The Italy Road Trip

The Italy Road Trip was planned for quite some time. The dilemma was how do you see all of what Italy has to offer in 2 weeks? Well the answer is you don’t. It’s just not possible in 2 weeks. So what do you see? And where do you start? Well right here.

The Italy Road Trip – Getting There

Choose your airline (it’s Air Canada for me from Canada). In order to hit the ground running (with a 6 hour time difference), I need to fly Business Class (sometimes) or Premium Economy (this time). The extra room and increased comfort make the long flight enjoyable. I absolutely have to sleep so I bring along my new travel friend, my Palmate Travel Pillow, to get to sleep and stay asleep. I want to be ready to go and awake on Day 1!

The Italy Road Trip – Venice

Arriving in Venice, we leave the airport in a water taxi and begin the short journey into the historic canals of Venice. After checking into our hotel, we grab an espresso and head out to explore the streets of Venice. Tourists are absolutely everywhere and the streets are packed. Walking along main walking routes and over bridges, we manage to find side routes and squares where the locals are. Small neighbourhoods with cafes, restaurants, shops and Venetian homes are a lot more interesting than the main streets. On Day 2, we jump on the public water taxi (Venice transit) to get around easily and give into the main tourist areas. There’s a lot to see in Venice including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges’ Palace. But take the time to get off the main paths and explore!

Italy Road Trip - Venice

The Italy Road Trip – Prosecco

We leave Venice in a rental car and head up to the Prosecco Region (the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso). It’s mid-September and we manage to hit full grape harvest. The area is alive with extra workers and tractors with grape packed trailers. There are many wineries to visit and wines to drink. We are looking for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most wineries will have a fee based tasting (5-10 Euro per person) and will provide a generous sample of their product (3-5 wine samples). If you choose to buy a bottle or 2, the wine fee will be reduced or waived (depending on your purchase amount). Among the best wineries to visit: San Gregorio (family owned- you’ll meet father, mother and sisters);  Col Vetoraz (with a wine vending machine on the small road leading to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).

Italy Road Trip - Prosecco Region

The Italy Road Trip – Tuscany

There are so many reasons to include Tuscany in your Italian Road Trip. The wine; the food; the scenery and the people. Among the many wines, the Classico Chianti (with the black rooster on the bottle neck) stands out. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion. The area covers approximately 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The other more well known wine in the area is the “Super Tuscan”. The American name for a deep red wine blended from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It’s priced to take advantage of the aura in the marketplace. Among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines) is Villa San Andrea. The small 400 year old winery is right next door to the well known Antinori. They provide an intimate tour and wine tasting for 10 Euro. Villa San Andrea’s Super Tuscan is far cheaper than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.

Italy Road Trip - Villa San Andrea, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Tuscany

Among the many towns/places to visit in Tuscany are – Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and of course Florence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go, but San Gimignano stands near the top. It’s an amazing, well preserved medieval village with several small hotels, shops, museums, and Tuscan restaurants. My favourite restaurants “Le Vecchie Mura“. It has both an inside restaurant and an outside terrace area across the lane. Authentic dishes feature pasta, steak, rabbit, deer, wild boar and of course local wine. Eating a Tuscan dinner overlooking Tuscany is pretty hard to beat.

Italy Road Trip - San Gimignano, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Pasta with Truffles

The Italy Road Trip – Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is all about the views. And getting to the coast just adds to the anticipation. Heading south, we drive along the highway through Naples, then onto the winding roads of  Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible coastal views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa); some great restaurants down on the beach (Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle – both highly rated and right beside each other) and lots of small boutiques for shopping. From Positano, you can easily make day trips to Amalfi, Ravello, Scala and others.

Italy Road Trip - Positano

Italy Road Trip - Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

We drive to Rome Airport and overnight at a Rome Airport hotel before leaving the next day. Except for the return flight, the trip is over. The Italy Road Trip was among my top trips ever. And that’s saying a lot given the amount of travelling that I have done over the years. Each area/stop well worth the visit to immerse yourself in the history, culture, food and wine of Italy. The biggest issue is when is the next Italy Road Trip?

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Florence Unpacked: Make the Most of Your Time in Tuscany

 

The small and beautiful city of Florence is the beating heart of Italian culture. Known as the location of the birth of the Renaissance, the city is shrouded in ancient history and art, with a range of famous sculptures, masterpieces and prolific architecture at every turn.

Close to the beautiful Appennine Mountains in the stunning rural region of Tuscany, the region’s capital is a city for the senses. Enjoy delicious local cuisine, history walks and marvellous museums in this magical cityscape.

