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Florence, the Capital of Renaissance Art and Architecture

On our way from Assisi to Florence, we first visited Perugia, a city that goes back to the Etruscan period. The sites of interest include Piazza IV Novembre, the San Lorenzo Church and the Palazzo dei Priori. Perugia is also known for its university and its Baci Perugina chocolates.


Our next stop was in Castellina in Chianti, an ancient town near Siena. Castellina is in the heart of the Chianti region. It has an impressive fortress and typical medieval streets.


We checked in at our hotel in Florence at the end of the afternoon. We stayed for the first time at the Westin Excelsior, a beautiful property on the Arno River near the famous Ponte Vecchio. The building has an impressive Renaissance architecture. It was once the house of Carolina Bonaparte, the sister of Napoleon. The interior still feels like you are staying at private estate. They have a great restaurant and a rooftop bar with impressive views and sunsets.


We have been in Florence many times and we decided to dine near the hotel in one of Florence’s most authentic restaurants, the 13 Gobbi. We had visited this Tuscany trattoria before. We sat in their winter garden and tasted regional food.

We spend our first day in Florence walking in the city and sightseeing. The weather was beautiful and we decided to take a tour around the city in a pedicab. As we had visited the churches and museums before, it was a great way to further discover the city. We saw again all the classics. The Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria, the Piazzale Michelangelo and its wonderful views, the Galleria degli Uffizi, the Basilica di Santa Croce and of course the iconic Ponte Vecchio.


We were back at our hotel in the afternoon. We were on our balcony enjoying the view on the Arno when we noticed a wedding taking place near the piazza at the Chiesa di Ognissanti. We took photos and videos from our balcony. After the ceremony we went down to the square and were able to find the email address of the groom through one of his friends. The groom was French and we were able to share our photos with him and his bride upon our return to the States. What a beautiful wedding they had!


We took a taxi and went to dinner at Trattoria Za Za, located near the Central Market of San Lorenzo. They serve great Tuscan dishes, pasta and Osso Buco. It’s a trendy venue and it can get crowded. A reservation is recommended, especially during weekends.


The next day we took our car for another day in the Chianti region. We started in the town of Radda, where we visited the Palazzo dei Podesta and the Church of San Niccolo. Our second stop was Colle di Val d'Elsa, which for centuries has been the capital of crystal. There are a lot of artisan workshops and even a Crystal Museum. The town has a lot of hotels and restaurants. One of them, Arnolfo is a 2 Michelin Star restaurant and a member of Relais & Chateaux.

Our next stop was in San Gimignano, a hill town famous for its skyline of medieval towers. It’s a destination that cannot be missed. However, these days it can get very crowded, so I suggest to avoid weekends. They built a parking outside the walls of the city and you have to walk. You can drive to some of the hotels and drop your luggage, but you have to park at the city’s main parking. If you are lucky, your hotel will have a free shuttle and pick you up at the parking. San Gimignano has a lot to offer when it comes to shopping and dining. You can spend a full day there.


On our way back to Florence, we were driving off roads when we noticed a sign saying that we were approaching the vineyards of Chianti Castello di Gabbiano. The castle is now a hotel, but you can stop for a tour and a wine tasting. It’s near Greve in Chianti, a village with a great square full of little shops and trattorias. For our last night in Florence, we had dinner at Buca Mario, a restaurant known for its Florentine Bistecca and for its pasta. They opened in 1886. This buca (the name by which any typical Florentine restaurant housed in a basement is known) is based in the sixteenth-century Palazzo Niccolini and counts celebrities such as Anthony Hopkins, Billy Joel, Justin Bieber, Kirsten Dunst and Andrea Bocelli among its patrons.


On our way from Assisi to Florence, we stopped in Castellina in Chianti, an ancient town near Siena. Castellina is in the heart of the Chianti region. It has an impressive fortress and typical medieval streets.


We checked in at our hotel in Florence at the end of the afternoon. We stayed for the first time at the Westin Excelsior, a beautiful property on the Arno River near the famous Ponte Vecchio. The building has an impressive Renaissance architecture. It was once the house of Carolina Bonaparte, the sister of Napoleon. The interior still feels like you are staying at private estate. They have a great restaurant and a rooftop bar with impressive views and sunsets.


We have been in Florence many times and we decided to dine near the hotel in one of Florence’s most authentic restaurants, the 13 Gobbi. We had visited this Tuscany trattoria before. We sat in their winter garden and tasted regional food.

We spend our first day in Florence walking in the city and sightseeing. The weather was beautiful and we decided to take a tour around the city in a pedicab. As we had visited the churches and museums before, it was a great way to further discover the city. We saw again all the classics. The Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria, the Piazzale Michelangelo and its wonderful views, the Galleria degli Uffizi, the Basilica di Santa Croce and of course the iconic Ponte Vecchio.


We were back at our hotel in the afternoon. We were on our balcony enjoying the view on the Arno when we noticed a wedding taking place near the piazza at the Chiesa di Ognissanti. We took photos and videos from our balcony. After the ceremony we went down to the square and were able to find the email address of the groom through one of his friends. The groom was French and we were able to share our photos with him and his bride upon our return to the States. What a beautiful wedding they had!


We took a taxi and went to dinner at Trattoria Za Za, located near the Central Market of San Lorenzo. They serve great Tuscan dishes, pasta and Osso Buco. It’s a trendy venue and it can get crowded. A reservation is recommended, especially during weekends.


The next day we took our car for another day in the Chianti region. We started in the town of Radda, where we visited the Palazzo dei Podesta and the Church of San Niccolo. Our second stop was Colle di Val d'Elsa, which for centuries has been the capital of crystal. There are a lot of artisan workshops and even a Crystal Museum. The town has a lot of hotels and restaurants. One of them, Arnolfo is a 2 Michelin Star restaurant and a member of Relais & Chateaux.

Our next stop was in San Gimignano, a hill town famous for its skyline of medieval towers. It’s a destination that cannot be missed. However, these days it can get very crowded, so I suggest to avoid weekends. They built a parking outside the walls of the city and you have to walk. You can drive to some of the hotels and drop your luggage, but you have to park at the city’s main parking. If you are lucky, your hotel will have a free shuttle and pick you up at the parking. San Gimignano has a lot to offer when it comes to shopping and dining. You can spend a full day there.


On our way back to Florence, we were driving off roads when we noticed a sign saying that we were approaching the vineyards of Chianti Castello di Gabbiano. The castle is now a hotel, but you can stop for a tour and a wine tasting. It’s near Greve in Chianti, a village with a great square full of little shops and trattorias.


For our last night in Florence, we had dinner at Buca Mario, a restaurant known for its Florentine Bistecca and for its pasta. They opened in 1886. This buca (the name by which any typical Florentine restaurant housed in a basement is known) is based in the sixteenth-century Palazzo Niccolini and counts celebrities such as Anthony Hopkins, Billy Joel, Justin Bieber, Kirsten Dunst and Andrea Bocelli among its patrons.


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