Take a walk through hidden Napoli with Julia of Icons Wanted!
If you want to drive out into the True Tuscan hills, taste wine and olive oil, and bask under the Tuscan sun, Chianti is the perfect place for you! It is a beautiful and romantic wine region that attracts people from around the globe and takes a little piece of each one’s heart. It’s the ideal place to stay if you want to get away and enjoy the peace in a tucked away historic villa with an easy commute into the larger cities of Florence, Sienna, Lucca, or Pisa. Chianti is a vacation spot that actually feels like a vacation and where you can simply enjoy la dolce vita. Whether your relaxing consists of wine or olive oil tasting, bike rides through the countryside or sitting by the pool at the villa, Chianti will leave you more refreshed than before you came and will keep you coming back for more!
How to get there: Depending on what you are doing in Chianti makes a difference in how you want to get there. If you are taking a wine or olive oil tour at a vineyard in the region, then it would be best to arrange transportation with the tour guide or get a car service. However, if you are exploring the city of Chianti, take the SITA bus direct for about 4 euro each way and under a 1-hour drive!
About an hour away from Florence lies the small Renaissance town of Lucca. Lucca is full of cobble stone streets, red roofed homes, and piazzas that will never get boring exploring! There are beautiful medieval walls surrounding the city that are just right for the perfect stroll around the city or to have a picnic while enjoying the views of the countryside. You cannot leave without seeing the Cattedrale di San Martino (Lucca’s Duomo). It is covered in marble and frescos on the outside while the inside does not disappoint with its beautiful stained glass. For quite a small city, it will be sure to leave a big impact.
How to get there: You can take the train from Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Florence to Lucca for about 7.50 euros and it is about a 1.25-1.75-hour trip. You can also take the LAZZI bus from the train station to Lucca’s train station and then bus depot.This trip is also about 1.25 hours. Note: there are no Sunday busses from Florence to Lucca.
Siena is one city that will leave you breathless. Standing in the middle of Piazza del Campo is a memory that I will never forget. As I watched children chasing birds, families sitting in the square eating gelato, and looking up to the tower with the bright blue sky behind it, my heart grew a few sizes bigger for this beautiful country. Siena is home to the Palio horse race and was even the setting for the James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. The Siena Duomo is definitely worth seeing. If you climb to the top of the tower, you can get an incredible view of the medieval paradise below!
How to get there: Take the SITA bus from just across the street from the Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Florence and arrive at Piazza Gramsci inside Siena’s old city walls. It takes about 1.25 hours and costs roughly 6.50-7.00 euro per ride. You may take the train but Siena’s train station is about 2km outside the center, so you would have to take a bus into it anyway. The train also is a bit more expensive, 6-10 euro, and takes 1.5 hours. Mine as well kill 2 birds with one stone and take the bus from the beginning!
Just an hour and a half east of Florence is where Cortona lies. This hilltop city overlooks both Umbria and Tuscany. This medieval city is the setting for the book and the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, and depicts the idea everyone has in their head of the true Tuscan hills. It is one of the oldest hill towns but is still up to date and very welcoming to all tourists. Cortona is definitely a town that you should lose the map and get a bit lost in to find the best hole in the wall shops and restaurants!
How to get there: Take a regional train from the Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Florence to Cortona. Tickets are about 11 euro and the ride is about 1.5 hours. No need for train reservations on a regional train.
By Kelsey Gibson
Day #1: A Gelato Tour of the City Center
Each week we will be giving you some great insider tips from team members: Cassandra, Kelsey or Giorgio who live or have lived in Bella Italia! We will even have some special guests with even more insider info so be sure to follow along! First stop: Florence for some Gelato!
Living abroad is both exhilarating and challenging. You may try your best to live by the golden rule of “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, but sometimes the hardest part is knowing where to begin. Living and working in Florence pushed me to explore the city and find some cool, unique, and local spots to eat, relax, and be adventurous. First on the list, of course, is the unforgettable Italian GELATO. We may view this delicacy as a dessert, but to many Italians this can be a midday snack, a refreshing addition to a meal or even a breakfast option for those with a sweet tooth! Today I’m going to take you on a Gelato Tour to my top 5 Gelato shops in Florence!
