Tuscany will melt your heart

There is a place in Italy where Italians were born before Italy was formed. A place where the Italian language was spoken before it was called Italian. A place of magnificent architecture, the cradle of Renissance and literature works by Dante Aligheri, Giovanni Boccaccio and Francesco Petrarca that became famous around the world.

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That place is now called Tuscany, but for several centuries, its castles, walls and endless fields belonged to the Etruscans, then the Romans and later to the Granducato di Toscana. It was only in 1860 that this region, among many contrasts and revolutions became part of Italy.

Perhaps, its history and its roots is the reason why Tuscany has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than South Africa, Argentina or Australia.

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Tuscany’s capital, Florence, and the surrounding areas offer spectacular views that attract more than 10 million visitors every year.

Today, Tuscany is one of, if not the most, popular region among foreigners, with Florence being the preferred city of choice for expats in the whole peninsula.
There is a lot to see and do in Tuscany, the difficulty is really where to start.

But why do 10 millions people come here every year?

Well, I didn’t know before, but now, having spent almost a week between Florence, Siena and the postcard-looking countryside of Chianti, I think I have a few answers.

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Visitors come to Tuscany for many reasons. Many come in search of world-famous art in the many museums of the region, others to explore and enjoy the unique countryside. Foodies and wine-lovers choose Tuscany to enjoy the simple yet outstanding cuisine and local grapes. Active people to enjoy the hikes on the mountains and cyclists the rolling hills, while beach-lovers chose the Tuscan coast for a summer vacation.
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Tuscany guide is again in the usual format (like the one about London);  five sections covering:
Coffee spots
Explore (Florence, Siena & Chianti)
Eat & Drink
Books & Bookshelves
Dream (where to sleep)
Keep reading to find out why Tuscany melts the heart of every visitor.

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BUT FIRST, COFFEE
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Ditta Artigianale
Via dei Neri, 32R, 50122 Firenze

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La Menagere and its Flower shop
Via De’ Ginori 8r, 50123 Florence
 Pasticceria Robiglio 

Via dei Tosinghi, 11/R, 50123 Florence

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EXPLORE

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– Firenze –

The best way to see and understand Florence, it’s to start walking on its narrow and cobbled streets, without a map or a smartphone and get lost. It’s basically impossible to do so as wherever you go you will always find a glimpse of the Cathedral or the Ponte Vecchio. But, unless you are in a rush, try and save some time for a wander without destination to really take in the city. Once you are done, make sure to check the followings.


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Ponte Vecchio
 is Florence’s landmark and probably one of the most photographed bridge in the world. In fact, with the one in Bath it is one of the few remaining bridge with houses and shops on it. Originally built as the Vasari Corridor in 1593, the Ponte Vecchio was in fact a secret passageway built by Vasari  for Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. Less then 30 years later in 1593, de’ Medici’s heir, Ferdinando forced the butchers that inhabitated the bridge to move somewhere else and collected some of the best jewelers instead, some of them still present today. One other interesting fact about this peculiar bridge, is that this is in fact the Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge), but it wasn’t the first ever built, but the only Florentine bridge still standing after the WWII. Legend wants that Hitler fell in love with the tresury of the Uffizi Gallery, which were stored here during his visit to Florence and decided to spare this and only this one during the 1944’s bombing of the city.

Florence Cathedral

Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, is the main church in Florence and its foundation were laid in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.

The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. The three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence and are a major attraction to tourists visiting the region of Tuscany. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and it remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

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 Piazzale Michelangelo

This is probably the most famous piazza in Florence and there is a good reason for it. With its magnificent panoramic view over the cathedrals and bridges, Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the most romantic spots, especially at sunset. The walk up there is quite stiff, but there are plenty of opportunities to stop to stroke a cat or to take another picture, so don’t rush it and enjoy the hike.

 

Oltrarno

This is probably the least-frequented area of Florence and there lays its beauty. Towards the end of your visit, try and leave the crowded area of the center to see how florentine people actually live, eat and talk. Stop on the streets to chat with someone or grab a sandwich. This is also an area pregnant with history and craftsmanship: here you will be able to watch closely the work of wood carvers, mosaic-makers and gold-makers as well as grab an Italian aperitivo in one of the many bars on the traditional squares.

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EXPLORE

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– Siena –
 Piazza Del Campo
This piazza should be your starting point of your visit in Siena.

Originally built as a marketplace, this is the main public space of the historic Mediaeval center of Siena and it is still regarded as one of Europe’s greatest squares. It is acclaimed worldwide for its beauty and architectural integrity. With its shell shape, the Palazzo Pubblico and its Torre del Mangia, Piazza del Campo hosts the Palio di Siena, the traditional bareback horse race held twice a year, on July 2 and August 16. During the race, ten riders compete representing their own contrade, or city wards, of Siena.

The Cathedral 

This peculiar church has a mostly white and black façade despite the Italian traditions, but the best part is its interior: the floor, full of esoteric symbols and religious stories; the Piccolomini Library with frescoes by Pinturicchio and the Chapel with the same name where Michelangelo worked from 1501 to 1504.

The Complex of Santa Maria della Scala
This building used to be a civic hospital for abandoned children, the poor, the sick, and pilgrims. Right in front of the majestic Duomo of Siena, the complex is now a museum. In the 1330s Santa Maria della Scala commissioned many important interior and exterior frescoes as well as several significant altar pieces. The whole complex hosts several museums and splendid monumental areas.

Piazza del Mercato
Originally built as the main market square in Siena, nowadays it hosts a flea market where you can find collectable and other second-hand objects every third Sunday of the month. There is also a beautiful view over the city from here.


