Picturesque towns, rows of vineyards, rustic farmhouses and a rich artistic heritage has long held Tuscany to be an irresistible attraction. We ask Public Relations Manager of iconic Tiffany & Co., Kate Bucceri, who recently explored Tuscany amidst her wedding celebrations to share her top selections of this rural and romantic landscape in Italy.
What can one expect as a first-time visitor to Tuscany?
There is no place like Tuscany – it’s the best Italy has to offer rolled into one area – food, vineyards, landscapes, history and culture. Florence is my favourite city in the world and the best place to base yourself to explore Tuscany with short day trips.
What top three hotels do you recommend staying in?
To live like a local and get away from the crowds in Florence I recommend Palazzo San Niccolo in the San Niccolo neighbourhood. The area is on the other side of the River Arno and full of art galleries, boutiques, bars and restaurants. Palazzo San Niccolo also has the most incredible secret garden in the back of the hotel, perfect for enjoying a relaxed aperitivo before dinner.
The second place is AdAstra Hotel Particuler. The hotel overlooks the largest private garden in Europe and only has a small amount of rooms styled in a unique way.
Finally, a couple of nights in Lucca is an absolute must. Pretend you live there and stay in any Airbnb inside the garden walls.
What are some of your favourite dining and restaurant destinations?
La Ménagère - cool concept store with a cocktail bar, restaurant, florist and homeware store located in the most spectacular vaulted 16th century palazzo. They have a long dining room that fits 60 people where I recently held my wedding reception. Go for a cocktail and tapas or breakfast.
Gustapizza - best pizza in Florence hands down. Grab a pizza and a bottle of wine and sit on the steps of the Basilica Santo Spirito, a church in a busy piazza that often has live music and great people watching.
Ino Panino - tiny but popular panino shop right near the Uffizi Gallery. The menu is written on a scrap of butchers paper daily but if they have it, try the truffle panino with fresh truffle, soft cheese and ham.
Mercato Centrale - similar to an indoor farmers market, the Mercato Centrale has some of the best produce Tuscany has to offer and a large food hall above with lots of different options.
Zeb - this restaurant was such a good find I am reluctant to share but it was honestly the best pasta I have ever had. It’s a tiny bar restaurant tucked around the corner in San Niccolo with a grumpy owner but worth it for the food. I would recommend to book or go early to put your name down as it only fits 15-20 people.
Il Santo Bevitore - very romantic restaurant in Santo Spirito great for a fancier night out and if you get sick of eating pizza and pasta. Also has a great wine bar next door that spills out onto the street with a great vibe.
Home to the world’s most recognisable Renaissance art and architecture, what are the cultural and historical landmarks on your must-see list?
Uffizi Gallery - a must see, the Uffizi holds the largest collection of Italian Renaissance art in the world. Recommend going early as the queues are always very long.
Ponte Vecchio - of course very touristy but you can’t go to Florence without walking over. The gold jewellery for sale on the bridge is also worth a peek – very Italian!
Boboli Gardens - if you are a sucker for Italian gardens, the Boboli Gardens are one of the best. Best later in the day, after visiting make your way up through the rose garden to Piazzale Michelangelo and watch the sunset.
Duomo di Firenze - in the heart of the city you can’t miss it but the Duomo is absolutely breathtaking and personally my favourite. The sheer size of it will leave you in absolute awe!
Piazzale Michelangelo - the perfect location to watch the sunset over Florence with a bottle of wine and listen to live music.
Are there any beautiful homeware, fashion or lifestyle boutique finds?
The Gucci Museum - incredible experience for any fashion lover. The museum gift shop is next level and offer the best souvenirs.
Santa Maria Novella - one of the oldest pharmacies in the world with a great selection of their own brand and luxury fragrances.
What are favourite activities?
Florence is a world heritage site so it means there are no cars in the city centre, making it perfect to explore on foot. I love to walk along the River Arno that runs through the centre of Florence dividing it into two sides. Do the touristy side for the first couple of days and then spend a couple of days exploring the local side – mainly Santo Spirito & San Niccolo. The pace seems to be slower in Florence than in other popular places in Italy like Rome and it’s a great city to just take it all. Take a leaf out of the local’s book and do a daily ‘passeggiata’, a leisurely stroll in the evening for the purpose of socialising!
Are there any local getaways around Tuscany you can pair this region with?
Lucca is an absolute must see and if you can it is worth spending a few nights. It is impossibly beautiful, still reflecting the medieval age and most famous for its fully intact city walls that still encircle it creating a large green space. Because the historic centre is enclosed by city walls, Lucca has managed to preserve its history and architecture. Everywhere you go in Lucca’s old town reflects a look of a city from centuries ago - it’s like stepping back in time and feels very magical.
What is the most unforgettable thing to do in Tuscany?
Experience the history of the area by visiting the art galleries, walking the ancient cobblestone streets and exploring the medieval towns in Tuscany. The food, wine and gelato are also pretty unforgettable.
Any insider tips?
I would recommend travelling in the shoulder seasons (May and late September), Florence can be extremely busy in peak season and very hot. Walking around for hours in 30 degree plus heat is not very enjoyable!
What are your style travel essentials?
Flat sandals or espadrilles for all of the walking on the cobblestones, a chic hat, lots of gold jewellery and a linen sundress.