Romantic Tuscany

Tuscany is one big backdrop for romance, from the shores of is picturesque coast to the cobblestoned streets of its medieval towns. Savor candlelit meals along the Arno or overlooking a vineyard, stroll through historic gardens, soak in ancient hot springs, and hone your couple skills in a cooking class. Like the postcard views, opportunities for romance await around every corner.

Borgo S. Jacopo, 62/R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
This Ferragamo-owned restaurant is located on the river with in-your-face views of the Ponte Vecchio for the lucky few who manage to book one of the tables on the terrace. Chef Peter Brunel has been making waves with his creative menus: Borgo San Jacopo has been awarded a Michelin star for the past several years in a row. Yes, it’s expensive, but with a tasting menu featuring dishes such as porcini mushroom ice cream and fig molasses and risotto with sea urchin, it’s a meal you won’t soon forget.

A fully vegetarian menu is also available, as is a wine pairing for those adventurous eaters who would prefer for the team’s experienced somms to take the lead.
Loc. Calzaiolo, Via del Masso 14, 50026 San Casciano in Val di Pesa FI, Italy
One of the most memorable (and unusual) ways to see Chianti is from the basket of a hot-air balloon. To catch the best weather conditions, flights take off just after dawn and last from 45 to 90 minutes, during which you will glide silently over hilltop villages, castles, and vineyards set in incomparable scenery with 360-degree views that extend for many miles on a clear day. Flights finish with a typical Tuscan breakfast of bread and olive oil, cheeses from the farm, and cold cuts, accompanied by prosecco.
Lungarno degli Archibusieri, 8, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
There are few better places from which to enjoy river views and sunsets than the Ponte Vecchio, built in 1345. Spanning the Arno’s narrowest point, this is the only bridge to have survived the German bombing of the city in 1944. There have always been shops on the bridge; the original butchers and grocers were replaced by sweeter-smelling gold and silversmiths in 1593. Sitting right in the middle is a bust of Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), the most famous goldsmith of them all.
Piazza Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
You will likely see Bronzino’s famous portrait of Eleonora (or Eleanor) de Toledo, in the Uffizi, during your visit to Florence. The Spanish noblewoman who became the duchess of Florence in 1539 when she married Cosimo I de’ Medici was unusual for her time, playing an active role in politics and as a patron of the arts. Her patronage extended to garden design, in its infancy (at least in Europe) in the 16th century. Eleonora commissioned the Boboli Gardens behind the Pitti Palace as a green escape from the city; they continue to provide a retreat for travelers today.

Among the earliest examples of the formal compositions that would dominate garden design through the 20th century, the grounds are dotted with classical statues and fountains while straight axes run up and down the hillside with an apparent disregard for topography. A moment in design history can be experienced first hand here. There’s a feeling that the man who planned the gardens (Niccolò Tribolo) conceived a formal plan and then simply laid it atop the site. Principles of garden design were later to shape city planning. The allées of the Boboli Gardens were early models for grand boulevards leading the eye to distant monuments. One of the pleasures of gardens, however, is that you don’t need to know their histories to enjoy the flowers in bloom or the sounds of birdsong and splashing fountains.
Loc. Follonata
The Maremma region of southern Tuscany, about an hour south of Siena, is an area of olive groves, wooded valleys, and ancient legends. One such tale, dating from the days of the Etruscans and Romans, chronicles an epic battle in which Jupiter threw lightning bolts at Saturn—and missed. As the story goes, when the bolts landed on the ground, they formed the bubbling hot springs now known as the Terme di Saturnia. Full of therapeutic minerals, the hot springs feed a variety of pools throughout the valley that have warmed and healed centuries of bathers. Today, you can soak up the goodness at the luxury Terme di Saturnia Hotel & Spa, which offers therapies performed with the waters, or at a free public bathing spot. To find the main one, head down a dirt path just outside of town, past a parking lot and changing area, until you spy a waterfall feeding a series of natural pools, each turned white by the mineral-rich water.
Corso Rossellino, 53026 Pienza SI, Italy
Find any postcard of Tuscany—likely emblazoned with rolling wheat fields, a rustic farmhouse, spiky cypress trees, and sunlight so perfect it casts everything in a warm glow—and chances are it was taken in the Val d’Orcia. Set in the southern part of Tuscany, this region is considered one of the most scenic in a region replete with pretty panoramas; its beauty is so special that the valley was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, specifically for its landscape. The best way to soak it all up is with a ride through the valley. Take the SR2 route from Siena to Buonconvento (make a quick stop to check out its early Romanesque church), then turn onto the SP146 and meander towards Pienza (famous for its cheese) and Montepulciano (known for its wine). Along the way, you’ll pass one breathtaking view after another, so make sure your camera battery is charged. Arguably the most popular shot is of the hilltop Vitaleta Chapel just outside of Pienza—itself another UNESCO-protected site.
Via de' Bardi, 12, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Inspired by the spices and scents he experienced on a trip to the Middle East back in the early ‘80s, Florentine Lorenzo Villoresi began studying the art of making perfume, eventually turning his family’s 15th-century palazzo into his atelier and shop. Stop by the elegant space—richly outfitted with Carrara marble, Florentine leather, and Volterra alabaster—to sniff your way around the world, sampling perfumes that feature an array of unusual and precious (and often pricey) extracts and essential oils. In addition to a ready-to-wear collection of perfumes, home scents, candles, potpourri, and related accessories, Villoresi also creates one-of-a-kind bespoke fragrances for hotels, fashion houses, and individual clients. It can be an expensive souvenir, but the experience of helping to create your personal scent is one you’ll never forget.
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AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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