Florence Blog

Find here all the interesting news, tips and thoughts about Florence. Reading this page should give you an idea what to see, where to go and eat in Florence. And some info on the lovely apartment you are about to rent!

Vacation Rentals in Tuscany

Posted by on Apr 4, 2011 in blog, Useful, Where to Stay | 0 comments

This is another guest article we got from Selina about her passion for Tuscany vacation rentals.

Tuscany is home to amazing landscapes, art that is renown around the world, and a history that rivals the greatest empires of the world. Today Tuscany has another secret up its sleeve; beautiful homes that are scattered around the countryside of Tuscany.

These vacation rental homes are secluded from the stress of daily life and provide a personal getaway to anyone wanting to get away. From apartments in Florence to huge homes in the countryside these vacation rental homes are far from ordinary.

Different locations could fit different interests. Homes in the midst of the vineyards of Italy give easy access to wine tastings and cruising through the Tuscan countryside. Apartments and smaller homes in cities and seaside towns give the ability to walk the streets of an ancient city or walk the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Golf is a big thing in Tuscany too. Golf courses seem to layer whatever land is not a vineyard. While some golf courses are part of a country club others are public and only require a fee to play.
Spa’s and hot springs are such stress relievers! In Tuscany one cannot go far without finding a spa service or a thermal bath/hot spring to release any tension. A lot of spa’s and hot springs are located conveniently close to cities such as Florence for easy access for vacationers.

One of the bigger reasons vacationing in Tuscany is so popular is the great authentic Italian food. Restaurants dot the streets in Florence, and other cities and town. These restaurants could range from small family owned businesses to huge restaurants with many locations. Each restaurant could put a unique spin on Italian food but none should be over looked!

In any small town or city in Tuscany markets come and go. At minimum there will be a market being set up at least once a week. At these markets everything and anything is sold; from hardware supplies to food to clothes. Unique souvenirs could also be found at these markets for a nice memento to remember your trip to Tuscany.

Prices could be a bit expensive but when compared to other vacation rental homes are not that bad. Prices could vary from a few hundred dollars per night for a small apartment to thousands of dollars per night for a huge home with a full waiting staff.

Getting a vacation rental home in Tuscany could turn to be the best vacation ever with all that Italy and its people have to offer. Being surrounded by authentic Italian vineyards, food, and people is second best only to actually living within Tuscany!

Villa San Francesco near Lucca

Posted by on Mar 31, 2011 in blog, Where to Stay | 0 comments

Talking about being in the lap of luxury does not always imply huge expenses. In Bagni di Lucca, near Lucca, you can stay in a fantastic private Tuscan villa for a considerably low expense. The services, amenities, care, details and location are so delicious and rich that the weekly price will seem unreasonably low. Moreover, the villa is for 10 people, with plenty of space for each guest and a large panoramic garden.

Villa San Francesco is a private villa with swimming pool in Tuscany dating back to the beginning of the 18 hundreds. It was later partly restructured in the early 19 hundreds by a wealthy American widow. The Villa benefits from an advantaged panoramic location. It is part of the little collection of houses and villas named “Bagno alla Villa”, placed in an important spot over the small health resort settlement of Bagni di Lucca.
The town spreads at the feet of the Villa and is merely a five minute walk away from the house. The health spa services are no more than 1 kilometer from the villa and may easily be reached walking through a beautiful path in Tuscan vegetation.
The villa is immersed in a typically Tuscan setting and sleeps up to ten persons. It is a superlative accommodation conceived for those looking for a calming holiday amid peaceful environs with taste in addition to other diversions nearby.

This is a luxury villa with swimming pool, of approximately 300 sqm developing on three levels.

