler with private swimming pools with beautifully landscaped gardens. The scenery in and around Tuscany is breathtaking. Travelers can find walking paths and hiking trails perfect for exploring Tuscany through a walk or by biking.

Ideal for family: Tuscany villas are an ideal getaway for families of for a hassle free vacation. Children would love the vast space and other facilities offered by the villas. Tuscany villas offer a home away from home amidst charming landscapes. Almost all the villas are situated close to popular restaurants and shops. Tuscany Villa rental also has the facility of state-of-the-art kitchen where you have the option to cook on your own. Some Tuscany villa rentals also offer guided tours of the place.

So, next time when you plan for a vacation in Tuscany always opt for the Tuscany Villa rental which would make you feel closer to nature with all the comforts you needs. The villas are going to make your holiday experience in Tuscany memorable.

www.tuscanway.com is the ideal provider of great holiday packages in Tuscany.

Hope this article is informative. If you’re looking for a Tuscany vacation rental then look no further than www.tuscanway.com


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 25, 2010 at 6:28 pm

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Tuscany Italy-The Charmed Land

Photos by Howie DiBlasi..Rolling hills with tiny medieval towns silhouetted in the sunset and ramrod straight cypress trees surrounding perfectly sited villas.These are the classical pictures of Tuscany and do more than words ever can, to draw you to an area that is the true essence of Italy. This remarkable region has an unmistakable magic that is almost impossible to define and which is unequalled by any other part of Italy.
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25 comments - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 21, 2010 at 3:33 pm

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Weddings In Tuscany

This is an easy one as out of the million companies who can arrange weddings in Italy, a million out of a million will deal with weddings in Tuscany.  Why I hear you ask?  It is really quite simple…..… it is because the whole of the world has a very special relationship with Tuscany.  This is due to a range of historical reasons and its size, location, infrastructure, its very good marketing, the art and tourist attractions to name but a few.  Located in central Italy, Tuscany has 2 airports to its name, Pisa and Florence, however even if you were to fly into Bologna or Genoa or even Rome, you would still be within good driving distance to the region of course subject to where you need to end up when in Tuscany.

Toscana (as the Italians call it) has an area of 22,990 square kilometres and a population of about 3.6 million and it is well connected to the other regions which border it.  When you mention the word Tuscany and you can try doing this at a dinner party, the words which must follow are “…beautiful landscapes; hilltop towns; high culture; birthplace of the Italian Renaissance; Dante; Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, the Medicis, Uffizi gallery, Florence, Siena, Pienza, San Gimignano, Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano….. I can go on but will put a stop to it right here.   If we add the Tuscan coastline and the countryside to this region, with a touch of Tuscan fare and top it with a glass of Chianti, we have perfection.

So all you wedding clients out there, well you are completely spoilt for choice.  Tuscany can offer it all…. From the town halls and you have many to choose from as there are over 10 provinces here, some with up to 6 towns with each one providing their own town hall, some nicer than others but still providing originality and charm.  My favourites are: The castle to the east of Florence which is also a museum, Certaldo, the open air town hall where the ceremony takes place in the lovely cloister of the ancient palazzo, Castellina, a medieval fortress, or Radda, a small medieval jewel with remnants of the wall and tower of the ancient fortified town.  There is a frescoed loggia here where civil ceremonies may be performed outside in the loggia covered with frescoes which date back to the 14th century.  Then there is Gaiole and Greve, Volterra and the Palazzo Priori, Colle Val D’Elsa with its frescoed hall and San Quirico, small and cute.  Montepulciano which I love and Montalcino, Arezzo which is bigger than all the places mentioned above, with a recently restored wedding hall which is located in the 14th century palazzo Pretorio.   Of course I cannot forget to mention the more popular locations… Siena with the beautiful Piazza del Campo as its true pinnacle, San Gimignano, which is the most expensive of town halls throughout Italy and where civil ceremonies are held in the Castello reached via an open courtyard, next to the frescoed Duomo.  Pienza which is just adorable, Cortona which is beautiful and last but not least is the Green room of the palazzo Orsetti in Lucca.   If you find the urge that you wish to be close to water then Tuscany has this too…the cloistered court of Pietrasanta or if you have had enough of old and architecturally beautiful, then there is the modern town hall of Forte dei Marmi.

