This four-day stay in Florence delights with its combination of the city’s best known art, history, culture, and cuisine—from your base in a luxurious hotel just minutes from the Arno River within walking distance of Florence’s main attractions. A customized walking tour gives you an in-depth perspective on the city’s artistic and historic past and charming present. Equally crucial, a half-day class in the art and taste of Tuscan cuisine and wine is an easy lesson to attend and includes a local market tour and wine testing.
Upon your arrival in Florence, you check into your ideally situated hotel—a short walk to the River Arno, the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi, and on the main shopping area—it is also just a stone’s throw to the narrow streets of “the real Florence.” There are no scheduled activities this afternoon, leaving you time to settle in and begin to enjoy Florence. In essence a vast and beautiful monument to the Renaissance— the paintings and sculptures of artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Donatello turned the city into one of the worlds greatest artistic capitals. Dinner is on your own this evening in one of Florence’s many fine restaurants or trattorias. A list of recommended restaurants is available for dining ideas. Hotel de la Ville or equivalent hotel Florence, Italy An elegant four-star hotel hotel with spacious rooms and modern comforts—a short walk to the River Arno, the Ponte Vecchio, and the Uffizi. Additional amenities include room service, a lobby bar, complimentary wi-fi in the lobby, and concierge services. A complimentary upgrade to the next room category (pending availability) can be requested on arrival.
florence Walking tour of Florence with expert guide, easy city walking (4 hours) After breakfast in the hotel, you depart from the hotel lobby at 9:00 am for a customized walking tour of Florence with a local expert guide, who will tailor the itinerary to suit your areas of interest and whether or not you have visited Florence before. For a first visit to Florence, the following highlights are suggested: Piazza della Signoria, one of the most beautiful squares in the world, with a backdrop of the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s seat of government for over 700 years; Piazza del Duomo, the Cathedral square, especially appreciated for the graceful Gothic bell-tower and the Romanesque baptistery with its beautiful gilded bronze doors, the “Gates of Paradise” by Lorenzo Ghiberti, and of course Brunelleschi’s Dome, the largest dome ever built in masonry; The Ponte Vecchio, or “old bridge,” and its tantalizing jewelry shops. Also suggested are lesser-known corners and quiet neighborhoods, all steeped in history and expressing the superlative quality of its artists and craftsmen throughout. You are free to continue your exploration of Florence on your own this afternoon. Here are some suggested sites: Uffizi: The Uffizi, Italy’s great art gallery, originally constructed from 1560 to 1580 to house offices for Duke Cosimo I. The original architect, Vasari, used iron as reinforcement, enabling his successor, Buontalenti, to create an almost continuous wall of glass on the upper story, which Francesco I used as a gallery to display the Medici art treasures. The collection was divided up in the 19th century: ancient objects went to the archaeological museum and sculpture to the Bargello, leaving the Uffizi with a matchless collection of paintings. Accademia: The Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1563, was the first school established in Europe specifically to teach the techniques of drawing, painting, and sculpture. The art collection displayed here was formed in 1784 with the aim of providing material for students to study and copy. The most famous work on display is Michelangelo’s David (1504), a colossal nude of the biblical hero who killed the giant Goliath. Other masterpieces here include the Quattro Prigioni sculpted between 1521 and 1523 and intended to adorn the tomb of Pope Julius II. Bargello: Built in 1255, the Bargello is the oldest seat of government surviving in Florence. In the 16th century it was the residence of the chief of police and a prison: executions took place here until 1786. After extensive renovation, it became one of Italy’s first national museums in 1865. The Bargello houses a superb collection of Florentine Renaissance sculpture, with rooms dedicated to the work of Michelangelo, Donatello, and Cellini, as well as a collection of Mannerist bronzes. Palatine Gallery: The Palatine Gallery was added to Palazzo Pitti by the Medici Family in the 17th century. The Gallery contains a superb collection of works dating from the Renaissance and Baroque. They are hung as the 17th and 18th century Medici Grand Dukes wished, placed purely for their effect, regardless of subject or chronology. The decoration of the rooms in the gallery reflects the tastes and preoccupations of the time. This evening you are free to continue your exploration of Florence’s many fine restaurants.
Florence (small-group) cooking lesson with market visit and wine tasting class (total of 5½ hours) Following breakfast in the hotel, a transfer is provided from your hotel just before 9:00 am to the Apicius Culinary Institute— for a full morning of shopping, cooking, and enjoying the end product for lunch. Named for the greatest expert of gastronomy in antiquity, Apicius wrote the most important cooking treatise in Latin “De Re Coquinaria,” revealing the evolution in taste, in terms of food and lifestyle, of the Roman upper class. Fittingly, the Apicius Culinary Institute associates cooking with the historic and artistic background of Italy—cooking classes are designed for both beginners to “the art of Italian cooking” as well as experienced cooks who wish to deepen their knowledge. Before beginning the hands-on class, your instructor leads you (and the other members of the class) on an hour-long walking tour of the local produce market, to choose the freshest ingredients for the lesson. Returning to the kitchen, you join the Chef in preparing a menu of traditional and delicious Tuscan fare. A typical meal might begin with an appetizer of mushroom crostini, a first course (or “primo”) of artichoke ravioli with pecorino cheese sauce, a second course (or “secondo”) of chicken Florentine style, and for dessert, a classic Tuscan chestnut cake with raisins, pine nuts, and rosemary. You sit down to enjoy the lunch you have created with your own hands. Of course, integral to an Italian meal is wine, and proceeding to the Apicius Tasting Room, a professional sommelier guides you through the basic steps of wine testing—introducing you to three fine Tuscan wines (one red, one white and a dessert wine). A recipe booklet and apron are provided to each guest as part of this culinary experience. There are no scheduled activities for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. You may continue your explorations of this wonderful city at your own pace—departing on foot or by taxi from the culinary institute.
Departure Following breakfast in the hotel, you check out and depart at your leisure.
Once the hub of the Renaissance, Florence is still a city marked by outstanding cultural and artistic splendor. In the modern day this translates into some of the best shopping anywhere for fine products from leather to gold. A perennial favorite of tourists and home to such historical figures as Machiavelli and the Medici clan, all of the finest aspects of Renaissance culture, from literature and art to theater and music still flourish here.
Besides tourism, food and wine production are also prominent industries in this city, which is the main city of the Tuscany wine-producing region. The Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Museum house two of the world’s great art collections and seeing the David by Michealangelo, at the Accademia is a moment never to be forgotten.
The Duomo in Florence is as breathtaking as it is massive. This amazing structure can be seen from many vantage points near the city center and it looms in its majesty above the city’s interesting architecture and unique streets. Major attractions: Uffizi museum, Accademia museum with the David, Piazza della Signoria, Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore, Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella churches and squares. Other museums of notice are Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti with the Silver museum, the Boboli Gardens and the Palatine Gallery, the Brancacci Chapel, the Museum San Marco. Major theaters and events: Teatro Comunale, Teatro della Pergola, Toscana Opera Festival, Teatro Verdi.
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