On the ground level there is a great reception area, a dining room then a completely set kitchen, whereas on the upper story there are two double twin rooms and two double matrimonial rooms, each with their private restroom.
Moreover, on the first story there is another welcome area employed as a media lounge including a sizable HD TV, while on the following floor there are two small quarters featuring a sauna in addition to a large and comfy Jacuzzi. The embellishments of the villa, comparable to that of other Tuscan Villas from the same epoch, is incredibly chic in continuing with its 19th century essence, and is adorned with cautiously chosen details, lively materials and through a warm illumination design, which renders the villa even further enthralling. The villa stays cool even during the scorching summer season, plus it includes an efficient heating system for the cold months.
Villa San Francesco furthermore offers a superb panoramic garden with secular trees and an infinity swimming pool of 5 by 10 meters in size; both the villa and the garden have been remodeled throughout 2007 and 2008.

See the pictures, direct contacts and more of Villa San Francesco on ThriftyTuscany.com

Walking in Tuscany

Posted by on Mar 28, 2011 in blog, Nature Spots, Travelling to Tuscany, Useful | 0 comments

This is a great guest post by Giovanni, a walking vacation in Tuscany enthusiast. Thanks Giovanni!

I like to walk, it is good exercise for your wellness! I make of walking my lifestyle, so during a vacation I usually walk. Why not spending an holiday based on walking? Yes it’s possible! And it is great. You know, when you walk you have time to enjoy your surroundings, meditate and distress your mind from burdensome thoughts. Therefore the location of your hikes is fundamental!

I usually choose Tuscany for the the amazing panorama and sweet hills. You need only a good pair of shoes, a map and with a good breakfast you can make kilometers after kilometers in nature. And when you are tired, in Tuscany you can find a lot of good reasons to stop and rest. Some of these are the excellent food and wine and of course the people. Tuscans are so welcoming! The region is a good choice for an holiday with walking tours.

My last route started from Arezzo and ended in Montalcino. I followed gravel road and mule tracks for ten days. It was like spending ten days in a dream, for the famous views of Tuscany are always a spectacle. Sometimes I rubbed my eyes, but the landscape in front of me was for real. Cypress topped hills, vineyards, and olive groves. I’m not a romantic fella, but I guess romantic people will have the time of their life in this land.

From Arezzo I walked along the western flanks of the pre Apennine hills, coasting olive groves and oak woods. The superb views of the valley was astonishing! Next I descended towards the Etruscan and Medieval city of Cortona. Here I followed in the footsteps of Hannibal, past the shimmering Lake Trasimeno and through the vineyards of Vino Nobile towards the stunning hilltop town of Montepulciano.
The next stop was Pienza - the ideal Renaissance town - with its wonderful cathedral and superb vistas over the Orcia Valley. The ancient Via Francigena medieval pilgrim route brought me from Pienza to the warm welcome of the hot springs in Bagno Vignoni and next to Montalcino.

What equipment do you need for this kind of vacation? A map case (useful if you find yourself under pouring rain), full color maps of the route (a GPS is a great plus), a compass, trekking poles, mobile phones and two-way radios if you are not alone. And of course good walking shoes.
For planning a good walking holiday without troubles, it is good to read about you destination or ask a specialized travel agent. Remember, you can choose between a self-guided tour or a guided one, depending on your knowledge of the destination country and about this kind of holiday. Have a good walking tour in Tuscany!!!

Spring is Coming!

Posted by on Mar 25, 2011 in blog, Nature Spots, Thermal Spas, Towns, Useful, What to Do in Tuscany | 0 comments

As soon as the calendar hit March 21st, the weather in Tuscany started becoming warmer and days sunnier. As if someone had switched on the heating button!

After a long winter, it is nice to lighten up your clothing, not to worry so much about catching a cold, and enjoy longer light hours in the glistering sun. Even the air fills up with new fragrances, previously dulled by the freezing temperatures. The cooking scents that during winter days remained trapped inside tightly shut windows, can now roam free and meet your nostrils, enhanced by the warm air and the smell of freshly cut grass and wild flowers. What a bliss!

So what can you do to get the most out of the nice spring weather in Tuscany?
I would say, simply stay outside as much as you can. There are tons of outdoor activities to do in Tuscany. Why not a stroll in Florence’s historic center with a nice gelato in your hand? There are plenty of delicious ice cream places to enjoy (although avoid the touristic ones with the mounds of ice-cream overflowing the freezer canister). The city’s palaces turn bright under the clear sky and the city bustles with brisk pace.
The same goes for Siena, perfect for a more relaxed stroll. Cities like Grosseto, Lucca, Arezzo and Pisa should also not be missed during the warm season.

