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September 2018

The Lesser Known Florence

By |2018-09-25T06:50:09+00:00September 24th, 2018|Benefits, hidden gems, Informational, Travel Tips|

Oltrano

Florence is the city that is known for Michelangelo, the Medici’s and the famous Duomo, just to name a few.  Most have heard of it and few would struggle to recognize its remarkable landmarks.  Florence is the capital of Tuscany and the birthplace of the Renaissance.  Its population is just under 400,000 and it’s full of culture and beauty, rendering it the embodiment of the Italian lifestyle.

There are many things to see and do in this beautiful and historic city.  True to the Live Like a Local mission and vision of A Toast to Travel, there are noteworthy must-see sites in Florence on the other side of the Arno River known as Oltrano.  “Oltrano” means beyond the Arno.  Many travelers to Florence tend to stay in the historic area and do not venture across the bridges to this great area and because of this; they miss out on some truly great sights.

Below are just a few of the highlights of Oltrano –all well worth the time to explore in this lesser-known part of Florence:

  • Piazzale Michelangelo- This Piazzale boasts of probably the best views of Florence.  It is a beautiful area to sit at a café and indulge in an aperitivo with some light snacks while you admire the beauty of Florence in the background with the Duomo and all her glory.  It is a bit of a hike to get to this area if you are walking from the historic area of Florence, but it is well worth the effort.  This is arguably one of the best views in the city.
  • The Palatine Gallery- Everyone has heard of the Uffizi and the Accademia, but there is another beautiful museum located inside the Pitti Palace just over the Ponte Vecchio.  The Palatine Gallery is home to over 500 beautiful paintings, most from the Renaissance period.  The Gallery itself looks more like a history lesson on the History Channel.  Pitti Palace was also the residence of the famous Medici’s an Italian banking family and political dynasty.
  • Boboli Gardens– Encompassing 11 acres of greenery, the Boboli Gardens is one of the largest public parks in Florence.  The garden is very easy to find as it is attached to the Palazzo Pitti.  The Boboli Gardens include ancient Roman statues and even a beautiful grotto.
  • Santo Spirito- Although the formal name is Basilica of S. Maria del Santo Spirito, this church is often simply called Santo Spirito.  A passerby may overlook this church and keep walking, but they would be missing out on a true work of art.  Designed by Brunelleschi, it is definitely worth a look.  The exterior was never completed, but venture inside and admire the Latin cross and its 40 side chapels.  Also, be sure not to miss the beautiful frescoes in the transept.

These are just a few of the Oltrano highlights.  Our recommendation is to travel with experts in the area.  Traveling with experts who love what they do and know what it is like to Live Like a Local will provide you a local’s view into the true Italian culture and leave you with a truly memorable Experience.

Live Like a Local with A Toast to Travel!

August 2018

Group Travel

By |2018-09-24T20:52:18+00:00August 22nd, 2018|Benefits, Features, General, Travel Tips, Tuscany|

Group Travel

Private, hosted group travel has its perks!  What you should look for.

It’s a common dilemma; you have a group of friends, family or couples who want to travel together.  Group travel may even be a group from your social club, your country club or a business organization where you work.  It could also be a group of bachelorettes or a sorority.  Everyone is excited and ready to sign up but there’s one problem.  One person is in charge of organizing the entire experience, collecting payment and spending hours and hours researching a place that maybe she has never been.  Ultimately, after hours and hours of research, the person can only hope she’s put together an authentic experience for the group and ends up so exhausted, she doesn’t even get to relax and enjoy the trip.

There’s no doubt that the benefits of group travel are clear.  You have time to spend with those you love and may not be able to see very often.  You can explore a new culture or a favorite city together.  It’s a family reunion of sorts where everyone is sharing in the same experiences and creating lifelong memories.  Sharing perspectives throughout the journey is one of group travel’s major benefits.  When you have a variety of personalities and senses of humor contributing to the dinner conversation (or cooking class), it’s a lot more fun!

Experiencing other cultures and other people together is exciting.  You bring those new experiences and perspectives back with you and you’ll be able to reminisce for years.  Group travel doesn’t have to be so stressful and exhausting.  You can hire boutique companies that offer fully hosted, vetted and curated experiences so everyone can enjoy their trip.

What should you look for when your group is ready to travel?  Here are some tips you may want to consider:

First, if you don’t want one person to be saddled with being the group leader and missing out on the experience due to all the planning and executing, look for a company that hosts the entire experience.  A hosted experience is different from an escorted experience.  When you’re escorted, you only see your escort for the excursions you paid for—a few hours a day.

Second, you should make sure that the company you hire is expert in the area you are seeking to travel to.  Guesswork or simple online reviews won’t do.  It’s about living like a local so firsthand knowledge is critical.  The experience should be curated, vetted and executed by those in the know.

Third, if you don’t want to travel like a tourist, avoid companies that utilize the services of large major tour buses.  Nothing feels more like a tourist experience than boarding an enormous tour bus to visit a site.  Choose small group methods of travel so you can live like a local.

Lastly, choose a company that will work with you to customize the experience for your private group. Flexibility is key.  For example, if you want your morning off or a little more time to appreciate a site, you shouldn’t be forced to board the tour bus and miss out!

Keep in mind that group travel is a lot of fun.  The factors to consider when hiring a company for your group trip should help you make an informed decision.  Outsourcing the experience to experts who not only vet, curate and plan the entire experience but also fully host it will allow everyone in the group to relax and enjoy la dolce vita.

Please contact A Toast to Travel for any of your group travel needs and ideas.  In the meantime, safe travels and live well!