Day Trips From

Day Trips From
Day Trips from Florence

Tips and Advise fro day trips from Florence by Road to Travel Inc.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Florence off-the-beaten-path

One of the most-visited cities in Italy, Florence can get overcrowded in summer months. However, most visitors tend to walk the same itinerary, between Il Ponte Vecchio, Il Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery leaving the rest of the city unexplored. To avoid throngs of tourists, check out our suggestions and head to see Florence off-the-beaten-path.

Views of Florence from the Bardini Gardens
Explore Oltrarno

Home to artisan businesses, the Oltrarno district is often overlooked by tourists. The little streets between the Ponte Vecchio and Santo Spirito are home to tiny workshops where generation after generation of artisans have been making elegant shoes, ceramics, handmade paper, prints painted by hand, Florentine-style jewellery and other little wonders. Most artisans allow visitors to watch them work. Here you can find excellent hand-made gifts to take home.

Chill out in the Giardino Bardini

While most visitors head to the Boboli Gardens, escape the crowds in the Bardini Gardens. This hidden gem offers a more intimate atmosphere with pretty grottos, colourful flower beds and spectacular views over the city. In summer, you can sip a coffee in the garden’s café and enjoy the surroundings that are so hard to come by in Florence.

Check out the Bardini Museum 

A real treat for art lovers, this small quiet museum houses artworks from the Middle Ages to Renaissance collected by the famous 18th century Florentine antiquarian Stefano Bardini. Admire sculptures, fine paintings, antique furniture, ceramics, tapestries as well as stone carvings and fragments of the old centre of Florence that Bardini salvaged before its reconstruction, all that without having to elbow for space as there are fewer visitors than in the more famous city museums.
Il Ponte Vecchio in the morning

Wake up early

The best time to see the Ponte Vecchio is at sunrise. The bridge is on everyone’s list of places to visit in Florence and a tourist trap by day but it is absolutely stunning and… empty early in the morning.

Parco delle Cascine

Have a picnic in the park

The largest public park in the city, Parco delle Cascine sprawls over 130 hectares along the Arno river. With 19,000 trees, huge meadows and historic monuments the park has a quiet corner for everyone. Stock up on tasty goodies at the weekly farmers’ market here and relax under the trees.

Photos via Flickr by: Andreas Jungherr, Nadia Fondelli, Francesco Maiorano.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The most beautiful castles near Florence

One of the most picturesque regions in Italy, Tuscany boasts an incredible amount of ancient castles. Some of them are well restored, others are in crumbling ruins, they are all reminders of the Tuscany’s glorious past. Take a day trip from Florence to discover some of the most beautiful castles in the region.

Cafaggiolo Castle
Cafaggiolo Castle, Mugello

Cosimo de’ Medici hired the famous architect Michelozzo to transform the original 14th century castle into a splendid villa, one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture. Here, in the Castello di Cafaggiolo, the Medici welcomed artists, royals, popes. Lorenzo de’ Medici spent his childhood here surrounded by the greatest intellectuals of that period. The castle is owned by a private consortium and is open to the public for guided tours. Visitors walk through the spectacular park with centuries-old trees, opulent grand halls, ancient Majolica ceramic kilns and learn about the castle’s rich history.

Castello di Vincigliata, Fiesole 

Once the stronghold of a noble Florentine family, the 11th century castle was almost destroyed when, in 1840, a young English Lord, John Temple Leader fell in love with the romantic ruins. He bought the castle and brought it back to its former glory with the help of many famous artisans, sculptors, masons, and painters from Florence. Today it is venue for weddings and home to a young promising winery, Testamatta, which offers wine degustations to visitors.