Have you ever taken into consideration truffle hunting in Tuscany? This is the season of the Marzuolo, the black truffle. Just imagine a day in open woods learning the secrets of this ancient discipline with the masters and their truffle dogs. These happy helpers scout the soil and help dig out precious pebbles that in the evening will make your dinner an unforgettable treat.

And what about thermal baths? I know, I am stressing it a lot, but I sincerely think thermal spas and baths are a true gift of nature, and the abundance and beauty of Tuscan thermal centers should be enjoyed in any season. Even the more so now that longer days afford more time to enjoy the breathtaking views surrounding these spa locations.

Moreover, this is the best time of the year in terms of accommodation pricing, tourist density and amount of fair weather days. So why not get to know the UNESCO world-heritage sites? I already mentioned Siena and Florence, but you should also visit San Gimignano, the Val d’Orcia, Pienza and of course Piazza del Duomo in Pisa.

Try to make it to Tuscany during these days. Catch a flight and be here in a few hours. There is so much to see and to do, and even a weekend here can be the crown jewel of your 2011 travel days.

Easter Offer in Tuscany

Posted by on Mar 21, 2011 in blog, Castles in Tuscany, Useful, Where to Stay | 0 comments

Easter 2011 will be on April 24, and it seems the good weather is already promising warm days and sunny skies, although it is hard to tell what will be a month from now.

However, I can tell you for sure that your stay will be discounted if you decide to spend your Easter holidays at Castello del Poggiarello di Stigliano, a splendid medieval castle that retains all the charm of the antique fasts and offers the comforts of modernity. Located near Siena, it is located in an idyllic position, perfect for your daytrips to the city of the Palio and through the countryside in full blossom!

Castello del Poggiarello di Stigliano offers an incredible discount of 20% on its Easter prices during the whole Easter period. If you would like to know more about this fabulous castle in Tuscany and contact the owner directly, visit the listing on ThriftyTuscany.com here: Castello Poggiarello di Stigliano.

There are plenty of special events in Tuscany to attend during the Easter week. The so-called “Scoppio del Carro” in Florence, a very traditional event that attracts thousands of visitors each ear. This is an event that is repeating since 1102!

Something that is definitely less ancient is the Good Friday reenactments that are ongoing all over Tuscany on the Friday prior to Easter. However, the most spectacular of all is the one in Castiglion Fiorentino, with the so called “flying Christ” and costume reenactments of the Via Crucis.

However, should you not be able to celebrate the coming Easter in Tuscany, you can always try to make it with your thoughts and help a little by cooking some special Tuscan recipes. Here is an Easter menu without lamb (the less are bought this year, the less will be slaughtered next year!), and here the delicious Schiacciata Pasquale recipe.

Take advantage of the Castello del Poggiarello di Stigliano offer for a less expensive vacation in Tuscany during the most beautiful period of the year!

“Bollito Misto” Dinner!

Posted by on Mar 18, 2011 in blog, Restaurants, Useful | 0 comments

Do you remember my post about the recipe of Bollito Misto? Do not confuse Bollito with Lesso, which is prepared with other, less noble, varieties of meat. Lesso was usually prepared by the poor people in past times. Bollito Misto was the dish of kings and noble families. Only the most nutritious and refined parts went into the pot for Bollito!

As if it was a return to the antique Tuscan traditions, it stroke me a restaurant near Arezzo offering a fixed menu Bollito Misto dinner. This is a recipe not very much en-vogue anymore. It is mainly prepared during winter festivities (mainly Christmas and New Year), although even in these occasions it has been replaced by more upbeat recipes. Therefore it was a surprise to see advertisements for this dinner.

The restaurant is “La Corte dell’Oca” (The Court of The Goose) in Subbiano, a small town in the province of Arezzo, not far from the latter. The dinner will be on March 25 at 8,30 pm.

