Often considered to be the City of Love (move out of the way, Paris), Florence is a place of pure grandeur, intricate architecture and enticing romance. Each street haunts you with eerie remnants of relationships gone by, and seduces you into falling in love with new places, people, and food. Whispers of Italian, well-spoken by gorgeous women in furs and older men with a dusted look about them, drift through the streets. But the locals don't express themselves through words alone - no, they communicate with body language and smooth hand gestures. Sounds, vague and vowel-less, draw you in, with the rich history of the city ever so alluring. And me? I adored it. I adored the pretty things, and the rolls of the Italian r's that you would catch from a passerby. The city, dripping in romance and antiquity, just waiting to be explored. Who did I go with, you ask? My ex-boyfriend.
So, a couple days ago I flew out from Gatwick to Pisa airport with my parents and one of my best friends ever, and we stayed in Tuscany, Italy for a few days. We saw primarily Pisa and Florence - both places highly commercialised, streaming with tourists at the busiest times of the day, and absolutely gorgeous. If you can get used to the people constantly trying to sell you selfie-sticks and umbrellas, then Tuscany is one place you have to make sure not to miss. And what were my top favourite places that I would recommend over and over again, I hear you ask? Well, I got your back.
The Tower of Pisa
I had to put this one down first, because who goes to Pisa and doesn't get that iconic photograph of them holding it up? It costs eighteen euros - $20 - to go inside, which is a great experience (although you do tend you drift to the side of the leaning stairway, and your thighs are on fire afterwards), but if you are low on funds then I think you'd be better saving your money for something more worthwhile.
Piazza Dei Miracoli
Situated right next to the tower, this piazza is filled with three of the most beautiful buildings you will see during your stay. The baptistery (absolutely incredible, I spent ages standing on the top floor marvelling at how such architecture is possible, especially back in 1152 when it was built) and Cathedral (breathtaking, possibly the best in the whole of Pisa - but watch out for opening times) stand elegantly on the grounds, rendering them a trio of unbelievable artistry.
Whilst impressive from the outside (and I mean, impressive), queues to get in are ridiculous. Depending on how long you're staying in Tuscany, you may consider if it's actually worth it to spend half a day waiting just to go inside - and with an exterior like this, you could quite easily benefit from using that half a day to explore something else. It's situated on the Piazza del Duomo, which you genuinely cannot miss - it's at the heart of Florence, and yet even I didn't know I would stumble upon such pulchritude on my Tuscany travels. Truly, truly, mesmerising, with every inch of the place dusted with splendour.
A Franciscan church, this minor basilica is just.. wow. I must have spent a good couple of hours there, as the place seemed to grow larger and larger the further in you explored, housing frescoes and leather workshops, and of course, a stunning marble interior. If you're low on funds, but have plenty of time to truly take in what you see, then I couldn't recommend anything better in Florence.
The Arno River
Stretching all the way over from the Ligurian Sea, you're likely to pass this river on your escapades around Tuscany - primarily, Pisa. With buildings such as the Santa Maria della Spina facing across the water, you're bound to be drawn to the picturesque and romantic opportunities that call out. On one side, bright orange buildings and little houses, and on the other, designer shops and gelaterias - the best of both worlds, really.
If you want to see some of the most beautiful frescoes going, I'd suggest you head down to the Sinopie, where they have managed to restore and display a bunch of old historic masterpieces. If you want to see a depiction of what life used to be like, in glorious faded technicolour, then you really must check out what this place has to offer. Not only that, but for six euros, you can visit this place, along with a couple of others on the Piazza Dei Miracoli - meaning that you can get all your history hits in one go.
Again, for all you art and antiquity lovers out there, a little place called the Camposanto houses gravestones as flooring, with ceilings covered head-to-toe in frescoes, and and a wide open garden where you can go out in the sun and admire the design and structure. As you walk through the open building (meaning you get to experience the natural light and setting that they would have had back in the 12th century), marble figures of people and sacred monuments scatter the halls.
I share the same opinion as many others when I say that Pisa is a full day trip at the most. Within a couple hours you can see everything the place has to offer, having taken the much-needed Leaning Tower photograph and absorbed all the history and beauty you can. As a tidbit of anecdotal counsel, don't stay in a hotel for three nights in Pisa itself, or you'll end up spending more money on travel to get out the city rather than see the many things offered within it.
Of course, if you're a big food lover, Tuscany will be perfect for you. If you're after a beautiful meal out, my favourite place to eat in Pisa was at a place called Dante. We ate there twice, and both times were confronted with some of the most alluring, appetising food you can imagine. God, my mouth's watering just thinking about it. Seriously, try it out and tell me what you think.
On the topic of food, you think the ice-cream you get back home is good? Well, have you ever tried gelato, the Italian version of quite possibly one of the best dairy substances around? And have you tried it in the heart of Italy, at a small gelateria? If not, you should book a one-way ticket straight to Tuscany, and pop into one of the many gelaterias on offer. Believe me, your tastebuds will thank me.
And so, that sums up basically all the world wisdom I can share from my time in Tuscany, from anecdotes to tips to recommendations. I hope that some of it comes in useful if any of y'all ever plan on visiting Pisa, Florence, or anywhere in between. If so, or if you just enjoyed reading, send me love in the comment section. And as always,
Have a good month, y'all!