We are just about to conclude our second full week in Italy and have spent the last 7 days in Florence and Tuscany. I have so many fulfilling experiences to share though, that I am going to focus this week's article on just Florence and next week, just Tuscany. I am overflowing with content as well as cheese and truffles.
Top 5 - Florence, Italy
1. Villa San Michele, a Belmond property (above and below)
Villa San Michele is a stunning historic residence located in Fiesole, a picturesque hillside town just outside of Florence. The exquisite villa was originally built in the 15th century and has been beautifully restored to preserve its Renaissance charm. The property is famous for its breathtaking gardens, which offer panoramic views of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. Villa San Michele also houses a museum showcasing art and artifacts, and oh yes, it's an exceptional luxury hotel and restaurant. Thank you to our connections at Belmond for allowing the J5 Team to experience the property fully.
2. The Duomo (above and below)
Any skyline view of Florence is dominated by The Duomo, officially known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. It is one of the most renowned architectural and artistic masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance and a symbol of the city, but it's not until you get up close that you realize the true scale of the edifice. The construction of the cathedral began in 1296 and was completed in 1436.
The exterior is adorned with intricate marble facades, elaborate Gothic and Renaissance details, and a beautiful bell tower called Giotto's Campanile. The interior of the cathedral is equally impressive, featuring frescoes, stained glass windows, and ornate sculptures, including works by some of the most prominent artists of the era.
Intrepid visitors can climb to the top of the dome for breathtaking panoramic views of Florence, and the interior houses various chapels and notable artworks. It really is a must-visit for those interested in history, art, and architecture.
3. Palazzo Gondi (above and below)
The most special experience in Florence for us was an exclusive private tour with Gerardo Gondi in his ancestral home. And when I say exclusive, we were the only 3 visitors that day.
This is a family that at one point hosted Leonardo da Vinci within their walls and has history dating back to the Middle Ages. They originated in Florence and became prominent during the Renaissance period. The family's influence was tied to the Medici family, and they were involved in various political and cultural endeavors. Catherine de' Medici, a member of the Medici family, married into the Gondi family and they played a significant role in the politics and culture of their time, particularly in France and Italy.
Check out the view below from just one of the rooftop terraces.
4. Food and Wine (above and below)
"Wine windows" or "buchette del vino" in Italian are small, shuttered openings that can be found on the facades of many historic buildings in Florence, especially in the old town center. The tradition of wine windows was a way for wine producers to sell their wine directly to customers on the street. Several are still in operation today!
As for the food it is just too difficult to describe how good it is. I think it comes from the Italian passion for fresh, organic ingredients all the time. We have of course enjoyed pastas and gnocchis, too many cheeses, prosciutto and bresaola, and have mildly overindulged on truffles.
5. Hotel Il Tournabuoni (above and below)
We have a fairly long list of high end Florence hotels we can recommend and the mix between classical Italian or more modern, large to boutique, major brand to independent, is the reason why we have to listen to our clients wishes intently. We advise when appropriate of course but always let the client guide us to the right recommendations.
Il Tournabuoni is very centrally located fairly new Hyatt Unbound Collection property and we all loved it. Italian charm but with modern style throughout. Highly recommended and a good price range for a 5-star property.
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I love travel and I love travel planning just as much and I am proud to have built a team as passionate about exploring the world as myself. It took me a very long time to align my career with my undeniable passion for exploring, but now I and the team are here for you. Your personal travel tailors - award reservation and luxury custom itinerary experts. We provide a bespoke service, imagining and creating itineraries for independent minded families and groups.