Sometimes going on a trip to Italy means looking at the past through the lens of the present – gazing over Roman ruins and trying to imagine what life was like so many centuries ago. And sometimes you can pretend you’re back in time, in a small way and for a short while, letting your imagination come to life. That’s just what you can do at a Renaissance court banquet in Florence.
Most of us know that when we visit Florence, one must-see is Michelangelo’s exquisite “David” in the Accademia Gallery. What many people don’t realize is that the Accademia holds other treasures, as well. In other words, don’t plan to just make a beeline for David and then back out again. Here are some of the reasons to stop and look around awhile longer.
If you’re walking along Florence’s pedestrian-only Via Calzaiouli, peering into shops and anticipating your arrival at a big museum, you could easily miss the Orsanmichele Church. You’d probably see the exterior niches decorated with sculptures, but since you won’t find a door on the main walkway you’d probably snap a photo and keep walking. Turn the corner onto Via Arte della Lana, however, and you can go inside a church with a fascinating history.
Italy has many famous opera houses – La Scala in Milan, La Fenice in Venice – but if you’re in Florence the theater to seek out is the Teatro della Pergola. Some argue it’s Italy’s oldest opera house.
Pizza, wine, and gelato are the holy trinity of Italian foods. While in Florence we had an evening filled with the area’s finest foods. Our evening starts with a tasting and knowledge about one of the many things that make the region of Tuscany famous: the Sangiovese grape. Since before mid-evil times grapes have been grown in the Tuscany region just outside Florence. Over the centuries the wine makers have perfected their craft and produce some of the finest wines in the world. If you have ever tried a true Chianti it comes from this specify part of Italy. We learned about the process of making the wine and what characteristics that make it unique. A lesson in how to taste wine follows the history of the grape and region.
The piazza in Florence to which most of us flock is the Piazza della Signoria. It’s an excellent spot for people-watching, it’s the original home of Michelangelo’s David (and still has a copy of the statue), and it’s right next to the Uffizi Gallery. But for another look at Florence’s history, head to the Piazza della Repubblica.
Florence is easily one of the best cities in Italy in which to eat gelato, and there’s no shortage of gelato shops to choose from. Perhaps the most famous gelatera in Florence – if not all of Italy – is Vivoli.
Food is such an important part of Italian culture, and meals are special moments to be shared. If you don’t have family in Italy, however, your dining experiences will all feel less personal. Luckily, some Florence residents are opening their home to visitors through unique programs that allow you to have dinner in a real Italian home. Here are some of the ways you can dine in a Florentine home while you’re on vacation.
Tuscany, a famous territory in Italy known for its beauty as well as its good food and wine, is a place full of gems hidden in the hills. It’s not easily accessible by public transport, so you have two options – renting a car, or doing bus tour day trips from a major city like Florence. As a new driver, I opted against the inevitable financial ruin that renting would have incurred upon me, not to mention the difficulty of driving on the winding Tuscan roads, and chose a day trip from Florence to Siena and San Gimignano.
Walking through Florence at any time of year, you’re made quite aware that the capital of Tuscany is nowhere near an undiscovered tourist destination. By contrast, Perugia, the capital of the neighboring region of Umbria, lives a quieter life for much of the year – and it’s an easy city to visit from Florence.