A travelogue by Korakot Ekthanutt, Head of Marketing, Expedia Asia – Italy holds many beautiful memories for me from my very first budget-cautious visit to the many shopping trips with my girlfriends in Rome. But my trip with my family to Florence, Tuscany, will always hold a special place in my heart.
Old World Charm in Florence
Florence or Firenze, as the locals know it to be, is the capital city of Tuscany, located within the Province of Florence. Travelling with the family means we prefer to visit when the city is not overcrowded and the weather is kind, so I highly recommend travelling around April – May or September – October when the weather forecast is a nice and sunny 21 to 26 degrees Celcius.
Expert Tip: Visit Tuscany in April – May or Sept-Oct when the city is not overcrowded and the weather is sunny and kind
Florence is laden with cultural attractions and old world charm – I always feel like I’ve chanced upon a bejewelled treasure chest! And with some of the most popular attractions within walking distance, there was really no need to rent a car. I do recommend good walking shoes.
And if you prefer, you can also rent bicycles or Vespas to get around. And for those with young children, do bring along a stroller so the whole family can enjoy a leisurely walk through the lovely cobbled streets.
Art & Accommodation
The most populous city in Tuscany, Florence is home to some of the greatest Art masterpieces by the acclaimed Michelangelo and Vasari, Leonardo da Vinci, Leon Battista Alberti and many more such legends.
Bearing this in mind, I chose to stay at Hotel Bretagna for its spacious and luxuriously designed rooms (complete with motifs of Roman pillars!) and its close proximity to the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most renowned Art Museums in the world. Perched right above Tuscany’s principal river, Arno River, we could also take in the sights and sounds of this stately city right from our hotel balcony!
Majestic Attractions in Tuscany
So let’s start with Ponte Vecchio, the Medieval stone ‘old bridge’ standing sturdy right above the earlier mentioned river. Not to be confused with your regular bridge, Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno river at its narrowest point and plays host to two to three storeys of quaint shop houses boasting the glittering wares of jewellers, some of which date back to centuries before.
From here, paying homage to the majestic cathedrals is mandatory and I recommend the Il Duomo di Firenze, Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, Chiesa di Santa Trinita and Basilica di San Lorenzo (the final resting place of the principal members of the Medici family – once the de facto rulers of Florence).
Food & Restaurants in Florence
And after whiling away the hours absorbing the rich heritage this city has to offer, do take the time to indulge in some of the world’s the best wines from as low as 2 Euros a glass! Try the TNT Pub for delicious and affordable eats or step into any of the myriad of cosy cafes and restaurants for my personal favourites, the Bistecca alla Florentina (beef Steak Florentine style), a T-bone steak traditionally sourced from either the Chianina or Maremmana cattle breeds, Sagra del Carciofo Fritto (fried artichoke) and Prosciutto (parma ham) with sweet melon.
Do also make it a point to visit the Restorante Il Latini – they serve the very best of Florentine and Tuscan dishes with their daily dinner marathon feasts! From melt-in-your-mouth Crostini (toasted Italian Ciabatta) to tender roasted or grilled meats, fine pastas, pizzas and delectable gelato for you and the kids, trust me – You will be wonderfully (and happily) stuffed!
For those who intend to stay for a week or more, do head out to the countryside for even more scenic natural views and join the ‘must-visit’ vineyard tours for a relaxing evening of wine-tasting.
Travel Tips for Families
And a few additional tips for those travelling with families: try to purchase your museum and gallery tickets in advance (you can do them online too) as this would save you from joining in the long queues at the ticketing counters, do not plan too many activities a day (two to three is just about right) and do take care of your personal belongings and beware of pick pockets as you may be too busy enjoying the sights and taking care of the family to notice.
Holidays are always a treat for me and I’ve come to realise that my happiest holiday memories are those with my family. It doesn’t matter where we are, as long as we’re discovering the world together!
About the Author
Korakot Ekthanutt is the Head of Marketing of Expedia Asia and a citizen of the world. She takes frequent short trips to de-stress, discover new cultures and indulge in retail therapy with her husband and children.