285 km – 177 miles. That’s the distance between Rome and Florence, the two most admired and visited cities in Italy. A distance not so very great – but big enough to have created two unique worlds through the course of history.
Along the way, discover some lesser-known sights and museums – gems that will surprise and delight you! This off the beaten path journey takes you through the heart of Italy between postcard landscapes, magnificent churches, and museums not to miss while enjoying some of the best foods in all of Italy.
Our trip starts at one of the most interesting and lesser known museums, the Borghese Gallery, most beautiful of Roman villas, built in 1613, immersed in its verdant park. The museum contains hundreds of priceless works, including those of Raphael, Rubens, and Titian, and is unique in the world for the number and importance of Bernini sculptures and paintings by Caravaggio. There is nothing like a pleasant walk in the famous park of the Villa Borghese. It’s a cool oasis in the summer and offers much to enjoy with its statues and ponds. Book your admission to the museum in advance, at a time and date of your choosing!
After your visit, you might be ready to enjoy a delicious pizza: just 300 meters behind the gallery, the pizzeria Gaudi (Via R.Giovannelli 8) is waiting for you with quality ingredients and fast service!
Back at the Villa Borghese, rent a bike at the kiosk, or catch the electric bus line 116, and you’ll be at the Pincio terrace in a few minutes, overlooking the Piazza del Popolo and Baroque Rome.
Under the Umbrian Sun
Let’s hit the road towards Florence. But before you say “arrivederci” to Rome, don’t forget to visit the Vatican Museums with the admirably frescoed Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, and the Cathedral. Leaving San Pietro, you’ll probably think “I just saw the most beautiful church of Italy.” Wait to judge! Just 55 miles north of Rome, Orvieto is waiting to capture your heart.
Perched on a butte of volcanic tufa rock, the site of Orvieto is surely one of the most dramatic in Europe. The ancient town of Orvieto houses Etruscan and Roman ruins, but the Duomo is its crown, with one of the most stunning facades in Italy, adorned with bas-reliefs and mosaics.
Hungry after all these cultural experiences? Discover Umbrian delicacies such as mushrooms and truffles with meat-stuffed pasta at Ristorante Maurizio, not even 200 feet from the Dome.
Want to learn more about Umbria? The tour Assisi and Orvieto (departure from Rome), will lead you to the beautiful birthplace of Saint Francis, majestically perched on the western flank of Mount Subasio. Treat yourself to our Flavors of Italy tour, which will take you to picturesque Cortona where the bestseller “Under the Tuscan Sun” is set, as well as to Lake Trasimeno and the Chianti area with its wines, including the famed Montepulciano!
Cypress, Olive, Vine, and Sun
Know the beautiful images of Tuscan countryside, with gently colored rolling hills and roads adorned with geometric lines of cypress trees? You are now there! Welcome the most southern part of Tuscany, halfway between Rome and Florence.
n this area, be sure to visit Val d’Orcia, immortalized by the most important painters and photographers, where passionate artisans produce amazing cheeses and extraordinary wines such as the Brunello di Montalcino. Pienza, the stunning summer residence of the Pope who created this first “ideal” Renaissance city, which is a magically situated town just 79 km/49 miles from Orvieto (or 180 km/112 miles from Rome, and 115 km/71 miles from Florence). Try the delicious flavors of the cheeses of Pienza! The beauty of the countryside makes the whole area an open-air museum. The thermal waters bubbling to the surface fed by the volcanic aquifer have brought forth a number of historic spa towns, such as the wonderful little village of Bagno Vignoni, whose town square is one large thermal basin! Be sure to include enough time to take in the waters.
Follow the brown signs that indicate the ancient “white” roads, and you’ll pass through the most beautiful hills, far from traffic! To discover and enjoy Tuscany as well as its wines, we recommend the Wine Tasting Tour through the Brunello Kingdom around Montalcino or the Montepulciano and its Vino Nobile Tour. Looking for something special? Discover Tuscany with a Photographic Tour, led by a professional photographer.
The Charm of Siena
Medieval Italy comes alive in Siena. Located just 80 km (or 50 miles) from Florence, on the ancient Roman Via Cassia which connected Rome to Fiesole (the ancient Florence), Siena has has irresistable charm. The historical center is perfectly preserved, with its winding, steep streets. Discover the Civic Museum and its collection of medieval masterpieces in the palace that overlooks the stunning Piazza del Campo, home of the famous, passion-filled Palio horse race. Explore the Museum of the beautiful Duomo, Siena’s cathedral, which is close in style and beauty to that of Orvieto. We highly recommend the convenient OPA SI Pass: a ticket that will open the entire museum complex of the Duomo to you. Siena loves to eat, too: try the Panforte (a kind of nougat) and the Ricciarelli (almond biscuits). Dine at the Gallo Nero osteria in the center (Via del Porrione 65, 200 meters from Piazza del Campo) where time seems to have stopped in the Middle Ages! – Love to shop? You’ll find brightly colored fine ceramics. And at a short distance from Siena, discover San Gimignano with our tour – the best preserved medieval town of Italy, “the New York City of the 13th century” with its many towers.
Florence and the David
Once you have arrived in Florence, especially if it is your first time, make sure you visit the Uffizi, preferably together with the Accademia! Experience the most important art gallery in Italy and admire the marble perfection of Michelangelo’s David. Book your tickets in advance so you won’t waste your precious vacation time waiting in line! Choose our great combo ticket – and save! Beyond these two key experiences, Florence has marvelous but less famous museums and things to discover. The Bargello is a pearl of the city, for the impressive building (a former prison) as well as for the works by Donatello, Della Robbia, and many others on view. There is also the Casa Buonarroti, which celebrates the masterpieces of the young Michelangelo and the rich art collection of his family. Looking for a Florentine experience out of the ordinary? Then we recommend the Renaissance Banquet, a real “blast from the past” with a meal prepared and served as if it was still the 15th century, including traditional songs.