After spending 3 full days in Rome we are going to spend several days in Tuscany Region and basing ourself in Chianti.
Tuscany is a region located in central Italy, known for its beautiful landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy, attracting millions of visitors each year. Tuscany is famous for its rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves, which produce some of the world’s finest wines and olive oil. The region is also home to several historic cities, including Florence, Pisa, Siena, and Lucca, which are renowned for their art, architecture, and cultural heritage.
Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is a hub of art and culture, with world-famous museums such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery, which houses Michelangelo’s David. The city is also known for its beautiful churches, such as the Duomo and the Basilica di Santa Croce.
Pisa is another popular destination in Tuscany, famous for its iconic Leaning Tower, while Siena is known for its medieval architecture and its historic Palio horse race, held twice a year in the Piazza del Campo.
Tuscany also has a rich culinary tradition, with dishes such as pasta, pizza, and steak alla Fiorentina, made with locally sourced ingredients. Wine lovers will also appreciate the region’s famous wines, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
You will probably need one week to really enjoy Tuscany if you are into beautiful landscape and rich history. We only have four days in Tuscany so we have to choose which area we are going to explore and base ourselves.
How to get around in Tuscany
Car: Renting a car is the most convenient way to get around Tuscany, so you can explore the smaller towns and villages. There are several car rental companies in Tuscany where you can book online. Keep in mind that some cities, such as Florence and Siena, have limited traffic zones (ZTL) where cars are not allowed, so if you are based in these 2 cities you need to find accommodation with parking place and explore the cities on foot or by tram/bus. Read our tips about driving in Tuscany here.
Train: Tuscany has a well-developed railway network, with trains connecting major cities and smaller towns. The main train stations in Tuscany are Florence Santa Maria Novella, Pisa Centrale, and Siena. Train travel in Tuscany is generally affordable, and you can book tickets online from Trenitalia or at the station.
Bus: Buses are a good option if you’re traveling on a budget or want to visit smaller towns that are not accessible by train. SITA Bus routes connect most towns in Tuscany, and tickets can be purchased at the station or on board. Timetable can be viewed in their website here.
Bike: Tuscany is a popular destination for cyclists, with scenic routes through the countryside and hills. You can rent a bike from a local shop or join a guided tour. Every year Tuscany hosts L’Eroica runs, an annual vintage bicycle ride to celebrate cycling history and culture, and participants ride on vintage bikes with pre-1987 technology and clothing that is also inspired by that era. L’Eroica has become a cultural institution in Tuscany, promoting cycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation while preserving the history and heritage of the sport. The event has also inspired similar vintage rides in other parts of the world, including the United States, Japan, and South Africa.
Walk: Tuscany’s historic cities, such as Florence and Siena, are best explored on foot. Walking is also a great way to explore smaller towns and villages and enjoy the region’s scenic landscapes.
Firenze or Florence, is the capital of the famous Italian region of Tuscany. It is one of the most visited cities in Italy, attracting approximately ten million tourists every year. Firenze was founded in the year 59 BC by Emperor Julius Caesar. He named the Roman settlement Florentia and used the area as a large Roman army camp. Something you can still see in the street map of Firenze even now. Florentia was especially important, because it was on the Arno River and as a result a fertile valley for the Roman troops. After the time of the Romans, Firenze fell into several hands, as in the sixth century in the hands of the Longobards, a Germanic people. After this, Firenze became a separate city-state and in the thirteenth century it took a leading position thanks to a flourishing trade in textiles and wool, supported by its banking system
In the course of time, the power of Firenze, which lay first in the hands of guilds and later of the republic, passed to noble families. The most famous example of this is the Medici family. For three centuries, the Medici ruled Firenze and later much of Tuscany. The Medici were a banking family who helped Firenze reach its growth. During the time of the banking family, Firenze grew into the intellectual and cultural heart of Europe, where an artistic flourishing took place. Well-known names such as Dante, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Donatello and Petrarca date from this period, which we know as the Renaissance and the reason why we still have Firenze on our to do list.
Getting to Firenze
By Plane: Florence has a small international airport called the Florence Airport (FLR), also known as Amerigo Vespucci Airport. It offers flights to several European cities, and some airlines also offer direct flights from the US, such as Delta Airlines from New York. Alternatively, you can fly to the larger airports in Rome or Milan and take a train or bus to Florence.
By Train: Florence is well-connected by train to other Italian cities and Europe. There are two main train stations in Florence, the Santa Maria Novella (SMN) and Campo di Marte. You can take a high-speed train from Rome to Florence that takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes, or from Milan, it takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Our high speed train (Freccia) to Florence (Firenze) was scheduled at 08.35 and learning from taxi experience at Termini train station in Rome, this time I was smarter. I downloaded My Taxi apps to my phone and book Taxi via apps so I didn’t get ripped off again like Day 1. Our Taxi came right away and it only cost me €6.9 to Termini train station 😎 We had breakfast at the train station while waiting to see where our platform was going to be.
