This is a long one.
In July, I spent two weeks travelling around Tuscany with my family, and it was enough to seriously consider packing my bags and buying a one way ticket to Florence. Here are the outfits I wore, the places I went, and my recommendations for your next visit to Italy! NOTE: click on the images to enlarge/view captions.
This was the first stop on our trip. I have a relative that lives just outside of the tiny, hilltop town of Tarquinia, home of the ancient Etruscans. In Lido, which is a fifteen minute bus ride away from the main downtown core, is the beach town that we stayed in. Along one strip of road you’ll find the town’s restaurants, beaches (beach chairs are available for rent within most restaurants and cafes. I would recommend doing this; wifi is included in the rent!). While there is some shopping and sightseeing in Tarquinia, I think the main attraction is the beautiful beach on the Mediterranean Sea.
While I was in my bathing suit about fifty percent of the time, here are some of the outfits I wore. Tarquinia is cool in the evenings and hot and breezy during the day, which made accommodating for the Tuscan heat factor a little bit easier when it came to dressing. If you’re going downtown, I recommend hiking to the highest point of the main streets. The view is breathtaking.
Downtown Tarquinia does have eclectic boutiques for shopping! What you’ll find here is different from the typical leather bags from the Florence leather market (more on that later). This top (below) is from a boutique in the city. There aren’t many, and fairly tucked away on little streets in small spaces, but they guarantee really great finds!
Stop #2 was Florence, my absolute favourite city that I’ve visited in Italy thus far. We spent nearly a week here and there was so much to do, despite claims I’ve heard stating that Florence could be covered in a day. We skipped most of the museum stuff; I’ve been to Florence before and would recommend the Uffizi Gallery and the Museo di Gucci (under renovation until November 2017…sad). We stayed in an AirBnB just about a mile away from the Duomo, and the place was an absolute gem.
The great thing about Florence is that, if you walk everywhere and all day, you can eat two full meals (I’m talking at least three courses and wine) a day (and coffee/biscotti in the morning) and still lose weight. It’s so hot and the city is small, so there’s hardly a need for cars to get around anywhere.
Here are my top places to eat:
- Amblé (left): a hip, trendy bar hidden in the Piazza dei del Bené where you’ll find lots of well dressed locals. This is also my favourite part of Florence, since it’s just a step away from high end stores and boutiques.
- Osteria del’OK (right): this place has great pasta and a beautiful, modern design. We came here twice, and the second time we got complimentary caffe frappé. The servers can sometimes be a little too eager or grumpy
- Amorini Panini: this gem is located close to the Duomo on Via dei Servi, and epitomizes a classic, Italian takeout meal. For less than ten euros, you can get a sandwich and a large glass of wine (you’re in the Chianti Classico region, so I’d recommend going local).
- Eataly: This concept store is gradually taking over North America, and for good reason. It’s an expensive but authentic Italian dining experience made available to bring home. I’d recommend eating at the restaurants there. There’s an amazing fixed menu worth trying, and if you’re going closer to the weekend I would make a reservation!
- Ristorante San Michele All’Arco Firenze: this is a tiny little place located on Via dell’Oriuolo, in the trendy Santa Croce neighbourhood, that prides itself in sustainability and freshness. Their food is grown and raised on a farm just outside of Florence (more on that later), and even the simplest dishes (I got fresh pasta with tomatoes, a little cheese, olive oil, and salt) taste wonderful.
Recommendation: have wine with every meal and try an Aperol Spritz at least once when the afternoon gets too hot!
For gelato and other sweet options (which I had AT LEAST once a day…not including dessert after dinner)
- Grom: arguably one of the best gelato we had in Florence. We’ve been to ridiculous, mediocre gelaterias that charged six euros for one gelato (almost $10). Grom is not like that, and they even have paleta-like dairy-free options. It’s a chain store in Italy, so there is at least one in each major Italian city. In Florence, Grom is located on a tiny side street just by the Duomo. It’s easy to miss.
- Amorino: Yes, this is the place that makes flower shaped gelato. If that’s not enough to convince you, it’s on Via del Corso, which is a hop away from the Duomo.
- Don Nino: A fairly touristy but satisfying gelato and cafe right next to the Duomo. This is a great spot to get wifi, coffee, affogatto, and sit down for a while.
- Venchi: You’ve seen them at Duty Free stores and at Eataly in NYC, but there’s way more to the actual Venchi stores around Italy. Firstly, if you think you like Nutella, you’ve never experienced a true hazelnut spread until you’ve tried the one at Venchi. It’s just a few simple ingredients (and olive oil, which I think makes it so good), but they only sell this spread in the store because it’s bottled at each facility. So go for ice cream, to stare at the chocolate walls in the store, or the individually wrapped chocolates; I recommend getting a sample of this hazelnut spread from someone working at the store (which conveniently pours out of a fountain), and then bringing back as many large containers of it as you can.
- Boutique Nadine: This was my favourite store in Florence, and I went back at least four times and bought something new each day. It’s fairly pricey, but the pieces are beautiful and the store looks so perfectly curated. It’s located in my favourite neighbourhood, in the Piazza dei del Bené. The pants pictured above are from here.
- Melrose Vintage: My favourite thrift store. You can bargain a little for the prices of things! It’s definitely one of the less expensive stores compared to Boutique Nadine, but still a little steep for some of the things they’re selling. I got these amazing white jeans and a crop white top there, and ended up speaking to the lady for so long (practicing my horrible Italian) that she gave me a discount card to use at both their locations! The location I went to is on Largo Fratelli Alinari
- Marie Antoinette: a high end vintage collection apparently owned by stylists. It’s also in the Piazza dei del Bené and is worth a walk through even just to window shop.
- Florence Leather Market: a popular tourist spot, and hard to miss. Make sure you bargain for things and double check that what you’re buying is actually leather. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and buy something that turns out to be faux leather. Two reliable places that I go back to are Massimo’s (just on a side street parallel to the main leather market street) and Roberto’s (either Roberto or his sister Leila
What I wore:
CASTELLO DI MONTEGUFONI
This hilltop getaway is just a 40 minute drive outside of Florence (the driving outside of the city is only half as terrifying). The expansive, suite/apartment-style hotel boasts one of the best and most memorable dining experiences I had in Italy. Check them out here.
A lot of visitors at the Castello stay for a while and make day trips around the Tuscan countryside. We were only there for three days, so our number of day trips were limited. Here’s what I recommend:
Visit the Fattoria San Michele a Torri: The farm to table restaurant I recommended in Florence actually allows you to visit their facilities. You can go for picnics, explore the farms, and more, but I recommend the wine tasting. They are located on the border of two wine regions: Chianti Classico and Chianti Colli Fiorentini, so they can produce two varieties of Chianti wine. I know very little about wine and flavours, but the tour guide’s expertise made me feel pretentious enough to smell vanilla, cinnamon, and red berries out of something made from grapes. Call it confirmation bias.
Make a day trip to the medieval town of San Gimignano: This place had even better shopping than Florence, especially for shoes. I got these amazing snakeskin boots with floral embroidery, and I love them so much I could sleep in them. If the Florence leather market doesn’t suit you, then the more artisanal, raw vibe of the leather boutiques in this little town just might. They’re far more expensive, though. If you walk all the way up the main street, you’ll find Gelateria Dondoli. This is some of the best gelato in the world. Unbeknownst to me before visiting, there’s a gelato world cup, and this place was part of the Italian team. So yes, it’s really good. Get at least one gelato here at the start of your day, and another one before you leave.