Step inside Florence’s iconic Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore and you’ll see the interior is somewhat more reserved than its marble Gothic façade and famous red-tiled cupola. Climb the 463 steps up to Brunelleschi's Dome for a close-up view of Giorgio Vasari’s fresco, The Last Judgement (book in advance for this part of the tour). History and science buffs alike will love the Museo Galileo’s collection of inventions and interactive gadgets that trace the history of the sciences from Renaissance times onwards – not to mention the case displaying Galileo’s fingers and tooth! Roman ruins, a Medieval fortress, and amazing Renaissance chambers and paintings... the imposing Palazzo Vecchio seems to encapsulate the city’s entire history. Climb the Arnolfo Tower to admire the view; or take a private tour exploring the secret passages normally closed to the public. Snaking across many of Florence’s most important landmarks from Palazzo Vecchio to Pitti Palace, the Vasari Corridor (due to reopen late May after repairs), is one of the city’s more unusual experiences. Get countless unique perspectives on the city and view over 1000 artworks from the 17th and 18th centuries, plus a unique collection of self-portraits in the corridor’s Uffizi section. Don’t leave town without spending some time exploring the jewellery stores, art dealers and souvenir shops along the Ponte Vecchio, or simply soaking up the views.
La Bottega del Buon Caffè (Lungarno Benvenuto Cellini, 69/R). This recent Michelin star winner is quickly becoming one of Florence’s best gourmet restaurants with a fine dining concept that truly reflects its Florentine and Tuscan location.
Stay: Hotel Savoy, A Rocco Forte Hotel (3 nights)
||Florence to Siena
Drive Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes by car | Distance: 48 miles
The sloping, conch-shell-shaped Piazza del Campo – the civic heart of the city renowned for its exquisite beauty, and the setting of one of the world’s most ancient horse-races, Il Palio. It’s ideal for a spot of Sienese people-watching, and to soak up the beautifully preserved medieval atmosphere, too. At 88 metres, Torre del Mangia is the second-highest medieval tower in all of Italy; and the observation deck’s breathtaking views over the Piazza del Campo, Il Duomo di Siena, the red roofs of the city and the surrounding hills are well worth the 400-step climb. Take a walk around Il Duomo di Siena before entering to take in one of Siena’s most impressive buildings: a combination of French Gothic, Romanesque and Classical architectural elements, then head inside to explore the spectacular marble mosaic flooring, and works by Donatello and a young Michelangelo. Built in 1325 and located just behind Il Duomo, Il Battistero di San Giovanni (the Baptistery), is one of Siena’s most important religious sites in the city, where all the city’s inhabitants, famous or not, were baptised under its rib vault over many centuries.
Arnolfo (Via XX Settembre, 50): a unique mix of art and fine dining perched high up in the old town of Colle di Val d'Elsa, amidst the stunning Tuscan countryside.
Stay: Grand Hotel Continental (2 nights)
||Siena to Assisi
Drive Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes by car | Distance: 80 miles
A must-see for art aficionados and those with a passion for religion is the grandiose, gorgeously embellished Basilica di San Francesco. After admiring the Giotto and Cimabue frescoes, the upper and lower basilicas and abundance of artworks, head to the lower crypt where Saint Francis is buried. Walk up Corso Mazzini to Piazza del Comune to enjoy the medieval palazzi and the beautifully preserved Tempio di Minerva - an ideal spot for people-watching while eating a gelato. Basilica di Santa Chiara – one of Italy’s most important basilicas. Built with intensely pink stones and devoted to Francis’ first “sister”, it’s a veritable must-see while in Assisi. Looming over the town, the huge, 14th-century Rocca Maggiore castle is the perfect jumping-off spot for sightseeing as everything is, quite literally, downhill from here! Built by Cardinal Albornoz specifically to intimidate townsfolk, it’s been expanded, pillaged, and restored again and again over the centuries.
La Locanda del Cardinale (Piazza del Vescovado, 8) – a dining experience unlike any other, where eclectic and regional cuisine is served among Roman ruins that date back over 2000 years.
Stay: Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum (2 nights)
||Assisi to Orvieto
Drive Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes by car | Distance: 59 miles
Few churches in Italy can hold a candle to Il Duomo di Orvieto – a wedding cake of a Gothic cathedral, with layers of exquisite detail behind its vibrant façade, and awe-inspiring frescoes by Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli in the Chapel of San Brizio. Orvieto’s coolest spot (quite literally), is the magical myriad of 440 Etruscan-era tunnels and grottos, the Orvieto Underground – used by locals over their 2500-year history for everything from refrigeration and wine-storage, to wells and WWII bomb shelters. Once built to protect the city, the Fortezza dell’Albornoz is now home to beautiful public gardens, with stunning views over the valley and surrounding towns. There are many winery tours and cooking classes available throughout the region, but Decugnano dei Barbi Winery’s are the most highly-rated. All tailor-made tastings, and pairings take place in the old Medieval Chapel of Saint Mary of Decugnano and include a tour taking in the modern part of the Estate, the vineyards, and ancient caves where traditional sparkling wine is made and French oak barrels are kept.
The super welcoming Trattoria del Moro Aronne (Via S. Leonardo, 7) – home to a convivial vibe, authentic food and honest prices.
Stay: Locanda Palazzone (2 nights)
||Orvieto to Porto Ercole
Drive Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes by car | Distance: 74 miles
There are a number of beautiful drives to take around the region, but this part of your holiday is really all about rest and relaxation, so sit back, relax and enjoy!
Michelin-starred Il Pellicano Restaurant delivers satisfying surprises using carefully selected seasonal organic local produce, fresh fish and organic meat.
Stay: Hotel Il Pellicano (7 nights)
||Depart Porto Ercole
||16 nights from £2950 per person, including accommodation, round-trip economy class flights, breakfast and car hire.