Castello di Vicchiomaggio
Castello Vicchiomaggio, Greve in Chianti 

Located in the heart of Chianti, the castle boasts a spectacular position on a hill overlooking the Val di Greve. Its oldest parts, some walls and towers date back to the 12th century when the castle played a strategic part in the bloody wars between Florence and Siena. Leonardo da Vinci stayed here while on his most famous masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. Today, like many other castles in Tuscany, Castello Vicchiomaggio houses a luxurious hotel, restaurant and vineyard. Guided tours of the historic cellars, beautiful Renaissance gardens and wine tastings are available for visitors.

Photos by: Massimiliano Galardi/Wikimedia Commons, Castello di Vicchiomaggio/Facebook.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The best dishes to eat in Florence

No visit to Florence would be complete without sampling the city’s hearty cuisine. The good news is that you will easily find excellent traditional food in restaurants and shops in Florence’s historic centre. The bad news is there are so many delicious things to try that choosing a dish can be overwhelming. Fear not! Here is our brief guide to the best dishes to eat in Florence.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Bistecca alla Fiorentina

The Florence-style Chianina beef steak is legendary not only because of its deliciousness but also its gargantuan size. One portion can weigh up to two pounds and only die-hard Florentines would attempt to tackle it alone. Traditionally it is served rare, so you can soak up the juices with a slice or two of fresh Tuscan bread.

Crostini di Fegato

Even if you are not a big fan of liver-based dishes, give this one a try, you might be surprised how good it tastes. Chicken liver is lightly sautéed with onions and generously spread on small slices of bread. They are normally served as appetizers in traditional trattorias.

Panini di Lampredotto
Panini di Lampredotto 

A popular street food, this one is for adventurous foodies: chopped up boiled cow’s stomach lining smothered with a parsley and basil sauce served on a bread roll. Florentines have been devouring this cheap hearty flavoursome meal since Renaissance times. You will find these sandwiches made by street vendors in kiosks and food tracks all over Florence. Watch the lampredottaio skilfully prepare the lampredotto and bite into it before it gets cold.
Schiacciata with grapes

Most typical Florentine dishes are loaded with history, and this flat bread is no exception. It has been made in the city for many centuries and comes in different versions: plain thick and soft, plain thin and crispy, with grapes, olives and there is also a sweet Schiacciata alla fiorentina cake made during the carnival period. You will find freshly baked savoury schiacciata flat bread in many good bakeries in the city. It is oily without being too greasy and is sprinkled with sea salt (unlike other Tuscan salt-less breads). 

Photos via Flickr by: Joselu Blanco, Nicolas Mirguet, Eric Parker.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A day in Pistoia

A day trip to Pistoia is a great way to escape the crowds in Florence and explore the less-known Tuscany. Located a short drive from Florence, Pistoia has managed to stay off the tourist radar despite its beautiful churches, frescoed palaces, medieval walls, ancient watchtowers and many priceless masterpieces, - almost all of that in concentrated in the old historic centre that can be explored on foot.

Pistoia’s rich past can be glimpsed as you walk along the streets. The town used to be a Gallic, Ligurian, Etruscan and then Roman settlement. Nearly 700 feet below the old town lies the longest underground path in Tuscany that will take you back to those days.

The central square, Piazza Duomo, is flanked by a beautiful eclectic mix of historic buildings. Climb up 200 steps of the 13th century basilica’s bell tower to admire panoramic views of Pistoia and the surrounding countryside. Inside the main Cathedral, Cattedrale di San Zeno, you will find a stunning treasure – a six centuries old silver altar embossed with biblical stories of the New Testament and St. James. 

Cattedrale di San Zeno
The nearby Museo Capitolare, with the Cathedral Treasury, are filled with a rich collection of 17th-century Florentine painting and priceless artefacts that were mentioned in the Divine Comedy by Dante. Another excellent museum that is worth a visit is the Municipal Museum in the Palazzo del Comune where you will find frescoes and paintings dating back to the 13th -19th  centuries.

