Italy’s Most Wondrous City: Florence
Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Florence, Italy, Travel
Travelers from all over the world remember their trip to Florence as an experience of exceptional beauty and creativity. But as is often the case, it’s impossible to do the city justice on a two- or three-day stay. So going beyond the surface to explore the city’s wondrous layers – with the help of charismatic locals – is the very mission of Tauck’s new World Cities… Florence
. Here are some of the wonders that await Tauck travelers on this new 6-day tour… “one that’s full of ‘insider views’ shared by local storytellers, top-notch professional guides and local-resident Tauck Directors with insider knowledge, plus historical locations, amazing visual beauty and many incredible meals,” according to Tauck Director Terry Portwood (and Florence resident). “Having lived here for years, I know there are places and experiences many true Florentines never get to see and do.”
Five nights in a five-star palazzo
Originally home to a family of Florentine financiers, the Hotel Bernini Palace dates back to the 15th century; over time it has served as an inn, hotel and gathering place for Florentine movers and shakers. In the 19th century the palazzo was a favored meeting place for leaders of the Risorgimento (including Garibaldi), the ideological movement which culminated in the declaration of a unified Italy in 1861; their restored portraits still line the hotel’s Great Hall. Exquisitely renovated, the palazzo is home today to the luxurious Hotel Bernini Palace, ideally located between Piazza della Signoria and the Ufizzi Gallery and minutes away from Via Tornabuoni, one of the city’s most glamorous shopping streets.
A molto buono welcome at Alle Murate
Near the Duomo, and inside the 14th-century Palazzo dell’Arte dei Giudici e Notai (Palace of the Arts of Judges and Notaries), ristorante Alle Murate offers a Zen-like setting for Tauck’s private Welcome Dinner. Inside are archeological artifacts, vaulted ceilings and tender frescoes depicting Italy’s great poets – Dante, Petrarch and Boccacio, known as models for a civilized society during the era of the Plague. Alle Murate features the cuisine of Giovanna Lorio, who refers to herself as a “cook," never a chef. Giovanna’s Tuscan-style dishes and the setting have been reviewed in the Italian press as splendid, charming, meticulous and molto, molto buona.
Botanical delights at Il Giardino Torrigiani
Tauck guests will meet Marquis Vanni Torrigiani Malaspina, trained as a lawyer and the descendant of a long line of noblemen responsible for creating and preserving Europe’s largest private garden within an urban setting. Dating back to the early 16th century, the gardens today provide a glimpse into a privileged Florentine world. Under the young marquis’ enthusiastic direction, and hands-on approach, the gardens remain well-tended and loved; they include a 16th-century villa, herb gardens, trees from around the world, Baroque statuary, a Neogothic tower topped with a terrace from which to study the stars, and the remains of city walls erected in 1544. Tauck guests will also be treated to a cooking class by a top-notch chef in the Torrigiani greenhouse – like its surroundings, a work of beauty.
Carrying on the tradition of craftsmanship
On an exclusive visit, Tauck guests will go behind the scenes at a family-owned leather goods company brought into Italy’s contemporary fashion world by its third generation. Born to an Italian father and an American mother, they include Jennifer Tattanelli, an accomplished designer who studied fashion at Calvin Klein in New York, and her brother Christopher, who will personally greet Tauck guests. He’ll share the story behind transforming their father’s artisanal leather business into a leading producer of luxury goods with an exclusive shop located on the Piazza Pitti. They have earned a reputation for exquisitely cut leather goods, high quality materials and detailed stitching at a time when many other Florentine leather shops have turned to selling goods made in Asia and Africa.
A heritage of Tuscan cuisine in Artimino
On an afternoon exploring the gorgeous countryside northwest of Florence – overlooking a valley of olive groves and carmignano grapes – Tauck guests will meet Carlo Cioni. Owner of Ristorante da Delfina, he is quick to share a story and indubitably proud of his business, which he named after his mother. Featured recipes include those she perfected during her years as a chef at a Tuscan hunting lodge: dishes like ribollita (a hearty soup), roasted goat with fennel, stuffed zucchini blossoms, fennel sausage… Food writer Judy Witts Francini calls it “…exactly what Florentines love about a place to dine. Simple traditional food, prepared perfectly in a divine location.”
A visionary who chose to work in fabric
Couturier Roberto Capucci was considered a founder of the Italian fashion industry and is revered for his use of shape, color and materials. At the 17th-century Villa Bardini in Florence’s Oltrarno District, Tauck guests will enjoy an exclusive visit to the museum honoring his work. They’ll learn how his designs captured the attention of the international press in the early 1950s, pre-dating Italy’s great fashion houses. At the time, said Capucci, “there were simply craftsmen and people with very good taste.” He considered himself to be an artist who decided to express himself in fabric, viewing some of his dresses as “wearable art,” others as “pure sculpture.” While compromising design for the sake of commercial success was never on Capucci’s agenda, dinner at the elegant Villa Bardini for Tauck guests certainly is.
Florence as an art history classroom
Both the 13th-century mosaics inside Florence’s marble-clad Baptistery and the 15th-century dome atop the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore are works of breathtaking mastery. Tauck guests will not simply view them, but experience them through the eyes of one of the city’s most charismatic guides. Italian-American Rocky Ruggiero came to Florence as a student of art history. He found a city that offers “no better classroom” and stayed on to develop cultural study programs taught by local university professors. Rocky was recently featured as a presenter on the NOVA documentary, Great Cathedral Mystery. He’ll share the sights, along with his passion for the city’s art, language and food, on a special excursion with Tauck guests.
Food & villa pleasures from on high at Lo Strettoio
Vaulted ceilings, dense stone walls, an olive press whose grindstones were once powered by cows, and a garden terrace with panoramic views of Florence down below… provide the setting for Tauck’s farewell reception and dinner at Ristorante Lo Strettoio. And as for the food and wine? Our guests will be treated to the mouthwatering Tuscan fare of Elisabetta Piazzesi, a published cooking author and her chef-husband and grappa maker, Pedro di Vito. Like the city, it’s sure to be a magical experience.
“Not to be forgotten,” says Terry, “is that the ‘normal’ highlights of Florence are all here too: visits to the Uffizi, L’Accademia and free time to wander and shop. Everything adds up to an amazing tour!”