Florence Sightseeing Tips

Enjoy free Florence. Many of Florence’s top sights can be seen for free from the ground. Make sure you spend your first day in the city soaking up the sights around the station, including the Medici Chapels, San Lorenzo, and the must-see Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Not only this, but the city’s many bustling outdoor piazzas can be accessed without a ticket and are an integral part of Florentine culture.

Get a Firenze card. The Firenze card costs around 70 euros and gives you access to most of the museums in the city, free local bus rides, and allows you to skip the queues – so you can see more in less time. The ticket is valid for 72 hours and includes one of the world’s greatest museums, the Uffizi, as well as the Pitti Palace, the Accademia, and the Bargello.

Shop locally. Florence is known for its shopping, like so many Italian cities, but some of the best shopping can be done at the local flea markets, such as San Lorenzo, delle Pulci, and the Mercato Nuovo.

Attractions in Florence

Florence is known for its rich history, which dates back as far as the Roman times. But the pinnacle of its history really came when the Medici family took the reigns which encouraged the cultural movement of the Renaissance from the 14th to the 17th century. The rebirth has remained one of the most famed cultural progressions in modern history, and its writers, painters, philosophers, and architects are still recognized in the city today. So much of its history can be felt and reimagined in its buildings, both in its world famous museums and on its streets through the incredible architecture, piazzas and sculptures that define the city and its past.

Be sure to check out these must-see sights during your time in Florence:

Uffizi Gallery

It may be one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence, but you cannot visit Florence without seeing it at least once. One of the most famous museums in the world, the Uffizi Gallery has one of the best collections of Italian paintings in the world, including some pretty giant Botticellis.

Il Duomo di Firenze

Enjoy the best views of Duomo Square and the stunning cityscape that surrounds it by climbing to the top of the Duomo Dome. Designed by Brunelleschi, the dome is enormous and involves climbing a winding staircase to reach the top.

Visit the City’s Famous Tombs

So many of Florence’s greats are buried in the city itself, from Machiavelli to Michelangelo, and not to mention the Medici Chapel, which is a masterpiece in itself. Be sure to visit these impressive tombs on your way around the city.

Explore the Markets

Florence has several markets that are worth visiting, but some of the most famous are the leather markets. Take a trip to the market next to San Lorenzo Church and visit the large indoor Mercato Centrale afterwards.

Piazza della Signoria

At the heart of the city’s historic center, you will no doubt enjoy the views from the large Piazza della Signoria a number of times, just make sure you stop to appreciate impressive town hall with its majestic public and private rooms that are open to visitors while you are here.

Shopping in Florence, Italy

The city may be small and easy to walk around, but the vast array of shops and boutiques is endless. Whether you want souvenirs, fashion pieces, or antiques Florence has it.

Via Tornabouoni

Most of the high end luxury fashion brands and designers can be found on Via Tornabouoni. Establishing itself as early as the 14th century, here you can find Gucci, Prada and Cartier among many of others in gorgeous boutiques that are just oozing style.

Via Maggio and Via de’ Fossi

If you like to shop for antiques then head to Via Maggio, close to the Pitti Palace, and Via de’ Fossi. Look hard enough and you can find valuable art, sculptures and collectors’ items.

Florentine Leather Shopping

The markets are the place to go if you want to buy some good quality Florentine leather. San Lorenzo outdoor market is probably the most famous, and sells everything from leather jackets to leather purses. It’s also possible to bargain with some of the sellers for a better deal!

Ponte Vecchio

For window shopping and jewelry shopping head to the famous Ponte Vecchio. Along the bridge you will find some of the most glamorous jewelry shops in the city, perfect for finding something completely unique to take home with you or for someone special.

Street Food and Drink

Florence, like the rest of Italy, is famed for its delicious food and drink, and so many markets offer local and fresh Italian produce to take home or eat there and then. Head to Sant’ Ambrogio Market to find fresh Italian fare and local seasonal produce.

Florence Restaurants

Like every Italian city, food is a vital part of the culture in Florence. From the local Tuscan wines to the aged cheeses and cured meats, Florence is a mecca for food and here’s some of the best of the bunch:

Giacosa Roberto Cavalli

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingThis cafe may be not an obvious choice, as it’s tucked away at the back of the designer store of Roberto Cavailli, but it’s certainly a pit stop to remember. Sip on some delicious coffee and tasty pastries as you experience Florentine chic at its best.

