Town and Country: Travel Guide to Florence and Tuscany, Italy


In our Town and Country series, we’re exploring some of our very favorite city and countryside pairings. In each case, the city and the surrounding region both merit exploration on their own. But when combined, the pairings lay the groundwork for a vacation that leaves you feeling both invigorated and refreshed. One of Europe’s classic city-country combinations can be found in the heart of Italy. Florence and Tuscany, celebrated in countless films and novels, remain as alluring as ever.

Florence, Italy

The iconic Duomo of Florence, the world's first domed cathedral.The pearl of the Renaissance, Florence has long been justly renowned for its graceful architecture and astounding collections of art. Even if you’ve been before, having a local guide show you the magnificent cathedral or the incomparable paintings in the Uffizi or the expressive sculptures in the Accademia (home of Michelangelo’s “David”) will add great depth to the experience. Other favorite museums include the Bargello, which houses masterpiece sculptures by Michelangelo, Donatello and Cellini, and the lesser-known Opificio delle Pietre Dure, containing a small but gorgeous collection of mosaics and tabletops inlaid with semiprecious stones. And our travel partner can arrange unique experiences such as a private opening of the Vasari Corridor, a passage the Medicis used to move between the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace unmolested.

But spending all your time in Florence in museums would be exhausting and put you at risk of Stendhal syndrome—visit one or two per day at most. Spend the rest of your time strolling in the Boboli Gardens, browsing the gourmet stalls of the Mercato Alimentare Sant’Ambrogio in the Piazza Ghiberti, or wandering the Roman and Etruscan ruins in the suburb of Fiesole. In the height of summer, you might even want to base your entire Florentine stay in Fiesole to escape the heat and the crowds. A dinner there, overlooking the domes and towers of the city, is highly recommended in any case.

Tuscany, Italy

The Tuscan town of Montepulciano at sunset.Many people spend a well-earned two nights in Tuscany (or equally beautiful Umbria) between visits of Florence and Rome, and a quick Tuscan break is an excellent idea. But the longer one spends in this exquisite countryside, the greater the dividends it pays.

It’s possible to make an entire itinerary just of Tuscany, staying in properties in Chianti, farther south near Siena and Montalcino, and finally along the Tuscan coast in Maremma. Certain remarkably beautiful towns such as Lucca, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni deserve to appear on most itineraries of the region, and some particularly charming and high-quality wineries in Chianti, Montepulciano and Montalcino require appointments for tastings. But scheduled stops shouldn’t take up all your time. According to Andrew Harper editors, “The supreme pleasure is puttering along country roads through one of the most distinctive and civilized landscapes in the world.”

This article was originally featured in the Traveler magazine.

By Hideaway Report Staff

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