If you’re studying abroad in Florence this semester or academic year, chances are you’ll have friends or family members eager to take advantage of your time in the Tuscan capital, organizing a trip and counting on you as their fearless guide. For a newly minted Florentine like yourself, few adventures will be more rewarding and make you feel more local than showing Mom and Dad all your favorite eateries and hidden hangouts. But if you’re lucky enough to have your loved ones come and see you in your temporary adopted home, you’ll probably also want to plan a visit packed with the stuff that Tuscan dreams are made of. We’re here with some ideas that will take them both on and off the well-beaten tourist track through some of the Renaissance city’s and Tuscan region’s highlights. Plus, we’ll give you some practicalities to take into consideration.
First things first: Florence is the cradle of the Renaissance and the humanist values this period in history espoused. It’s probably part of why you decided to study here and certainly one of the central reasons to visit. At the top of your to-do list for your parents’ visit should be procuring the Firenze Card museum pass, which will make navigating the “big boys” and lesser known museums easier!
Even if your parents aren’t aspiring art historians, a visit to the heritage-packed hallowed halls of the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia is an absolute must, and an expert guide will make it all more memorable. (Plus, this takes the pressure off you to memorize every minute detail from your art history classes.) For rubbing elbows with the Renaissance greats, you could choose the “Smart Uffizi” tour offered by FlorenceTown and allowing you to skip the line at this world-class museum where people wait for hours to enter! Want to tack time with Michelangelo’s David (housed at the Accademia Gallery) on the same tour? Slow Tour Tuscany offers a “One Day in Florence” tour that makes stops at both museums and even takes a lunch break at one of Florence’s most vibrant spaces, the Mercato Centrale. Florence and Tuscany Tours also offer "Florence in a Day", an option that’s perfect for first-timers, which weaves its way through some of the historic center’s most significant monuments and squares before venturing in to the key rooms of each museum.
If your parents already have one or more Florence visits under their belts and want to see the city from a new—and unorthodox—perspective, ArtViva has just the ticket: their adults-only “Secrets & Scandals. Florence Unveiled” tour will show you the grittier side of the city’s history. Exclusive Connection has a similar adventure through the dark side, “Forbidden Florence,” which takes you through stories of love and betrayal (and includes that tempting elixir, the Negroni, for all tour participants).
Leather goods, jewelry, book binding, handpainted scarves, gloves: you name the craft and there’s bound to be an artisan in Florence producing it the old-fashioned way. Florence is a world capital of artisan traditions where people still flock for apprenticeships and mastery of their crafts. If your parents have a penchant for all things handmade, bespoke or customized, Florence’s artisan workshops, particularly in the Oltrarno district, are sure to delight them; even if they’ve got more of a mass-market mindset, there are tours through these Tuscan treasures that will show them the light! Florencetown hosts a VIP “Royals and Artisans” walking tour that combines visits to artisan laboratories with perspective on Pitti Palace, while Slow Tour Tuscany’s “Art and Crafts” outing takes you inside some of the Oltrarno district’s other destinations (the Brancacci Chapel) and workshops including a still-active sculpture studio. (Perhaps you might even score a little something handmade for being such a top-notch tour organizer if Mom and Dad are feeling generous. We know you were thinking it…)
A day out in the countryside or nearby art cities is well worth enjoying, since it will reveal a broader picture of what the Tuscan region is all about. Consider a visit to Florence’s historic rival city of Siena, home of the famous Palio horserace and one of the world’s most beloved Cathedrals, stopping off at San Gimignano, sometimes referred to the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages,” as well; Tuscany Highlights offers a prime package deal for private tours. On the adventurous and athletic side? Book the half-day “Florence and a Taste of Tuscany” tour through We Like Tuscany, which takes you through some of the most stunning lookout points of Florence as well as countryside villas and family-run wineries.
Wine is where it’s at in Tuscany: why not take a crash course in Chianti 101? This world-renowned wine production region is the pride and joy of Tuscany’s tastemakers and a visit to some of its producers will deepen your understanding of that delicious red you’re savouring at most of your meals. Use wine as a bridge between cultures and get to know small producers in a “Highlights of Tuscany with lunch in Chianti wine farm” tour with Caf Tour & Travel featuring two tastings and a jaunt through some of the region’s most postcard-perfect medieval towns. If you’d rather stay in Florence but want a taste of the countryside’s rich food and wine heritage, Le Baccanti offers relaxed daily cooking classes at MaMa Florence, with organic, seasonal ingredients, plus fine local wines and prosecco.
Ready to play travel agent? Head to DestinationFlorence.com to book any of the above tours and find out more ideas for your parents’ time in town.