For all those of you who want something a little more intimate and elegant, or simple and rustic or if you really just want to go over the top or want to work on a theme, the possibilities are endless… from the many beautiful churches which have been hand-picked and where it is possible for you to celebrate an intimate catholic or protestant wedding ceremony or you may want to arrange it all in a Tuscan castle, a villa, hotel, terrace, garden or even vineyard if you really want to!  There are many wonderful places in Tuscany where it is possible to do it all and you can stay here, have your ceremony and reception here without having to think too much about moving from one place to the other.  There are also many historical villas which you can hire for the day or for half the day and hold the event here, some of them even have a church or chapel on the premises, which is also a lovely touch.   Some of these historical locations have been used in films like a Room with a View, Much ado about nothing and many places already mentioned feature in films like The English Patient, Stealing Beauty, Life is Beautiful ….

Tuscany provides couples with choice and each one is complimented by the other, so if the location of the ceremony is for you, then you have a choice of at least 2 to 3 places where you can enjoy your reception while still having an array of accommodation to suit your budgets.  

Is Tuscany my top destination?  I would not say number one as in 2009/2010 it came 3rd in the overall vote but Tuscany is a strong contender for being one of the best locations in Italy to experience a true Italian-style wedding and also for appealing to a range of budgets.

Weddings Made in Italy specialise in arranging weddings In Tuscany and honeymoon. Passion, knowledge, expertise, design, creativity, service and understanding is our motto. Visit http://www.weddingsmadeinitaly.co.uk for more information.


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 19, 2010 at 8:44 am

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SANGIMIGNANO 1300, New Museum Dedicated to Medieval San Gimignano, Italy, Announces Grand Opening



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SANGIMIGNANO 1300, New Museum Dedicated to Medieval San Gimignano, Italy, Announces Grand Opening













(PRWEB) May 12, 2010

The MUSEA Group is pleased to announce the opening of SANGIMIGNANO1300, a uniquely different gem of a museum located in the heart of San Gimignano, Italy. More of a “happening” than a museum, SANGIMIGNANO 1300 provides visitors the opportunity to truly experience and understand the historic, architectural and social aspects of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

SANGIMIGNANO 1300 features a massive ceramic reconstruction of the entire city of San Gimignano as it existed in 1300, at the height of its artistic splendour. Architects, historians and a team of artists worked nearly three years to create this spectacular and unprecedented exhibition. This exhibit, “The City Of Beautiful Towers,” includes 800 meticulously handcrafted structures, 72 towers, street scenes and figurines, all faithfully recreated and done entirely by hand using natural pigments and terracotta. More than a ton of clay from the local quarry of Montelupo was used for this exhibit, which is already being praised and admired by the City of San Gimignano, UNESCO and the few visitors who have been lucky enough to see it.

SANGIMIGNANO 1300 is the culmination of the vision of two Master Artists, Michelangelo and Raffaello Rubino. The Brothers Rubino have spent a lifetime developing their skill in their medium of choice, ceramic. Using their skill and artistry, they have created something more than a museum, they have created an artistic experience that, in all, encompasses 4,000 square feet.

In addition to “The City Of Beautiful Towers,” the museum features nine other exhibits that depict the city during its artistic prime, including the reconstruction of the Convent of San Francesco, which was completely demolished in the 16th Century, and “Inside The Tower,” a reconstruction of an architecturally sectioned tower-house. Another reconstructed exhibit is “Palace life,” a three-dimensional reconstruction of a XIV Fresco by Memmo Filippuccio, done entirely in ceramic.