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EAT & DRINK
in Florence & Siena

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Antico Vinaio – Florence
Via De’ Neri, Florence
The perfect place for a huge, original Italian sandwich on the go. Also the most reviewed place on Tripadvisor globally (!)
Miso di Riso
Borgo degli Albizi 54, Florence
This is an organic bistrò, a little bit garden and a little bit parlor. An uncommon venue in the heart of the old city of Florence.
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Volume
Piazza Santo Spirito, Florence
Despite some tourists have found out about this “secret” square, most of them remain in the centre, so it still has a local feeling to it. Watch the people walking their dogs out while sipping a drink by one of the all equally good places around the square.
Mercato Centrale San Lorenzo, Florence
Make the time to explore this florentine food market right in the centre of the city. Make sure to hit here with an empty stomach so that you can try and taste the freshest and most delicious local food.
Nannini
Piazza Il Campo, Siena
You can find many traditional restaurant and dishes in Siena and I was very skeptical to go for dinner in one right in the main square. I thought it was a tourist trap, but as I was with a local who knew the owner I decided to go and see. After a few antipasti boards of hams and cheeses, we ordered a 1.3kg Fiorentina accompanied by a few glasses of Chianti.
Yes, always trust the locals!
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BOOKS & BOOKSHELVES
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BRAC – Florence
via dei Vagellai , 18/r,50122 Florence
Great little place in the heart of Florence, with a  cool, hipster vibe. Food is great, I’m told, but I went there only for a freshly-squeezed juice to escape the Florence heat. Lots of interesting volumes and magazines.
The staff should work more on their service, which is quite rude and abrupt. Worth a visit for the books though.
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Biblioteca delle Oblate
Via dell’Oriuolo, 24, Florence 

Mostly unknown to tourists, this is mainly a local library for locals students. However, with its little cafe, free wi-fi and special views over Florence, it’s acquiring a top spot in the visitors list.

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– DREAM –
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Of course you could stay in Florence, Siena or Arezzo when visiting Tuscany, but why would you if you could rest your head and legs in the middle of the stunning Tuscan countryside? What if you could easily reach those stunning cities with a quick and short drive (about 30 minutes) among the grape and olive trees fields? What if you could have a dip in the swimming pool before starting your day of sightseeing?
Yes, my advice is to stay at one of these two stunning accommodation and plan day trips to the cities.
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Rising up in the Valambra area, in the heart of  Chianti, the tenuta Lupinari dates back to the XVI century and has been carefully restored, maintaining the original footprints and structure.

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The property is enclosed by endless vineyards that provides the grapes with which the family produces an excellent Chianti Wine called ‘Le Torri’ and by an expanse of olive groves for their ‘Primo di Lupinari’ olive oil.

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This stunning resort consists in a beautiful B&B, a series of eleven apartments with gorgeous views of the vineyards.  In the middle of the, a superb castle rises high as work of the Italian architect Gino Coppedè, with frescoes by the famous painter Galileo Chini, famous for the Terme Berzieri in Salsomaggiore and many others such as the Royal Palace of Bangkok.

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 Immersed in the Tuscan selva and surrounded by centuries-old oaks and olive groves, this family-owned villa is the perfect place for a family or friends holiday or even weddings among the Chianti hills.

Nestled in the middle of the Chianti hills, the property can be reached from Florence, Siena and Arezzo in about 45 minutes by car.

Originally built more than 300 years ago as a farmhouse, the restoration has kept the spirit and the history of the house, respecting the original architecture with use of hand-made special materials following the green architecture parameters.

The villa is in the middle of a 13-hectare (32 acres) private botanical garden (Giardino del Belvedere) as well as an amphitheatre, a open air yoga studio and two private swimming pools.

The owners only rent the entire villa -that can host up to 16 people- to ensure privacy and full access to it to each group of guests.

The Villa is a special, private and quiet place to enjoy la Dolce Vita.

While staying at La Selva, you should go and visit Montegonzi, a cute village perked up a hill, only one km away from the villa.

Montegonzi

Behind the church there is an amazing view over the Chianti area. Totally worth a visit (and a few pictures)!

Montegonzi

Montegonzi

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 Another way to see Tuscany and its countryside is by booking your spot at the next Kaleidotour organised by Italian Eye a London-Tuscany team that organises bespoke events, weddings and holidays in Italy.
During the last event, we managed to explore some of the most hidden gems of the area and attend some interesting workshops, including an amazing one about calligraphy one hosted by Betty Soldi. The activities, as per the best Italian traditions, are always accompanied by gorgeous vino and tasty local food, see all the pictures from our last #kaleidotour here.

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Copyright © 2015 Sabrina Andrea Sachs. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted by Sabrina Andrea Sachs. No part of these pages, either text or image may be used for any purpose. Therefore, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. If you are interested in buying any copy or prints, please email me to thestorytellerphotos@gmail.com
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  • G

    Really great read Sabrina, we are hoping to visit Florence next year (fingers crossed) and you gave some great little insights into the place, I might even try the service in the bookshop, maybe if I spoke really bad Italian (I do!) they’d be kinder!
    Warm wishes for all your travelling, look forward to the next stop!
    G xxx

    • Thank you G! I’m sure you will have a great time in Tuscany, it’s such a great part of Italy.. next stop: Dubai! take care xx

  • Meravigliosa la Toscana!!
    a marzo sono stata in Val d’Orcia ed è vero…my heart melted!!
    Bel blog!! mi piace molto!!

    • Vero? E’ fantastica! mi sono innamorata anche io.. non vedo già l’ora di tornarci! 🙂 grazie mille, cara!

  • What’s up friends, how is all, and what you desire to say regarding this piece of writing, in my view its truly remarkable in support of me.