First key fact and most important one to remember: the shops along the streets with giant and beautifully designed amounts of gelato in the glass cases are simply for show. Just like they say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” …don’t judge gelato by its display design. Normally this means that the gelato is made with more artificial chemicals in order for it to hold shape better, not to taste better. Another tip is to look for the gelato that is held in metal tubs with tin lids. It doesn’t have to be some famous historical shop either to be real house-made Italian gelato!
Here are my top 5 Gelato Shops in Florence, Italy:
5. Grom – Close to the Duomo, this shop is famous among both tourists and locals. Staying open later than most shops around the Duomo, I often visited this shop with my local coworkers after getting off work. The crema di Grom is an original that pairs well with most flavors and is a must-try. The torroncino (nougat) is also a great unique option! Along with this being a great and conveniently located gelato stop, it is completely gluten-free and has a detailed chart on their menu for other food intolerances!
4. Gelateria dei Neri – this popular gelato shop is also in a convenient and well-known area near Santa Croce where many international students stay. It shares the street with many trendy restaurants and recognized stores that are around the world. The lines get long, but once you order, you won’t regret waiting for it. The ricotta and fig was recommended to me, and once I tasted it, I had to get it again and again!
Via dei Neri 9, 50122 Florence Tuscany, Italy
3. Le Botteghe di Leonardo– Off the path from the Central Market, you will find this quaint gelateria. Right as you walk through the door, you feel the true Italian atmosphere with original murals on the inside walls and built-in stone benches. Not only is the ambiance authentic, but the gelato is the perfect texture, the variation of flavors is creative and unique, and the taste is unforgettable. Their dessert wine flavor you can taste the ‘after dinner sweetness’. Their refreshing mint flavor tastes as though you are biting into a mint leaf rather than chewing a piece of artificially flavored gum. And their unique milk flower flavor melts in your mouth on a hot summer day. On top of their amazing flavors of gelato, they also sell cakes, popsicles, and other treats! The owner is knowledgeable, personable and willing to answer any questions and let you try any flavor!
2. Gelateria Santa Trinta – This was one of the first gelaterias I had ever visited in Italy and, man was I spoiled! Not only does the line go out the door and around the corner to wait for the immaculate flavors they make, the view of the Ponte Vecchio and the fresh air from being right above the Arno River makes the experience that much better! They have 38 flavors at a time and are known for their dark chocolate flavor. I have never been able to pick just one favorite because each flavor leaves an exceptional memory that you will have to go back for over and over again.
1. Gelateria della Passera- Finally, my favorite gelateria of all time is this precious and authentic gem found on the other side of the river in the ‘Oltrarno’ neighborhood. This hole in the wall sells the freshest, most mouthwatering, authentic gelato in all of Florence. They always have new flavors, and even though the variety is limited day to day, the flavors do not disappoint. Their lavender flavor cannot be found in other well known gelaterias, at least not to the quality Gelateria della Passera holds. This place will change any expectations you had and raise the bar for your future endeavors.
Hope this tour has gotten your mouth watering and taste buds churning in hopes to one day try these out if you haven’t already!
What’s your favorite gelato flavor/shop you have been to? If you don't have a favorite sign up for one of Travel Italian Style's upcoming tours and we'll be sure to help you create your own list because isn't gelato the best?!
Kelsey is the Part Time Assistant Travel Consultant for Travel Italian Style and a student at the University of Mississippi studying Hospitality Management with a minor in Spanish and Business Administration. Kelsey took part in an exchange program in Argentina in high school, which created a flourishing passion for travel and learning about other cultures. From then on, she took every advantage to study abroad and backpack around Europe. This past summer, Kelsey interned for a local restaurant, Touch, in Florence, Italy and fell in love with the Italian culture. She was able to have a real local experience by making friends with coworkers and locals. She wants to make it possible for everyone who travels to be completely immersed into the culture in order to gain another perspective and to be able to enjoy life even more!