Other exhibits on display include “Outside The Walls,” handcrafted scenes depicting medieval life outside the city walls. Visitors to SANGIMIGNANO 1300 can also witness “Timeline,” hand drawn panels that detail the history of San Gimignano from the Etruscan age to the present day, with an in-depth focus on the medieval period. A visual projection area allows visitors to view documentaries concerning the life and customs of medieval Tuscany. Visitors can also witness “A Day In The City,” featuring staged and historically accurate scenes of medieval life.

Visitors can learn further information still from the exhibit “Via Francigena,” which provides a detailed graphic presentation of the Via Francigena and its spiritual and economic importance. Multimedia areas can also be found throughout the museum. These areas provide information on varying topics, including details on each developmental phase of the museum and in-depth historical and scientific aspects of medieval Tuscany.

The museum boasts state-of-the-art lighting and sound such that each exhibit comes to life! Visitors will be fascinated by more than 200 handcrafted figurines, multiple street scenes, videos, symbolism and a 2,500-year graphic depiction of the city and region.

Those who visit SANGIMIGNANO 1300 and want to memorialize their trip can visit the museum’s gift shop, one of the largest in San Gimignano. The shop carries a vast selection of works of art, DVDs, books and other gifts and collectibles representative of Tuscan craftsmanship. Many objects are one-of-a-kind creations created exclusively by the museum or gathered from local artisans.

SANGIMIGNANO 1300 is variously a museum, exhibition and a unique opportunity to travel back in time. It represents, art, history, research and the magic vision of towers, squares and people of faith. Ultimately, however, it represents hard work, joy and a sincere desire to enhance this incredible medieval city.

For more information about SANGIMIGNANO 1300 or to discuss private tours, group discounts and artist “meet-and-greets,” contact director Pietro Bortolotti. More information about the museum can be found online at http://www.sangimignano1300.com/eng/index_eng.html

Contact: Pietro Bortolotti, Director: Tel. 561-740-8735 (USA) +39-0577-941078 (ITALY)

Watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONgA96iGnYY

Write: info(at)sangimignano1300(dot)com

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 15, 2010 at 7:17 pm

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Online Travel Guide Tuscany

There are many reasonably priced flights to Italy, generally to the larger international airports in Milan or Rome. From there it is easy to take the train or rent a car to get to Tuscany.

If you live in Europe, it is easy enough to travel overland to Tuscany but there are also good deals with low-cost air companies, such as Ryan Air (to Pisa). Depending on whether you want to visit other areas in Italy, you should also consider traveling by train as it is very convenient. Read below for further details on the various ways to get to Tuscany and start your wonderful holiday in this beautiful region!



Where to start with Tuscany though? We have the ‘art cities’ of Florence, Pisa and Siena – the galleries and museums, devotional buildings and architecture of Florence (Firenze) alone could swallow your entire vacation in Tuscany. Another week would just about deal with Pisa and its Campo dei Miracoli around the Leaning Tower and Baptistery. There is lesser known Lucca, a perfect medieval city within its unbreached /html/lucca_-medieval walls. But let’s take a few other highlights without which no tour of Tuscany is complete.

Siena is a superb medieval city, which depopulated a few hundred years ago due to the Black Death and never quite filled up again. Indeed parts of this opulent and stylish town, around the stunning black-and-white marble Duomo, retain a semi-rural air. Cobbled streets spiral toward the central ‘Campo’ site of the twice yearly Palio horse race. There are dozens of little hill towns south and west of Siena, with San Gimignano (the city of towers) being best known. Montepulciano, and Pienza are joys, but also see lesser-explored Pitigliano, Massa Marittima and Volterra.

