This is part of an ongoing series. In the original features I explained why you should sit down and map out multi-year itineraries to make sure you can see and do all the things that are most important to you. Read this guide, “Why Now Is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel List” here.
In this follow-up series, I present 30 different experiences and goals of curation for a Lifetime for you to consider. Obviously everyone’s dream list will be different, and whatever you think you really want or need to do should be at the top of your list, but with the help of experts and my 25 years experience as an award-winning travel journalist I have gathered a number of things important to consider. Every day I will present different options (see everything here):
Why? Italy is always near the top of everyone’s dream destination list, and for very good reasons. I have been many times, all over the country, and always look forward to returning. But I was also asked by many people about their first trip, the only place they should not miss, and for me it was Tuscany. Magical Venice, eternal Rome, glamorous Lake Como, Cinque Terre postcards come alive and the Dolomites offer amazing outdoor activities, but Tuscany is the heartbeat of Italy. All stereotypical mental images, medieval walled hilly cities, long streets lined with pine trees, preserved medieval villas, beautiful flowers, olive groves, vineyard terraces, piazza invites, churches churches full of world-class art, well, they are all found in Tuscany – in droves.
But Tuscany is not a single place, it’s a large area filled with places that must be visited and must taste food and drinks. It has its own anchor city, Florence, the extraordinary gate you want to be to any area – especially for art lovers. The city has a variety of charming cities, large and small, and although it has long been very popular with tourists (and readers, thank you Under the Tuscan Sun.; Eat a prayer of love; and so on), there are still bags that haven’t been found. This is also the Chianti region, home to the most famous wine in Italy, and vineyard tours range from mother and pop to the forefront of art.
This is Italy, so the food is always outstanding, but especially regional specialties such as the country’s famous steak, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, fantastic bread salad (Panzanella), one of the world’s great hors d’oeuvres, crostini (chicken liver mousse in bruschetta) ), local special killer soup from tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and bread (papa al pomodoro) and more. Extra virgin olive oil from these parts is already well known in the world and many highlight everything – even steak. Florence, meanwhile, is home to exceptional gelato, among many other delicacies.
Tuscany easily guarantees a week or more, and from some of the most famous art in the world to vineyards to stunning hill towns, all of this can be explored in one trip without having to take a flight or train in between, which makes it more relaxing vacation – and more time enjoying it. That is why it is my top choice for Italy, and as an added attraction, if you are a cyclist, this is the highlight of all the Cycling Bucket Lists that you can have.
Where? Exploring Tuscany begins and ends with Florence, which requires at least a few days to enjoy the main sights, including the Piazza del Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio bridge. There are many good hotels, but the best in this city is Forbes 5-Star Four Seasons Florence, one of the most prominent properties in this prominent brand, combines the two 15th a century renaissance building – a papal residence – and an 11-hectare private garden, became an escape resort that happened to be near the center of the city. I am not sure there is an urban oasis that can be compared in any city, it is truly one of its kind, and also has a prominent spa and Michelin-starred dining venue (read more in detail here). On the outskirts of the city lies a beautiful historic building that turns into an extraordinary luxury hotel Belmond Villa San Michele.
Outside of Florence, Tuscany is vast and begs to be explored. The most famous and must-visit hilly cities include Siena, famous for its Palio horse racing and as the backdrop for the opening scenes in the recent James Bond film Quantum of Solace; Monteriggioni is nearby with one of the best preserved castles in the region, dating from 1215, and fortified city walls preserved with 14 tower gates; Montepulciano, packed with churches, palaces and well-preserved Renaissance architecture; and San Gimignano, “Manhattan of Tuscany,” thanks to its impressive skyline. At the peak of the city’s wealth, they built extravagantly and vertically, up to 72 tower houses, the high-rise version of the palace, from which 14 survived.
But besides that, there are many very famous and very unattractive cities that are worth a visit including Pienza, Pitigliano, and my personal favorite, Volterra, a monument to stone craftsmen and is now better known for being used as a backdrop in popular places. Dusk vampire film trilogy. Cortona is an enchanting city Under the Tuscan Sun. set, both in real life and for movies, and while Tuscany has many nice boutique inns, my personal favorite – especially for food lovers – is Il Falconiere here in Cortona. This is a luxury boutique resort and member of the Relais & Chateaux which combines lodging in a beautiful historic complex with an exceptional wine-based spa, Michelin star dining and famous cooking school with special facilities, one of the best in Europe.
Then there is the western part of Tuscany near the coast, less related to the beautiful mental picture of the region but more than worthy of your attention. The two big attractions here are Pisa, home to the famous leaning tower, which while often overrun by tourists – all trying to take selfies while holding their hands “above” the building – is a sight to behold. But living in nearby Lucca, arguably the top city in Tuscany after Florence, is often overlooked. I’ve been to Lucca more than once, and it was amazing. While famous for having the largest intact walls in European cities, it completely surrounds the city and its extent is a park that you can use for biking, walking or running, exploring the entire perimeter, the city has a hundred churches, lots of charm, and amazing food, rich, Pasta Lucchese is a decadent memory of how the city once expressed its extraordinary wealth through lavish dishes like this.
Who will be used? Even though it seems that you can plan your own trip, there are so many small hotels, rental villas, cities, sights and wineries to choose from, besides interesting subjects (food, history, architecture, art, etc.), which I like . recommend registering true travel advisor expertise (see below).
But there is one exceptional local-based deluxe specialist used to deal with the U.S. market. in all things Italy, including everything behind the scenes such as local guides, experts and private driver transfers. That is called Bellagio IC and sincerely recommended. Another good choice is Italian concierge, a special travel agent in New Jersey run by Joyce Falcone, who has a U.S./Italian dual citizenship and is the only agent in the country simultaneously registered as an Italian specialist by both Travel + Comfort and Conde Nast Traveler. Also, if you are interested in cycling or biking & walking through the region, the main specialist in active Tuscan tourism is Butterfield & Robinson for half a century, with relationships long enough so that they often have exclusive access to many of the best hotels and restaurants.
Travel Advisor: When planning this kind of Bucket List trip, I always recommend using a good travel agent or travel advisor. In addition to making sure you do it right, they can often save you money or improve you and make more money. For more about why you want to use a travel agent / advisor and how to do it, read my latest article on this topic here.