Tuscany isn’t just a place to visit for those who can distinguish a Brunello from a Chianti. It’s famous for its wines, art and landscapes but the region offers a lot more. Tuscan cuisine is also deliciously mouthwatering and rich in flavour, frequently enhanced by the oil of Tuscan olives. The first stop on any Tuscan adventure is the birthplace of the its historical legacy, Florence.
Florence is Tuscany’s capital and home to the Italian Renaissance, the first movement of the modernisation of Europe. The buildings in the city emit charisma, still possessing the blood, sweat and tears offered up in their magnificent construction. Florence was settled in 80 BC in the style of an army camp with two main streets that intersect at what now is the Piazza della Repubblica.
From almost anywhere in the city you can see the cathedral. Built in the 13th century, it took 200 years to complete, with its famous dome added by Filippo Brunelleschi in the 15th century. The decorative mix of marble on its exterior allows it to change colours throughout the day. Inside you will find artwork from Giorgio Vasari, who designed the Last Judgment, a piece taking 7 years to complete. Famously, however, it was mainly completed by his student; nonetheless the piece still stands magnificent. Unlike many other cathedrals around Europe, you can climb the dome and enjoy a panoramic city vista. Entry is modest but be sure to arrive early as this is a very popular feature of the city.
Things to do in Florence
The next serving of culture should be at the largest renaissance collection in the world at the Uffizi Gallery. The gallery is vast, and it takes a few hours to see every artist; you’ll be in the company of Da Vinci, Rapheal, Sandro Botticella and Michheal Angelo to name a few. Book this in advance as waiting times in the summer months take up to 5 hours, making it another one of the most popular attractions in Florence.
Play to your senses by experiencing the ages old sounds of Florence–visit the Orsanmichele, a church constructed in the kitchen of the demolished monastery of San Michele. The church itself is small and not very well known, but it holds some of the most amazing choirs. The Church dates back to the the 14th century and undoubtedly would have been home to many castrati! On the exterior you can also view 14 exterior niches which were filled between 1399 to around 1430. The richest guilds competed against one another for designs, with some opting for stone, others for bronze. In summary, a delightful experience for a modest sum.
Florence experiences 10 million tourists a year and has plenty of venues to entertain the jet setting community. Our pick is the outdoor Flò Bar, which as an upscale bar features candlelit areas, tented areas and summery relaxed wicker loungers. This is definitely the place to be in the summer, bustling from early in the evening to late into the night. They of course have a VIP area, here you can mix with the likes of leading fashion models, footballers and other international adventurers.
Our next choice of bar is the Dolce Vita situated right in the centre of the city in the Piazza del Carmine. This bar hosts a mix of professionals and tourists and is one of the most upscale establishments in Florence. The crowd is younger than Flò which could potentially be because of its modern design and proximity to the river. Certainly one to check out for a great night out.
The best vineyard in Tuscany
Florence is not the be all and end all of Tuscany, so the first thing to do when you leave the city is to head to a private luxury vineyard. Our favourite in terms of location and setting is the Castello de Casole. This vineyard initially caught our attention because it specialises in organic wines. Here at The Luxe Travel we appreciate that its very hard to eat well while on the road–regardless of how much money you throw at it, the availability is practically non existent. This vineyard offers the most amazing luxury accommodation and boasts ample amounts of character. You can either stay in the hotel or a private farmhouse. The hotel offers a range of suites which look out over the vineyards and Tuscan hillsides.
Words do little to describe this place. They offer plenty of dining services from private chefs to a pizzeria. Every palate is catered to and their wine tasting experience allows you to sample the richest, lightest and most delectable wines of the season. The venue holds the traditional rustic style you would expect of Italian vineyard but combines this with the luxuries visitors would expect. The infinity pool also looks over the vines below as you bathe in pure luxury and heritage.
This is our introduction to Tuscany, but be sure to check back for updates on Tuscan food, wine and further activities when we publish them by signing up to our mailing list below.