Between Florence and Siena we have , superb wine country of course and a popular retreat for British and American expats. The main towns of ‘Chiantishire’ are Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti. See too the medieval cloth town of Prato, with the Castello Imperator and a fine Pisan-Romanesque Duomo. Another undiscovered gem is Pistoia, with a well preserved medieval core. Heading towards the coast we have Pisa, Lucca and then the coastline of the Versilian Riviera. The most famous of the resorts is Viareggio, a fashionable resort in Victorian times, and still a fun seaside town, with great gelaterie, restaurants, beaches (though you will have to pay) and the huge February carnival. Livorno (or Leghorn as Brits dubbed it) is often dismissed as a bombed and uninspiringly rebuilt port town, but there is a lovely old town of canals and humpback bridges, a ‘little Venice’ indeed. Offshore we have the isle of Elba, once home to a defeated Napoleon.

The southern Tuscan coast becomes the Maremma, once a malaria-ridden backwater but now home to the famed Maremma cattle and the ‘butteri’, cowboys who tend them. The countryside rises to the hills of Monte Argentario and the rather lovely and very ancient town of Orbetello. South of Siena we come to the remarkable San Gimignano, a little town that became a powerful republic, albeit briefly. The soaring towers are monuments to the pride and hubris of the warring families of the town. Volterra is something quite other – built remote and striking on a high plateau, DH Lawrence wrote that it ‘gets all the wind and sees all the world … an inland island’. Thence on to Massa Marittima, an important mining town since pre-Roman (Etruscan) times. And south of Siena spreads the countryside of the Crete Senese … which is probably that Tuscan countryside that most of us first-time visitors picture in our minds.

We can’t leave southern Tuscany without visiting the Abbazia dei San Galgano, one of Italy’s most stunning Gothic buildings, and the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore, with its superb Renaissance frescoes. On to Montepulciano, at 600 metres above the sea it’s the highest hill town in Tuscany. Then to Pienza, a Renaissance new town created from scratch by Pius II in 1459. Another lovely hill town nearby is Montalcino – wine buffs will know the name.

 

-Sonali Subhash

Online Travel Guide Tuscany


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm

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Agritourism and elegance, the winning formula of Hotelito Lupaia

There is an agriturismo, in the green of Tuscany, close to Montepulciano and Pienza, that combines refinement and romanticism, a very rare synthesis.

It’s Hotelito Lupaia, situated on a hilltop over the church of San Biagio in Montepulciano, a residence born from a careful restoration wanted by Murzilli’s family and today is available to guests that are looking for a total rrelaxing holiday, all included.

La Lupaia, with his elegant style, satisfies the needs of most demanding clients, those that dream a vacation in Tuscany bed & breakfast.

The distinctive features of this ancient borgo are to be hospitable as a maison of charme but with a touch of perfection as a boutique hotel.

Immersed in the quietly countryside, guests can walking in the gardens of the property or take a dive into the external swimming pool, suggested also to drinking a glass of wine or admiring the star-filled sky at night.

A fusion between elegance and comfort is all along a particularity of Murzilli’s family, because in the fashion business they created the brand “El Charro” and then moved their experience in tourism, before with the opening of Boutique Hotel “Hotelito Desconocido in Mexico”, the first luxury and ecological resort, and now with La Lupaia.

The rooms of b&b are 8 (standard and suites), cosy and colorful accommodations to grant a comfortable staying; every room is well appointed with independent entrance and services (television, air conditioning, direct telephone, free minibar, hairdryer and safe), that are an essential part of a journey free from stress.

About surroundings, this area is strategical because are easily reachable by car medieval cities like Pienza, Cortona, San Gimignano, Siena and Florence, while who desires an extreme well-being treatment can go to the closer thermal Spa, like Bagno Vignoni and Rapolano Terme.

The ingredients for a beautiful fairy tale are here, as the intense emotions and the natural flavors of the local cooking. You can be sure to live a unique experience at this Tuscany agritourism.


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm

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Florence, Italy – Something for Everyone

Welcome to Florence, Italy, rated the number one city destination by tourists from around the world. Whether you have just a few days, a week or even more, there is plenty to keep you busy in Florence and the surrounding countryside.

