We have always wanted to travel to Italy together not only because of it's portrayal in some of our favorite movies like: Eat Pray Love, Call Me By Your Name and The Lizzie McGuire Movie, but also because we love diversifying our palates through new and exciting travel experiences. Italy has always seemed like the perfect place to do that, plus who doesn't love pasta!
IGLTA (the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association), an annual event we regularly attend, was in Milan this year. The conference was an incredible opportunity to connect with other travel professionals from around the world in Italy’s most cosmopolitan LGBTQ+ city. After spending a few days eating and exploring our way through Milan, we decided it was time to continue our "Eat, Gay, Love" adventure by visiting Italy’s never ending Renaissance... Tuscany!
There aren’t many places in the world like the Tuscany region in Italy. We’d even argue that it has everything you’d want as a traveler: beautiful weather, inspiring art, charming historic towns with magnificent architecture and unique landscapes like the Alps in the north and the Apennine mountains, beaches lining the entire coast, world famous olive groves and some of Italy’s best vineyards. A huge thank you to Visit Tuscany for curating an incredible itinerary allowing us to experience it first hand. First stop: Florence.
Arriving in Florence is like taking a step back into a moment in time. Everywhere you look you can view history through the architecture, art and overall design of the city. Florence is home to Piazza del Duomo which includes the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore or Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, Brunelleschi’s Dome, the largest brick dome ever constructed, the Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile. The moment you turn the corner and see the massive structure, you can’t help but stand in awe of the sheer size but also the level of detail that went into creating a historic architectural masterpiece. The historic city center of Florence, including the Duomo, is a World UNESCO heritage site that attracts travelers from around the globe. While the Duomo is probably the most notable site in all of Florence, there is so much more to see and do especially for an LGBTQ+ traveller. Here are a few highlights for your next trip to Florence, Italy to consider.
THE UFFIZI GALLERY
The Uffizzi Gallery is said to be one of the most important and best-known museums in the world. Located in the center of Florence, the gallery boasts famous works of art painted throughout the Renaissance. We saw exquisite masterpieces by world-renowned artists Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Raffaelo. Each artist gave way for new techniques and styles of art that subsequent artists would perfect and transform. Some of our favorites included the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, Tondo Toni by Michelangelo and Medusa by Carravaggio.
With every turn we were blown away by the ornate ceilings, entryways and sculptures lining the corridors. We could have spent all afternoon looking through the different artist wings of the gallery but ended up capturing the highlights within three hours. Depending on your interest in art, you can spend as little or as much time perusing through the exhibits.
Travel Tip: Plan out your trip to the gallery! We got a timed entrance ticket, which we highly recommend in order to avoid long wait times and crowds! You can purchase tickets and plan your visit here.
WALKING TOUR OF FLORENCE (Queer Tuscany Tours)
We’ve come to love and appreciate walking tours during our travels, especially when they’re catered to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s the best way to dive in and explore the LGBTQ+ scene and history of the city you’re in through a locals eyes. Our guide for this tour was amazing and took us all around the city to learn more about the accepting and inclusive history that makes Florence what it is. We could’ve spent all day getting lost on the streets and alleyways of Florence. We were met with jaw dropping architecture and historical sights around every corner! One highlight was Ponte Vecchio, which we were familiar with from a recent episode of The Amazing Race Season 34. It’s Florence’s oldest bridge, dating back to the 14th century. To take the best pictures we recommend going to Ponte Santa Trinita.
The San Lorenzo Market is another great place to explore and is comprised of two separate markets. We walked through the outdoor market, which is where all the leather, clothing and souvenirs can be found. Our last recommendation would be the Piazza della Signoria, which is considered one of the most beautiful town squares in the city as you are surrounded by beautiful architecture and sculptures. While walking around the Piazza, you may encounter some bistros and restaurants plus a few shops.
Travel Tip: Plan a full day to walk around and experience Florence. Whether you take a guided tour or do it on your own to stumble upon unique spots, plan out your day to walk and see as much of the city as you can. You won’t regret it. Book a tour with them on their website.
On our last night in Florence we asked the locals where to go and we were told Twist Bistrot. You’ll find this charming cafe with a friendly and inclusive atmosphere. Located between Palazzo Medici Riccardi and the Galleria dell’Accademia, it’s one of those places where you feel right at home. At this LGBTQ+ owned bistro you can enjoy coffee, food, desserts, cocktails and even shop because every vintage item in the bistro is for sale. It’s also home to Miss Flo Twist, who we were fortunate enough to meet. She is Florence’s resident drag queen that also happens to own this vintage bistro. Miss Flo Twist also guides private walking tours throughout Florence while dressed in Drag offering a unique insight into the LGBTQ+ history of the city.
Travel Tip: Check the Twist Bistro calendar to see if Miss Flo Twist is performing while you are in Florence. If so, grab a seat and enjoy the show! Here's their instagram for more information: @twistbistrot!
We couldn’t leave Florence without visiting the most famous square of Florence that offers a grand panoramic view of the city. It’s an open viewing area with a large car park, kiosks and souvenir stands for tourists. The entire area is free to visit and definitely worthwhile. There’s also a towering replica of Michelangelo’s David.
Travel tip: Visit Piazzale Michelangelo during sunset to really capture the color and the beautiful panoramic view of Florence.
There is so much to do while in Florence that we recommend at least two full days in the city to experience the highlights... Perhaps you'll stay even longer, to gain a real understanding of all that makes Florence unique. Huge thank you to Visit Tuscany for curating an incredible few days in Florence, we can't wait to come back!
Check out Visit Tuscany's website for more information.