Here the Menu:
Appetizers
Black Spleen Crostini with Vin Santo
Boiled Eggs with Green Sauce (a special sauce usually prepared with parsley, anchovies, capers and oil)
Raw Ham (Prosciutto) from Casentino

First Entry
Handmade tortellini filled pasta boiled and served in hen stock

Second Entry
Grand Bollito made with chicken, beef parts, beef tongue, beef tale, pork cotechino, veal head, and cheek.
The Bollito is always accompanied by tasty sauces (green sauce, agresto, and others), vegetable preserves in oil, and a variety of boiled vegetables, usually boiled with the meat you are eating. I almost forgot. Bollito means boiled.

The dessert is a classic Crostata di Frutta, fruit preserve pie. Coffee and digestive liquors are also included.

The food will be paired with the excellent Rosso di Montepulciano (do not confuse it with Nobile, the aged version). Rosso is a more amiable but decisive wine, more suitable for boiled meats that have lost great part of their fat contents.

The price of the dinner is just 25 Euros per person, and reservation is mandatory at +39 0575 421336 or visit their site.

I realize not many of you will be able to attend this dinner, but if you will be in the area during this period, try to make it. This is a very traditional, delicious, Tuscan dinner not to miss. If you can’t make it, just remember that such events are happening and you may want to be on the lookout for them.

PS: If you are coming from afar, the restaurant also has rooms for the night.

Happy Birthday Italy!

Posted by on Mar 17, 2011 in blog, Cultural Events, Florence, Useful | 2 comments

Today is Italy’s 150th anniversary since it became a country united under one flag. It is interesting to notice that in the country not everyone agrees with this celebration, especially those who would like to see the northern part of Italy gain its independence from the rest of the country. However, the national pride feelings prevail, and street celebrations have taken place in major cities throughout Italy since last night.

Such a young country and such a long history. We consider normal to think of Italy, the “boot” of Europe, as a single country. Although the Italic people already shared the same roots and language to some extents, there were immense differences that characterized each region. Regional dialects, sometimes more than one in the same region, were the common spoken language, and a relatively small percent shared Italian as a mean of communication. This was compounded by the strong political fragmentation of the country. The south belonged to the Bourbons with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Tuscany to the Habsburg-Lorraine with Grand Duchy Leopold II, the north was shared between the Austrian-Hungarian Empire that had the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia (Veneto and Part of Lombardy), and France that had the Kingdom of Sardinia including the island of Sardinia, great part of Piedmont and Liguria. The center, including Marche, Umbria and Lazio, were under the Vatican stronghold. A few other duchies, that of Parma, Modena and Lucca, belonged to the French and were treated as barter value in exchange for Borbonic military help in the peninsula.
Italy was therefore an inexistent concept in the mind of Italic people. They were used to changing rulers with every coming war or political treaty, always under a foreign power, and always vexed and exploited. It is easy to imagine how fragmentation, extreme poverty and deep ignorance were the most powerful weapons in the hands of foreign rulers.

What was the role of Tuscany during the period prior the unification of Italy? As already said, Tuscany belonged to the Habsburg-Lorraine. Since 1737 Tuscany had been a Grand Duchy under this family, and so it remained until 1860 with the latest grand-duchy Ferdinand IV, although it had practically been a free state since Leopold II had voluntarily and pacifically departed in 1859 from Florence among the salutations of the people. During the Napoleonic invasion of Italy Tuscany had momentarily passed under French dominion from 1799 to 1814 becoming the Kingdom of Etruria.
It must be said that Tuscany owes a considerable part of its contemporary fame to its grand duchies. Their illuminated views in terms of religion, politics, economy, liberalism, and state administration made of Tuscany ahead of all western states at the time. Death penalty and torture was abolished, first in the whole world, in 1786, and other penal reforms were brought forward. Many principles surpassed those of the ongoing French Revolution. Censorship was practically inexistent, which gave Tuscany the status of a peaceful oasis for all the great literary minds of the time, that in Tuscany found a safe land to continue their important works. This may also be the reason why above all, the language spoken in Tuscany was recognized as the official Italian language. After all it was here that Dante Alighieri wrote his Italian Vulgar masterpiece, The Divine Comedy.