Ospedale del Ceppo
North of the Palazzo del Comune stands a medieval hospital, the Ospedale del Ceppo, that became part of the Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, so some similarities can be observed. Linger here to admire the façade decorated with bright polychrome majolica frieze depicting scenes from the old days. If you feel like visiting another museum, head inside to the museum of surgical instruments and anatomical room. Alternatively, relax in one of the lively cafes in Piazza Duomo. For a hearty Tuscan meal check out the Bonadea restaurant located in a beautiful deconsecrated church or the charming osteria La Bottegaia, a purveyor of Slow Food.

Photos via Flickr by: Peter Visser, Franklin Heijnen, Giovanni Battista Salvietti.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Scoppio del Carro in Florence

Florence celebrate Easter Sunday with a very special event called Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), which attracts thousands of spectators. Its origins date back to the 1400s although the roots of this tradition can be traced back to the First Crusade in the 11th century when a young noble Florentine called Pazzino de’Pazzi was the first one to climb the walls of Jerusalem to raise a Christian flag after a long siege. As a reward for his courage, Pazzino’s commander gave him three stones from Christ’s tomb, which the brought back to Florence

Scoppio del Carro
The Pazzi family used the sacred stones for Easter celebrations to kindle a new holy fire that was distributed to local families as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. Nowadays, the flints are preserved in the Church of SS. Apostoli and are still used for the Scoppio del Carro event that over time has become the highlight of Easter celebrations in Florence.

On Easter Sunday, a priest lights the Easter candle using the Pazzino’s stones as flints at the Porta al Prato. They are also used to light coals that are placed in a beautifully decorated cart (“Brindellone”) equipped with fireworks. Pulled by white oxen through the city’s streets the cart delivers the Holy Fire to Il Duomo escorted by a marching band, flag throwers, city officials, clergy and a procession in historic costumes. 

Flag throwers
At 11am while the Gloria is sung in Il Duomo, a mechanical dove glides on a wire attached to the cart to ignite the fireworks for a splendid show. The pyrotechnic display lasts for about 15 minutes to the ecstatic crowd’s cheers. 

Every year Florentines hope for a good explosion of the cart as it is believed that if the ancient ritual goes smoothly and the dove lights up the fireworks, there will be good harvest and good luck for the city in the year ahead.

Photos via Flickr by: Monica Kelly, Marco Marchetti.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The charming village of Vinci

Escape the busy streets of Florence and head to the small village of Vinci in the Tuscan countryside. As many other hilltop towns in the area it is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves and is a delight to explore. However, there is one thing that makes Vinci different: its strong connection with the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci, who was born nearby in 1452 and lived here for 17 years before moving to Florence

Anywhere you go in Vinci reminds you of Leonardo:  a guesthouse called “La Gioconda”, a restaurant “Da Leonardo”. He was baptized at the lovely 13th century church of Santa Croce where you can still see the original document with a record of the event. 

The village is dominated by the beautiful 12th century Guidi castle that saw many battles in its days. Today it houses the Museo Leonardiano with a collection of wooden models and ingenious machines that da Vinci sketched in his notebooks: a bicycle, car, helicopter, parachute, tank, projection device, machine for making coins and many others. There is also the Leonardo Library in the castle that has facsimile reproductions of all of his manuscripts and drawings. 

The Guidi Castle
Just outside of Vinci is a stone farmhouse where the Renaissance polymath was born as an illegitimate child of a local small landowner and a maid. The house has been turned into an interesting interactive museum Casa Natale di Leonardo. There are three simple rooms where you can see reproductions of his drawings of the Tuscan countryside, learn da Vinci’s family history and meet a life-sized hologram of Leonardo who tell his life’s story. Over half a million visitors come to visit the Museum of Leonardo and his birthplace every year.

Colo di Cecco Santi Festival
If you happen to be in the area at the end of July, do not miss a spectacular festival and historic re-enactment of a local legend about Cecco Santi who was thrown off the castle’s tower but survived the fall by flying away. There is always a lot of good wine, food, music and fireworks.

Photos by: Bernd Thaller, Esteban Chiner, Volo di Cecco Santi/Facebook.