By Bus: Florence is also accessible by bus from other Italian cities and Europe. The main bus station in Florence is the SITA Bus Station located near the SMN train station.
By Car: If you are driving, Florence is located on the A1 motorway that runs from Milan to Naples. However, driving in Florence can be challenging due to the narrow streets and limited parking options. It is recommended to park your car outside the city center and use public transportation or walk to explore the city.
How to get around in Firenze
Firenze, is a relatively small city and walking is the most convenient way to get around, especially if you want to explore the historic city center. Many of the city’s attractions, such as the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and Ponte Vecchio, are located within walking distance of each other.
Our train from Roma to Firenze only takes 1.5 hour. Firenze main train station is called Santa Maria Novella, which is located in the city center and connects to other parts of Tuscany and Italy. We are going to explore Firenze before leaving for Chianti so we leave our belongings to the luggage storage.
There are several luggage storage options in Firenze.:
- Train station storage: The main train station in Florence, Santa Maria Novella, has luggage storage facilities located on the ground floor. The service is available daily from 6 am to midnight and costs between €6-€9 per item per day, depending on the size of your luggage. It is located on the left side of the station when you were coming out.
- Luggage storage companies: There are several luggage storage companies located throughout Florence, including Stow Your Bags, Luggage Hero, and Bagbnb. These services allow you to drop off your luggage at a designated location, such as a hotel or shop, for a fee. Prices typically range from €5-€10 per item per day. If you are going to continue your journey by SITA Bus, Stow your bag is a better option as it located just next to SITA Bus Stations, on the right side from the train station.
Duomo is less than 2km away from the train station, however heatwave already started in Firenze on the day we came so we took a bus. The bus was more like a mini bus and small enough to pass thru Firenze’s small alleys. Apart from bus, Firenze also has trams as a means of transport to get around within the city. They are operated by ATAF, and tickets can be purchased at kiosks, newsstands, or on board.
Taxis are available in Firenze, but they can be expensive, especially during peak tourist season. Like everywhere else in Italy, make sure to check the fare before getting in the taxi and ask for a receipt.
If you are renting a car to explore the region, park your car in the designated parking place outside the city center. It’s not recommended to drive in Florence’s historic city center, as many streets are narrow and restricted to residents only.
What to see and do in Firenze
Visit the Duomo
The “Duomo” in Florence, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is one of the most famous landmarks in Italy. It is located in the historic center of Florence and is considered one of the largest and most impressive cathedrals in the world.
The construction of the Duomo began in 1296, and it was completed in 1436, taking over 140 years to finish. The cathedral is renowned for its stunning Renaissance architecture, including its iconic dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The dome is the largest masonry dome in the world and is a masterpiece of engineering and architecture.
The exterior of the Duomo is covered in pink, white, and green marble, which gives it a beautiful and unique appearance. The façade was designed by several architects, including Arnolfo di Cambio and Francesco Talenti, and it features intricate sculptures and decorative elements.
Inside the cathedral, you can admire beautiful stained-glass windows, intricate mosaics, and ornate frescoes. The interior of the dome is also decorated with stunning frescoes by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, depicting scenes from the Last Judgment.
Climbing to the top of the Duomo is a must-do experience for visitors to Florence. From the top, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding countryside. The climb is quite strenuous, with 463 steps to the top, but the effort is well worth it.
Explore the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is home to one of the world’s most extensive collections of Renaissance art, including works by Botticelli, da Vinci, and Michelangelo.
Walk across the Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is a historic bridge lined with jewelry shops and is one of Florence’s most famous landmarks.
Visit the Accademia Gallery
The Accademia Gallery is home to Michelangelo’s iconic sculpture, the David, as well as other works of art from the Renaissance era.
Stroll through the Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens is a beautiful park located behind the Pitti Palace and features manicured gardens, fountains, and sculptures.
Explore the Mercato Centrale
The Mercato Centrale is a bustling indoor food market where you can sample local Tuscan delicacies.
Climb to the top of the Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is a medieval palace that serves as Florence’s town hall. You can climb to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the city.
Visit the Santa Maria Novella Church
The Santa Maria Novella Church is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture and features stunning frescoes by Giotto.
Explore the Oltrarno neighborhood
The Oltrarno neighborhood is located on the other side of the Arno River and is known for its artisan workshops, historic buildings, and local markets.
We walked our way back to the train station just after 5pm to pick up our suitcases and board our SITA Bus at the Bus Terminal, on the right side of the train station. It was such a hot day and we were thankful that the Bus has air conditioning. Fabio quickly fell asleep while Alyssa prefer to read her book.