How can you get the same unique travel experience that takes you away from the crowds and off-the-beaten-track, but still visits the must-see sites and places in Florence and around Tuscany? We all want to discover the best-kept secrets, but tourist attractions are usually things you can’t miss for a reason. Most of the time, they include historical monuments and UNESCO World Heritage sites.
If you have the time, you do both. If you have to cut your vacation short, you mix up the must-see with the must-experience, and you let your trip highlights be the memories, not the moments, captured.
Here are five ways to transform your trip from a stock itinerary to a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Enjoy a Rooftop View of the City
There’s no doubt the views from Piazzale Michelangelo are worth taking the time to see (as well as the hike, if you’re up for it!) But Florence is also home to countless rooftop terraces that offer the same sweeping panorama of the famous Florence skyline. Wash down a fabulous Florentine steak or pappa al pomodoro with a visual sip of the Ponte Vecchio, the Santa Croce Church, and the dome-peaked Cathedral all in one sweeping glance.
Plunge in Warm Waters
Got a day to spare and willing to venture out a little bit? Turkey’s Pamukkale isn’t the only spot to find sky blue hot springs in travertine rock beds. Tuscany is home to some amazing ones, too, and Florence is near (ish) to most of them. Casciana Terme is only about an hour train ride away from city center and then from there a short bus ride. South a couple of hours into the Maremma district will get you to Bagno Vignoni. More south still are the hidden gems of San Filippo Terme and Saturnia. And if you’re dovetailing your Florence trip with some other southern gems, you can make any of these a pitstop along the way to your next adventure.
Hike on Higher Ground
For the best view with all of Florence at your feet, most will point you towards the famous Piazzale Michelangelo. (Most of the cityscape shots you see of Florence are snapped from that lookout point!) But few people know about Fiesole, one of Florence’s best-kept secrets, where you can zoom out of the classic, tried-but-true Piazzale Michelangelo shot. Tucked in the hills 9km from Florence, Fiesole is even higher than Piazzale Michelangelo—especially ideal if your aim is for wide-angle panoramas or sweeping, 360° views. The views on the way up to Fiesole are guaranteed to leave you breathless (we would know, it’s where our Perfect Day Hiking tour goes! What’s more, the small town is home to a stunning little piazza and some delicious can’t-miss restaurants.
You don’t have to go all the way to Sardinia or the Amalfi Coast or even Sicily to slate your thirst for saltwater. You can stake out your claim to the Mediterranean anywhere along the rugged coastline of Tuscany in its countless wild coves. And if you’re looking to hang with locals where mouth-watering food is only a few steps away, the Pisa Marina is a safe bet. It’ll take you port side and seaside, with an endless selection of cozy seafood restaurants to relax and/or bars to pass the sunsets in. But if you want the bright greenery of the Amalfi coast, with its colorful port towns and winding walkways, Porto Santo Stefano in Monte Argentario will get you pretty close.