Vestri

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingThis famous gelato place offers some of the best in the city. Unusually, there is nothing on display so you have to make your selection from the menu – we can promise that the chocolate is always a winning choice at this quaint store.

Da Nerbone

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingThis small quirky restaurant in the market has just five tables but is well worth the wait. The food is simple, local and the best place to eat like a real Florentine.

Osteria de’Benci

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingThis fun and vibrant restaurant is the ideal place for some laughter and some great food, particularly the pasta and meats. Usually filled with a younger crowd, the place is sometimes so busy that they let patrons drink outside in the piazza.

Enoteca Pinchiorri

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingNot for the budget traveler, Enoteca Pinchiorri is for pure indulgence. With a wine cellar of more than 150,000 bottles, a three Michelin-stared chef and some incredible Tuscan and modern dishes, it will be a night to remember.

Il Latini

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingBe sure to book ahead for this one, Il Latini is an institution in Florence that offers two sittings and an incredible array of food, course after course. A Tuscan treat that isn’t overpriced but may be a little overcrowded.

Hotels in Florence, Italy

The city offers a range of hotels from small self-catering rooms to large and luxurious accommodation. Stay in the center of the city and enjoy close proximity to the city’s main attractions, including the cathedral and churches.

Merdiana

3 Star HotelClose to the railway station and the motorway, the Hotel Merdiana is located in the city center with easy access to the Duomo, the Palazzo dei Congressi and the Fortezza de Basso.

Palazzo dei Ciompi

4 Star Hotel Stay in the old city of Florence at Palazzo dei Ciompi. Located in the old square, the hotel is a beautiful design and offers self-catering apartments just a few minutes walk from the historic sites of the city.

Palazzo Ruspoli

3 Star HotelStay in your very own art gallery at the Palazzo Ruspoli. This large beautiful hotel is within walking distance from most of the city center’s main attractions, and has an array of stunning sculptures and paintings inside the hotel for some true Florentine beauty.

Berchielli

4 Star Hotel Enjoy private views across the River Arno, just a few minutes away from the city’s boutique shopping district, including the famous Ponte Vecchio. The interior is modern and elegant, with a touch of serenity, making it the perfect place to relax after a day of sightseeing.

Bernini Palace

5 Star HotelExperience unrivalled luxury at the five-star Bernini Palace, close to the Piazza Della Signoria and city center. This incredible hotel dates back to the start of the 16th century and  has been renovated to bring together its majestic past with decadent furnishings and features with modern amenities, such as air conditioning and a spa.

 

Day Trips from Florence Italy: Tuscany Tours from Florence

Known for its romance, architecture, and famous works of art, Florence is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. Located in the heart of the the sprawling Tuscan countryside, surrounded by palatial vineyards and verdant landscapes, embarking on day trips from Florence Italy to explore neighboring cities and villages is an excellent way to experience the breadth and complexity of Italian culture, see a wide-variety of historically significant sites, and enjoy the many authentic home-style bistros and eateries scattered throughout the region.

Here are our top day trip itineraries for Tuscany Tours from Florence:

Siena

Florence to Siena Day Trip Route

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Florence to Siena Day Trip: 75.5km – 1 hour 12 min

Siena may be a small city, but it has a lot to offer travelers exploring Tuscany. This 13th-century town is steeped in history, and is considered one of the most well-preserved cities in the region. Keep an eye out for well-known 14th century frescoes in the historic town center, which includes the 800-year-old town hall Palazzo Pubblico. You can also enjoy the city’s many wine bars, boutiques, and restaurants, which add their own element of Italian charm to this already beguiling city.

Chianti Wine Region

Florence to Chianti Wine Region Day Trip

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Florence to Chianti Day Trip: 28.5km – 35 min

Step away from the city and into the most beautiful part of Tuscany – the Chianti Wine Region. Drive past flourishing vineyards and wineries, and soak in the breathtaking Tuscan countryside in this world famous wine region. The Chianti region’s blossoming landscapes and quaint historic villages provide travelers with unique insights into rural Italian life, and an excellent venue to sample some of the region’s most well known wines and culinary fare. Some of the best-known Italian wines, such as Chianti Rufina and Chianti Colli Fiorentini, can be sampled here. And if wine isn’t your thing, the region is also photographer’s dream, with hidden parishes, rustic cottages, and, of course, the iconic rolling green hills.