Florence, or Firenze in Italian, is located in the heart of Italy’s Tuscany Region in western Italy, along the Arno River. It is 277 km north of Rome and 298 km south of Milan. It is the capital of the Tuscany Region and has a population of around 400,000 people, with approximately 200,000 more in the surrounding suburban areas.

Florence is an unrivaled repository of art and architectural treasures with masterpieces by geniuses such as Botticelli, Brunelleshi, Cellini, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Ghiberti, Giotto, Raphael and of course, Leonardo and Michelangelo.

The best time to visit Florence is in the Spring (April and May) and in the fall (September and October). June, July and August are not only the hottest months, but also the busiest months of the year. During this time, the streets of Florence are overrun, as the streets were not designed for mass tourism. Fighting the crowds tends to take away some of the joy of wandering through the streets and it can also make it difficult to get tickets to the most popular attractions.

Getting to Florence

Most major airlines can get you there with just one stop. For more options, you can also fly into Pisa, 93km west of Florence and take the express train for the hour-long trip to Florence. For the most flight options, you can fly into Rome. The train trip from Rome is 2-3 hours depending upon your connections.

City Layout

Florence is a city designed for walking with all the major sites in a compact area. The only problem, as I mentioned earlier, is that the sidewalks are unbearably crowded in the summer.

Florence is not divided into neighborhoods the way many cities are. Most locals refer to either the left bank or the right bank of the Arno River, and that is about it. The following neighborhoods really are just areas centering on a palace, church or square; they are rather arbitrary, but will give you some idea of where the major attractions are.

Centro could include all the historic heart of Florence, but mostly the term is used to describe the area southwest of the Duomo. Centro’s Via dei Tournabuoni is the city’s most elegant shopping street.

Piazza del Duomo and its surrounding areas are dominated by the tricolor Duomo, one of the largest buildings in the Christian world.

Piazza della Signoria is home to Florence’s most photographed statute, Loggia dei Lanzi, with Cellini’s Perseus holding up a beheaded Medusa.

Galleria degla Uffizi and the Palazzo Vecchio to the south is the city’s civic heart, best known for their museums.

Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) area, located southwest of Piazza della Signoria is Florence’s oldest bridge. Built in the Middle Ages, it was the center for leather craftsmen, fishmongers and butchers.

Piazza Santa Maria Novella and the Train Station are located on the northwestern edge of central Florence. Thousands flock to this area to see Michelangelo’s tomb whose symbolic figures of Day and Night are among the most famous sculptures of all time.

Piazza Ognissanti is located southwest of Piazza Santa Maria Novella. It is a fashionable Renaissance square opening onto the Arno River. This is where you will find two of the city’s most legendary hotels: the Grand and the Excelsior.

Getting Around

Florence is perfect for walking. It is small and compact enough that walking is really the ideal way to get around. It also gives you the chance to soak in all that Florence has to offer. As you plan your ventures and outings keep in mind that Florence has two numbering systems, one in red numbers and one in black numbers. The red numbers identify commercial enterprises such as shops and restaurants. Black numbers identify office buildings, private homes, apartment houses and hotels. Because street numbers are chaotic, it is best to get cross streets and some landmarks to make finding an address easier.

Top Things to See and Do

Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio – Florence’s most famous square is Piazza della Signoria, the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit. The Loggia della Signoria holds some important statues including a copy of Michelangelo’s David. Plazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence. This massive, Tuscan Gothic fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls in Tuscany. It is one of the most significant public places in Italy. The palazzo contains elaborately decorated public rooms and private apartments. Around the piazza are cafes and restaurants.

Il Duomo and Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence’s most popular site is its Duomo (cathedral), the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore. The huge Gothic duomo was begun in 1296, consecrated in 1436, and holds 20,000 people. The exterior, made of green, pink, and white marble, has several elaborate doors and interesting statues. Inside, Brunelleschi’s Dome is a masterpiece of construction.