As a consequence, right after unification the Tuscan people strongly supported federalization, not recognizing themselves under the new government that imposed laws and duties that on many aspects represented a step back for Tuscany. However, these feelings soon vanished. From Turin, the capital of Italy was moved to Florence in 1865, prior to the definitive institution of Rome as capital in 1870.

Happy Birthday Italy!

Ongoing Exhibits in Tuscany

Posted by on Mar 15, 2011 in blog, Cultural Events, Museums | 0 comments

The list of ongoing exhibits in Tuscany is long. From contemporary art to Renaissance masterpieces, covering subjects such as global warming, Africa, Wine, Religion, the Unification of Italy and many many other aspects of great interest. Albeit some are quite niche subjects, some of the main ongoing exhibitions in Tuscany that are soon closing should not be missed.

The most beautiful crystal collection of the world is at the Museum of Specola in Florence. The exhibit is ongoing since April 2009, and it was prolonged up to June 30th, 2012, even though it was supposed to close in October of 2009. More than 500 crystals are the private collection of Alberto Giazotto and Gerlando Bennardo with other rare examples from all over the world. The exhibit opens every day but on Mondays from 9,30 am until 4 pm at 6 euros per person.

Vinum Nostrum continues until May 15, 2011 in Florence. The role of wine and winemaking throughout the history of the Mediterranean basin and Mid East is reviewed with this successful exhibit you should not miss out.

On May first the splendid exhibit about Ghirlandaio will close. The Ghirlandaio family, as if it was an art franchise, is taken into consideration with the important role it vested during the Renaissance. The economic power of the family and their artistic influence made of them a legendary dynasty to discover between Scandicci and Florence, the entire territory the family filled up with precious art pieces.

6 hundred years ago Francesco Datini died, a person of great importance for Florence. He was the one donating the Innocenti hospital, among the most modern at the time, in Santa Maria Nuova. The city dedicated to him an exhibit with a special focus on the hospital, his donation, and his merchant abilities. Open everyday from 9 am until 7 pm.

Moving towards Lucca, the Etruscan exhibit will soon close on March 27, 2011. Located in the Palazzo di Vetro and the Federazione Antica Zecca di Lucca, it is a wonderful learning experience on the everyday life of Etruscans. Utensils, jewels, pottery, art pieces and sarcophagi make relieve this ancient Tuscan people. Open everyday but on Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm.

From the ultra antique to the ultra contemporary. On the 27th of March another exhibit will close in Livorno. It is the one dedicated to Entropy, or better, an artistic reinterpretation of our ecosystem’s changes. Ten Tuscan masters present the environment allowing the observer to really understand the complex and delicate processes that our ecosystem sustains everyday, thus also comprehending the challenges that an irresponsible behavior puts on it. Closed on Wednesdays, it is to be found at the Museu di Storia Naturale of Livorno.

Hurry up, do not miss these opportunities if you are going to be in Tuscany during the above time frames.

Tuscany The Beautiful

Posted by on Mar 10, 2011 in blog, Useful | 0 comments

This is a guest contribution from Selina. She loves Tuscan and she wanted to contribute her own way. Thanks Selina!

Italy is such a beautiful country, with areas like Tuscany that has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Tuscany’s capital is the city of Florence, and the population of the whole area is on 3.7 million, which means that there are still plenty of uninhabited or sparsely inhabited areas, leaving the vacationer with many wondrous sights to see.

This area is a truly remarkable place to travel through. Most people will tell you that Tuscany is considered the birthplace of Italian Renaissance. It has also been the home to many famous people, including Puccini, Galileo, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Dante. Many of Italy’s top art and science people have come from this lovely area.

Tuscany also has six sites that have been designated as World Heritage Sites. These consist of The Historic Center of Florence, The Historical Center of Siena, The Cathedral of Pisa, The Historical Center of San Gimignano, Pienza, and Val d’Orcia. There are also over 120 protected nature preserves in Tuscany.