Pisa

Florence to Pisa Day Trip

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Florence to Pisa Day Trip: 83.5km – 1 hour 6 min

You have probably already heard of Pisa’s famous leaning tower, and just an hour from Florence, you can go see it for yourself with ease. Construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa – designed to be a 185ft white marble bell tower – began in 1173 during a brief period of local prosperity, but due to significant foundation design flaws, construction was halted 5 years later as the tower began to sink into the subsoil groundwork, preempting the eventual 3-stage, 199 year-long build process to complete the tower. Although, the accidental lean has, in fact, made the city of Pisa a very popular tourist attraction. The city also has some other magical monuments and great historical buildings, including the city’s cathedral, the Duomo di Pisa, which features a number of impressive ancient artifacts.

San Gimignano delle Belle Torri

Florence to San Gimignano Day Trip

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Florence to San Gimignano Day Trip: 53.1km – 57 min

The small town of San Gimignano delle Belle Torri dates back to the 8th century, and is one of Italy’s most storied, and intriguing small towns. Today, 14 of the 72 medieval towers that once guarded San Gimignano delle Belle Torri’s town walls, serving both as defensive structures and symbols of wealth, remain well-preserved, and help to cultivate the towns historic and feudal atmosphere. Just outside San Gimignano delle Belle Torri, travelers can enjoy the lush countryside speckled with ancient olive groves and ambrosial vineyards as far as the eye can see. Taking a day trip to this quaint Italian town is a great way to escape the frenetic pace of larger cities, and get a glimpse into the rich history of medieval Tuscany.

Cinque Terre

Florence to the Cinque Terre Day Trip

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Florence to the Cinque Terre Day Trip: 157km – 1 hour 57 min

For slightly longer day trips from Florence Italy that promise a contrast of scenery from Tuscany, drive your Italy car rental towards the 11 miles of postcard-worthy coastline that makes up Cinque Terre. Around 2.5 hours from from Florence by car, the Cinque Terre is home to some of Italy’s most iconic and picturesque coastal villages, with gorgeous views of the ocean, and secluded hidden beaches to enjoy. Try some of the local seafood, walk the cliff-top trails, or just spend your day sunbathing at the beach – no matter what you decide, the Cinque Terre is the place to enjoy a relaxing getaway from the city.

Cortona

Florence to Cortona Day Trip

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Florence to Cortona Day Trip: 116km – 1 hour 26 min

Escape to the natural world for a day, and drive into the Tuscan countryside, navigating at your own leisure through the region’s rolling viridian hills, punctuated by ancestral villas and tranquil vineyards, as you make your way to the quiet, culturally charming town of Cortona. Perched upon a hilly summit overlooking the sylvan landscapes below, Cortona offers spectacular views of the region, that help to cultivate an authentically Italian, relaxed setting to enjoy a vacation. Cortona, surrounded entirely by heavenly Tuscan landscapes, affords travelers the most authentic view of Tuscany, which might be why the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” was filmed in Cortona.

Bologna

Florence to Bologna Day Trip

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Florence to Bologna Day Trip: 89.1km – 1 hour 22 min

Drive a little over an hour from Florence, and discover the medieval city of Bologna, an ancient metropolis famous for its unique regional culture and modern edge. Bologna is home to one of the world’s oldest universities, as well as some of the most beautifully preserved piazzas and architectural wonders, yet it also has a contemporary side to it, with portions of the city dedicated to the advancement of modern technologies and industries. Many tourists come to Bologna from Florence to try the famous “bolognese sauce”, which is said to have originated in the city, and to see the city’s famous terracotta buildings, known as “la Rossa.”

Lucca

Florence to Lucca Day Trip

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Florence to Lucca Day Trip: 78.5km – 1 hour 5 min

To this day, the city of Lucca is still surrounded by Renaissance-era walls designed by Leonardi da Vinci, and its list of attraction credentials doesn’t stop there. Lucca has a wealth of ancient and medieval architecture throughout the city, with many monuments and structures dating back to the Gothic and Roman eras. The city also has some great parks, cathedrals, and a historic old town to be explored. The whole city is best navigated by foot, as driving on the inside of the walls is reserved for residents only.

Tuscany Tours from Florence with Auto Europe

Embark on one, or all, of our recommended day trips from Florence Italy, and experience Tuscany’s timeless blossoming landscapes, architectural wonders, and world famous regional cuisine, all at a pace that best suits your travel style. Auto Europe can take care of all your travel needs long before you arrive in Florence, so the only thing you have to worry about is personalizing your vacation itinerary, and packing your bags for the ultimate Italian road trip.

(This post provided by Auto Europe)