Florence & Chianti Countryside: Vacation Pairing at its Best!

August 06, 2013

Driving along ancient roads that wind among rolling hills, past sloping vineyards and twisted olive trees you arrive at one of Italy’s most enchanting cities: FLORENCE – a paradise of food and wine, art and fashion, set in the Tuscan hills. 

There are many alluring reasons to visit Florence. For some it’s to shop and marvel at Renaissance treasures, while for others it’s to sip Chianti in the charming countryside. Lucky for travelers, in less than a half hour you can leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind for some quiet calm in the Tuscan countryside for a perfect holiday that incorporates the best of both worlds.

Florence is a poetic feast for the eyes, a romantic “outdoor museum” that magnificently showcases the most iconic architectural and artistic monuments of post-medieval times. It is the birthplace of Renaissance art, modern poetry, and home to Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Primavera. Strolling the streets of this città d’arte is an intoxicatingly pleasurable experience, but if time is of the essence, here’s a list of must-see attractions: the Duomo and its Baptistery; the Uffizi Gallery (don’t miss the Botticelli room); the Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti (be sure to venture into the mid-16th century Boboli Gardens behind the Pitti Palace.They are filled with lavish statuary, fountains and exquisite sceneries); the Piazzas della Signoria and della Repubblica; the glittering Arno River from the Ponte Vecchio; and panoramic views of the city and famed Duomo top from Piazzale Michelangelo. The Basilica di Santa Croce is also worth the visit (it is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini). Travelers can check out various on-site tours of these sites to get the most out of the experience.

Florence is also home to world-class designers Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and Salvatore Ferragamo. Be sure to go shopping on Via Tornabuoni, Via Calimala and Via Calzaiuoli (also the setting for the city’s evening passeggiata); explore the leather stalls of the San Lorenzo market; and visit the city’s biggest open market – Mercato delle Cascine. In the Piazza della Signoria you can even visit the Gucci Museum.

After a few days of taking in the magical city views it’s time to head out into the Chianti countryside to unwind, indulge in superb Tuscan food, visit some of the region’s most prestigious wineries, and perhaps treat yourself to a pampering spa treatment. Many old farm houses and villas have been redesigned into beautiful hotels with infinity pools overlooking the enchanting Tuscan countryside. They provide the perfect setting to relax and they’re also a great place from where you can explore the surrounding villages and vineyards.

Eating in Tuscany is a delicious, earthy experience. Food is prepared simply using fresh ingredients. Specialities include crostini toscani (Tuscan chicken liver pâté), the bistecca alla fiorentina (Tuscan steak), pappa al pomodoro (tomato- based bread-and-olive-oil-bolstered soup), ribollita (hearty soup that combines a white bean puree with a blend of vegetables), and castagnaccio (chestnut cake). Of course no meal would be complete without tasting the region’s famed extra virgin olive oil, cheese and wine!

With hundreds of wines to taste in the Chianti region, the list of wines and vineyards is endless. Standout vini include Chianti, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the Super Tuscans. Some prestigious wines are Tignanello and Sassicaia, Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano. With few variations on the fermenting processes in this region you’re better off selecting two or three vineyards for a full tour. Some recommended wineries are Castello di Verrazzano, Casa Emma, Barone Ricasoli Brolio Castle, Castello di Vicchiomaggio, and Panzanello. For the remaining tasting, make your way to an Enoteca and partake in a degustazione of wine, cheese, salame, grappa, olive oil and other Tuscan specialties. (Tip: It’s always a good idea to contact the vineyard ahead of time to book an appointment or find out their hours of operation. After all, things operate differently in Italy.)

Tuscany is a region that ignites the senses and leaves you feeling inspired and renewed. A place where time produces things of value and perhaps it is in this same philosophy that visitors are able to immerse themselves in the Tuscan way of life and take time to enjoy life’s true pleasures: art, poetry, food, wine and glorious landscapes.

Clockwise from top left: Casa Emma, Castello di Vicchiomaggio and Ribollita soup.


CASA HOWARD FLORENCE is an elegant mansion offering great service at affordable prices. Plus it’s located close to Santa Maria Novella train station and Florence’s Renaissance glories.

Owned by Florence’s first family of fashion, the Ferragamos, HOTEL LUNGARNO offers unbeatable views over the Arno river and the magical city of Florence.

Proudly nestled on the hillside of Fiesole, the 15th century luxurious HOTEL IL SALVIATINO offers inspirational views of Florence and the rolling Tuscan landscape.

CASTELLO DEL NERO BOUTIQUE HOTEL AND SPA is a luxurious sanctuary set in the heart of Chianti wine region. This wonderful setting is so enchanting you may never leave.

Enjoy Chianti’s renowned wine, wonderful landscape and culture from the comfort of VILLA LE BARONE; an ancient manor house in an oasis of serenity.

The luxurious 15th century Hotel Il Salviatino offers enchanting views over Florence and the Tuscan hills.

What could top dining alfresco with magnificent views of the city’s iconic Ponte Vecchio and Arno River? Nothing! So make sure to pre-book a table at BORGO SAN JACOPO where simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Book your table at Borgo San Jacopo for delicious food with an inspiring view of the Arno River.
OSTERIA DEL CAFFÈ ITALIANO is located in a 13th century palazzo and serves up local classics. The restaurant has one of the most extensive and carefully composed wine lists in Florence, so make sure to try great wines not available at home.

When the daily menu has been the same for a century and the trattoria walls proudly display its legendary guests, you know you’ve stumbled upon a gem - welcome to SOSTANZA! Note: Many locals still refer to it by its former name Troia. 
CANTINETTA ANTINORI is located in the Antinori mansion in the historic center of the city. Food is prepared using many ingredients which come from the Antinoris’ estates. Enjoy a glass of the rarest, most expensive vintages from the Tuscan estates where the Antinoris have been making wine since the 14th century.

COCO LEZZONE (Florentine for "dirty apron") is a tiny trattoria serving up authentic Florentine food for over 60 years. So good, it’s a favourite spot for the city’s soccer team.

The Chianti countryside is located in the rolling hills between Florence and Siena. Important locations for wine production and tasting are Bagno a Ripoli, Castellina in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Impruneta, Radda in Chianti and towards Siena: Colle Val d'Elsa, Monteroni d’Arbia, Murlo, Rapolano Terme and Sovicille.

There are daily flights into Florence’s Vespucci airport from most Italian and European cities. Florence is also easily accessible by train and bus. If you are comfortable driving in Italy, why not rent a car and drive? The scenery here is breathtaking!  

Look for this article in the current issue of Panoram Italia Magazine.

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