The Baptistry – The Baptistry of John the Baptist, from the 11th century, is one of Florence’s oldest buildings. Its exterior is made of green and white marble and has three sets of amazing bronze doors (reproductions – the originals are in the Duomo Museum and are also worth a visit).

Campinile – Bell Tower – The Campinile, bell tower, is in Piazza del Duomo. The first story was designed by Giotto and it is commonly called Giotto’s Campinile.

Ponte Vecchio – The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, was Florence’s first bridge across the Arrno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days (others were destroyed in World War II). The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry. From the bridge, you will have a great view along the Arno River and beyond.

Galleria degli Uffizi – The Galleria degli Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art but it is also Italy’s most crowded museum. The Uffizi holds thousands of paintings from medieval to modern times and many antique sculptures, illuminations, and tapestries. Artists whose works you will see include Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, and Raphael.

Galleria dell’ Academia – Florence’s Galleria dell’ Academia holds important paintings and sculptures from the 13th-16th centuries. Michelangelo’s David, probably the most famous sculpture in the world, is in the Galleria dell’ Academia as well as other sculptures by Michelangelo. You will also find an interesting collection of musical instruments, begun by the Medici family.

Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace – Cross the Ponte Vecchio to the Giardino di Boboli, a huge park on a hillside in the middle of Florence behind the Pitti Palace. Here you will find beautiful gardens and fountains and a great view of Florence from the Forte Belvedere.

The Pitti Palace, Florence’s largest palazzo, was once the seat of the Medici family. You can visit eight different galleries, including art, costumes, jewelry, and apartments.

Santa Croce – Santa Croce, in Piazza Santa Croce, is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tombs of several important Florentines including Michelangelo and Dante. The vast interior contains some exceptional stained glass windows and frescoes. One of Brunelleschi’s most important works, the Cappella dei Pazzi, is in Santa Croce.

Shopping – Florence has some of the finest shopping in Europe. In Florence, you will find leather goods, paper goods, and jewelry as well as nice souvenirs and art productions. Florence has a number of open-air markets selling food, clothing, and antiques. The most famous is around Piazza San Lorenzo where you will find leather goods, too. Another good place is Mercato Nuovo (Porcellino) on Via Porta Rossa. Mercato Centrale is a great place for food shopping or just looking.

Cafés, Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Wandering and People Watching – My favorite thing to do in Florence is simply to wake up early, get to a small coffee shop and start my day with a hot cup of coffee, a good pastry and watch the town come alive. I check out my map, pick the area I want to discover and can spend the whole day wandering the streets, taking in all that Florence has to offer. I stop from time to time at one of the never-ending number of café’s, coffee shops or restaurants to recharge. I marvel at the number and variety of people around me and reminisce about the memories I have already made that day. Before I know it, it is time to hit the street again and I am off to make more memories.

Day Trips from Florence

Tuscany Region – Spend a day touring one of the most bombastic areas of Tuscany, known all over the world for its countryside of unrivalled charm, where woods alternate with vineyards and olive groves, in a landscape dotted with Romanesque churches, farmhouses, villas and castles of rare beauty.

Pisa – Take a drive through the fertile and picturesque Tuscan countryside to the historic university city of Pisa, famous for its architectural beauty. Take a panoramic drive along the banks of the Arno, and then tour Piazza dei Miracoli, with the celebrated Leaning Tower, the Baptistery and other important monuments. Be sure to visit the interior of the Cathedral, it is an unrivalled masterpiece of Romanesque art constructed between the 11th and 12th centuries.

Siena and San Gimignano – Take a beautiful excursion through the delightful hills of the Chianti countryside, and see an ever-changing scenery of vineyards and olive trees.

