Where to Stay:
In Florence don’t miss stylish bolt hole JK Place (www.jkplace.com). In Santa Maria, Novella Villa Bordoni (www.villabordoni.com) is a great launch pad into the Chianti area; and of course I am a fan of the boutique properties my husband and I opened in Southern Tuscany, La Bandita Countryhouse and Townhouse (www.la-bandita.com). We designed them to feel like staying at the home of a chic friend!
Meanwhile Portrait Firenze(www.lungarnocollection.com) is the latest property from the Ferragamo family: it’s right on the Arno and has pared down but stylish interiors from designer Michele Bonan.
Where to Eat:
Florence’s Amble (www.amble.it) is one of my favorite spots in town—hidden away and open all day—with well-heeled locals arriving for a great espresso or Aperol Spritz (you can even buy their great vintage furniture). Don’t miss the new floor at the Mercato Centrale – restaurant and food vendors specialize in local and sustainable products, and it makes for a great lunch stop (I particularly like the fish vendor who cooks up just caught seafood as you wait). I also adore Ino (ino-firenze.com) for the delicious panini, and it’s right by the Uffizi. For dinner, one of my favorites is Il Santo Bevitore (www.ilsantobevitore.com), which is like a fashion canteen of sorts, but unpretentious with simple and delicious food.
Outside Florence, La Pineta (Via dei Cavalleggeri Nord 27; 39-0586-600-016; closed Mondays and Tuesday lunch) near Bolgheri (home to some of the region’s best wine producers) is a near religious experience for me, with incredible seafood and an encyclopedic wine list. But make a reservation well in advance because I am not alone in my cultish adoration.
Where to Drink:
In Florence the rooftop bar of the Hotel Continentale(www.lungarnocollection.com) has jaw-dropping views of the Arno and city spires. At home in Pienza, Il Casello (Via del Casello) has epic views of the UNESCO Valley and “Poppino” makes a great Aperol Spritz; there is also a juice bar now right around the corner from La Bandita Townhouse so I can my green fix. In Montalcino, the wine bar at the fortress gives you the opportunity to savor Brunello, one of the country’s most famous wines.
What to do:
I love hiking in the Tuscan countryside and there is an excellent book I use in planning my walks called Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria. They give detailed walking routes that end up at a fab restaurant—my kind of reward. If you haven’t gone truffle hunting it’s great fun—most hotels offer a chance to go on an expedition in the autumn. And despite most guides focus on the interior of the region, I love the coast and make a trip there at least once a week in the summer—the Parco Naturale of the Maremma (parco-maremma.it) is amazing, 25,000 acres of preserved land with long undeveloped beaches and bike paths through pine forest; you might even see a wild boar running by.
Where to Shop:
My new fave clothing store in Florence is Marie Antoinette (www.marieantoinettefirenze.com)—it is a tiny space but has an excellent mix of vintage and new design. In Siena, don’t miss Dolci Trame (www.dolcitrame.it) — I basically want to buy everything in the shop, an excellent curated selection ranging from Isabel Marant to little known Italian labels. In Pienza, I am a huge fan of the market bags – leather carryalls in vibrant colors – from Officine 904 (http://www.officine904.it).
Where to have Fun:
Pretty much every week in Tuscany in summer there is a local festa (festival) in one of the towns—the festa of the ravioli, say, or for a local saint. Ask your hotel what’s going on when you are there; they tend to be a riot: you eat well, they make for great people-watching, and you usually end up line dancing at the end.
Where to hide out:
At home in Pienza I retreat to the garden in the Palazzo Piccolomini (Piazza Pio II) where part of Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet was filmed, and when tourists get too much in Florence, I head to Villa Bardini Gardens (1r Via de Bardi; 39-055-294-883), a ten-acre green space with some of the most spectacular views in town amid terraced gardens. Oh and I love the spa at the Four Seasons Florence—such an oasis with a swimming pool, and the facials take years off your face!
Ondine Cohane is a contributing travel editor at Conde Nast Traveler and frequent writer for New York Times travel section.
She is also the co-owner of La Bandita Townhouse and Countryhouse in Tuscany