If you are getting ready to plan your next family vacation, consider Tuscany, Italy as a possible location. Not only will you enjoy all the traditional and cultural places like the wine tastings, at the vineyards, but you will also enjoy the rolling hills, mountain paths, and authentic old world buildings and museums.

Getting a vacation rental in Tuscany is the perfect idea for a family vacation. If you rent a villa in some areas, you have options like a free rental car, large accommodating rooms in a family style setting, with all the architecture of Italy at your disposal. Luxurious baths, spas, babysitting services and tours make it even more fun to spend your vacation there. The vacation rentals blog can give you all the information you need on available locations in Tuscany or other locations in Italy. You can find vacation villas, cottages, apartments and other accommodations.

There are so many places that you will want to visit in Tuscany, like the Roman Baths at Fiesole, the Gothic buildings in the town of Siena, the dome of Florence’s Duomo, the vineyards and olive gardens, and the smaller, ageless towns spotted across the Tuscany area. Tuscany has all of the four seasons we see each year, but the weather in general is milder than the northern parts of our country. Spring, Summer and Fall are the best times to visit, but going during the Winter can be adventurous also.

Tuscany’s 6 World Heritage Sites

Posted by on Mar 6, 2011 in blog, Florence, Historic Places, Nature Spots, Towns | 0 comments

Tuscany’s 6 World Heritage Sites

The region of Tuscany is located in Central Italy. Tuscany is a famous region due to its beautiful landscapes, artistic legacy and wines. Tuscany is also a place filled with history – so much history that UNESCO has declared six Tuscan localities World Heritage Sites. In order for UNESCO to designate a place a cultural World Heritage Site, the place must fall within one of the following cultural criteria. One, it must represent the masterpiece of human creative genius. Two, it must exhibit an important interchange of human values. Three, it must bear testimony to a cultural tradition or civilization, whether long gone or still around. Four, it contains an outstanding example of architecture which illustrates a significant stage in human history. Five, it is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement. Six, it is associated with events or ideas of outstanding universal significance. Here is some more information on each of Tuscany’s six cultural World Heritage Sites.

The historic center of Florence – This area attests to Florence’s history as a powerful merchant city in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as well as being an testament to the achievements in architecture and art in this region. Notable buildings in this site include the 13th century Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the Church of Santa Croce, the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. You can view works by masters like Donatello, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo in this center.

The historic center of Siena – One of Italy’s most visited tourist attractions, the historic center of Sienna was designated a World Heritage Site based on the fact that the whole medieval city, much of it which still stands, was explicitly designed as a work of art. Siena has had major influence on art, architecture and town planning over the centuries. The entire city is built around the Piazza del Campo, one of the most beautiful civic spaces in Europe.

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa – Home of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, Piazza del Duomo also contains several other masterpieces of medieval architecture including a cathedral, baptistery and cemetery. These buildings had significant impact on art throughout the 11th to 14th centuries. There are twenty historic churches, several palaces and some bridges in this area as well.

The historic center of San Gimignano – Once an important relay point for pilgrims, San Gimignano was filled with tower-houses owned by rich families who controlled the town. Although many of those tower-houses are now gone, enough remain that San Gimignano still has the feel of a feudal town. You’ll also find 14th and 15th century Italian art masterpieces in this town.

The historic center of Pienza – A masterpiece of Renaissance town-planning, Pienza was designed by Bernardo Rossellino in 1459. Evidence of Rossellino’s artistic genius can still be found in the Piazza Pio II , the Piccolomini Palace, the Borgia Palace and the Pienza Cathedral.

Val d’Orcia – Val d’Orcia is region located within Tuscany that contains several towns and villages such as Pienza and Siena. It was designated a World Heritage Site in honor of being the subject of many Renaissance painters and having influenced the way landscapes were painted through history. The area has come to be seen as an icon of the Renaissance.

The best way to get around to all of these locations is a rental car but there are many of other transportation options, including trains (http://www.ferroviedellostato.it) and buses. If you get a chance to visit all of these wonderful World Heritage sites then you’ll be glad you did - but even seeing one or two is worth your time!