In Siena, visit the old city centre: walk along the small medieval streets, admire the splendid palaces and end up at the Cathedral where you can visit the splendid interior including the Libreria Piccolomini (library) which was founded in 1495 by Pope Pius III and the adjacent Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana (museum).

Piazza del Campo, one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval squares in the world, where you will find the Palazzo del Comune, a palace started in 1297 and finished in the early 1300’s.

From Siena, head to San Gimignano, a tiny city that has remained intact through the centuries; situated on a hilltop, it is famous for its numerous towers, frescoes and other art treasures. On your way back to Florence stop and visit the old mediaeval village of Monteriggioni enclosed by its famous walls, still intact.

Favorite Places to Eat

San Michele – Located in an 11th century monastery Villa San Michele, a small luxury hotel, is home to San Michele Restaurant. Perched on the hills about 20 minutes from Florence, San Michele offers you one of the most spectacular views of Florence and one of the most memorable dining experiences as well. The view is only rivaled by the Florentine and Tuscan cuisine and stellar service. For a real treat try the ribollita, a traditional Tuscan vegetable and bread soup, it is the best I had in Florence.

Reservations are necessary. When you make your reservations be sure to request a table with a good view as some are blocked by trees. Plan to be there just before sunset so you can experience both the stunning view during the day and the romantic city lights at night.

Trattoria Za Za also known as Za Za’s – Casual, crowded, lively with great food at a reasonable price. Just minutes from Piazza Republica and the Duomo, Za Za’s is touristic favorite.

This is the perfect place to go with friends, to meet new friends or just to sit back and people watch. They have seating both in-doors and out. I recommend sitting outside, especially if you like to people watch, there is a lot see!

Za Za’s menu is wide and varied with great classics and a few unexpected dishes. Try the three soups special. It is delicious and a great way to experience pappa al pomodoro and ribollita, two traditional soups from the region.

Cantinetta Dei Verrazzano – In the mood for a sandwich, coffee, or a pastry? Then try Cantinetta Dei Verrazzano; never in my wildest dreams did I expect such a charming place existed in Florence.

Do you call it a restaurant, a café, or a coffee shop? To my delight, it was all of the above. Cantinetta dei Verrazzano, is simply a small and charming place housed in a former bakery that caters to eat-on-the-run crowds, small sandwiches, coffee, plates of fresh cheeses, salamis, and “to die for desserts”.

Whether you are in need of a quick bite and a coffee or want to unwind at the end of a long day, this is the place. Be prepared to wait for a table or be willing to stand at one of the small bars/counters along the walls. If you love to people watch, this is the place to be. The tables turn over fast so there is always a lot to see.

Paoli – Located just blocks from Piazza Repubblica, between the Duomo and Piazza della Signoria, Paoli offers you true Tuscan dining in a lively and at times crowded atmosphere.

Housed in part of a 13th century palace with domed ceilings and Fresco painted walls Paoli is casual and offers large servings of fresh salads prepared at your table and true Tuscan pastas and meat entrées.

Try their “pappa al pomodoro”, a traditional Tuscan soup made with a mixture of stale/left-over (day old) bread and farm fresh tomatoes. In the past, poorer Tuscans used pappa al pomodoro to make the food they had last longer. To my delight, Paoli serves it now, not as a way to make their food last longer but as a way for you to experience true Tuscan cuisine. I tried pappa al pomodoro at a few different places but by far Paoli’s was the best.

Presentation and service is more like you’d expect at home (well, maybe a crowded Italian home) than at a 5 star restaurant, but that just adds to the charm of the experience.

As you can see, bombastic Florence has something for everyone; art lovers, museum buffs, shoppers, diners, people watchers and even those that just want to slip away to a beautiful Italian city to unwind and relax.

Andrew Satkowiak is a freelance journalist who writes travel articles for various magazines and newspapers. When Andrew is not traveling, he writes for his website, Bombastic Life. More of Andrew’s travel articles, reviews, advice and information can be found at www.BombasticLife.com.


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