Florence... what a gem! A quick 2hr express train from Rome (they leave 1-2 times an hour, so it's a simple task!) and we were in the city covered in fleur de lis'.
I guess you could say we didn't have expectations with Florence (at least the way we did with the views in Cinque Terre & the historical sites in Rome), so I think it made it that much sweeter.
If I was going to pick a city in Italy to live in at this point, I'd definitely pick Florence - it's big enough to have everything you'd want & need from a city (bus system, walkable, great food & drink, cute neighborhoods, etc) but is still extremely charming. I can't quite put my finger on it, but for some reason it's charm reminds me of London.... which obviously is a big WIN in my book.
HOW TO GET THERE
Florence is easily accessible by plane into the Florence Airport or the Pisa airport (a 30-40 min train ride away from Florence city center).
Florence is also easily accessible from just about every city in Italy. Because it's in the middle, a lot of cities "connect" through there! It was very quick & easy from Rome, and also was fast to continue onto Venice (both were just under a 2hr train ride away - so quick!)
HOW TO GET AROUND
Florence is one of the most walkable cities I've ever been to. Not just because it's relatively compact, but many of the streets, and even a bridge (the famous Ponte Vechhio!) are pedestrian access only!
The bus system is also very easy to use if you're trying to get across town or from the train station. However, everything is really close. We took the bus to our Airbnb when we arrived and didn't use the bus after that because it was so walkable (we even walked back to the train station with our backpacks because it was only an 8 minute walk). But the bus is definitely your friend here.
WHERE TO STAY
With the advice of my friend Heather (she'd been to Florence a few times, and once was earlier this year) we chose to stay on the South side of the river. This might seem counter intuitive, because most of your main Florentine attractions (like the Duomo) are on the North side. But like I said.... so compact & walkable! We were less than a 15 minute walk from the Duomo - and it was the furthest thing from us.
We stayed in an area called San Spirito & I can't recommend it enough. We were 1 street south of the bridge, 2 blocks from Ponte Vechhio, and in the mecca of local food & drink spots! This is the Airbnb apartment we rented.
WHAT TO DO
Florence was a place I wish I had more time in, not because there were things I needed to "cross off my list", but because it was just enjoyable to be there. I wanted to spend days wandering around shops & cafes with no agenda. But onto the hit list :)
- Boboli Gardens
- Once again, suggested by Heather. These gardens are vast & beautiful, and definitely worth the €7 admission! They close around sunset, so it's best to go in the morning or around lunch time. There are sculptures, little paths, and some of the BEST views of Florence from above!
- Ponte Vechhio
- This pedestrian bridge was once the home of butchers in the city of Florence, but some shady deal with the mayor at the time turned it into the place to buy gold. Now, you can shop designer jewelry on a bridge, which I guess is cool if that's your style :) Either way, it's worth a walk through to enjoy the views! And note how the shops hang off the side of the bridge, it's crazy.
- The Duomo
- This beautiful Basilica is absolutely breathtaking. I loved it because the style was so different from those in Rome!
- Museums, Museums, Museums
- There are so many to take advantage of - the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti (by Boboli Gardens!), Accademia, Galilleo.... and so on. Take your pick! (PS - The Statue of David is in Accademia Gallery)
- Piazzale de Michelangelo
- It's a LOT of stairs, but totally worth it. Hike up and take in the BEST view of Florence. We did this at night and I loved it! You'll have an amazing view of the city, get to see a replica of the statue of David, and there's a beautiful beautiful church called Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte just past the viewing area.
|Do you see the two priests coming to close the gates? Perfect timing for us!|
WHAT TO EAT
Here's the fun part! There was a lot of delicious cheese & wine in Florence. Whatever you do, try the Chianti (red), Super Tuscan (red), or Vernaccia (white) wine! These are all Tuscan favorites, and likely the vino de la casa of whatever restaurant you're in!
Now, I have to say that every meal we had in the San Spirito area was divine. We read about Angiolino's in a Conde Nast article and decided we had to go there. Nobody spoke English (usually a great sign!) and there was a family table in the back. Luckily I at least knew how to say "Sono Vegetariana" so I was safe :)
Another favorite was Fuoria Porta, near the Piazzale Michelangelo!
Oh and I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but try the biscotti with the dessert wine! It was our favorite light dessert.
What can I say, Florence was a great part of our trip! I really can't wait to visit again someday. What are your Florentine suggestions?
Until next time. Hope you have a great weekend!
48 Hours in Cinque Terre
48 Hours in Rome