Italy, the Tuscan region, specifically, has a special place in my heart. Not only was it the place where we got married, but it was also my first mini solo trip!
As the capital city of the Tuscan region, Florence cannot be any better situated as the center of dreamiest rolling hills on earth.
Florence, Italy, the birthplace and symbol of the Renaissance. There's nothing short of things to do in Florence. Home to some of the world’s greatest pieces of art and architecture, Florence itself is a large piece of artwork; and it is just a treat walking down the streets of this walking city!
Withstanding several hundred years of history, this city has done a superb job in wonderfully preserving its finest art and rich culture for all of us to experience and become part of...and I am so happy to finally be sharing my experience of it :)
HOW TO GET THERE:
There are many direct flights to Florence from countries all over Europe. Coming from the United States, you will most likely have a layover in a large European airport, then fly over to Florence Peretola Airport.
Another way to get here is by train. If you are starting off from the North, which is where Rome is situated, it will be an hour and a half train ride. Or, if you are coming from the south, Naples, it will be about 2 and a half to 3 hours of a train ride.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Florence is a fairly small and compact city, so getting around by foot can be done with ease. This is probably the most pedestrian-friendly city I have been in the world.
The rail system is fairly easy to use, as well. There are many taxis, but I would only really suggest this if you have plenty of luggage on hand, as the city is so impacted that you'll be going at a turtle's pace in trying to get a taxi through its tiny streets filled with people.
Rent a car? Don't bother, unless you are wanting to road trip throughout Tuscany.
Traffic is highly regulated in Florence. Again, because this city is impacted, they really devise ways to avoid heavy car traffic into the city center. The whole area is closed to traffic, except for residents, taxis and buses. Violate this rule and you will pay a hefty fine. Plus, there is nowhere to park.
WHAT TO SEE:
No visit to Florence is complete without a visit to this iconic cathedral designed by Flilippo Brunellesci! I cant think of any other structure that would represent Florence most than this beautifully constructed church. And it’s FREE (but climbing up the bell tower does have a fee)
When I went on my own, I did hire a guide to take me and give me a bit of a history lesson :).
This literally means "old bridge" This bridge goes over the Arno River, and was built waaayy back when by the Romans. Back in the Medieval times, it was occupied by butchers. Now, it is home to high-end jewelry, art, and souvenir shops.
Disclaimer: this bridge is so famous that it WILL be packed throughout the day. So get there early!
Many blogs will tell you to watch the sunset AT Ponte Vecchio. I personally think watching the sunset go OVER Ponte Vecchio is even better!
Pro-tip: catch the sunset at Ponte Santa Trinita to get a view of the sun setting over Ponte Vecchio. The view of the sun setting down into all the vibrant colored structures in the horizon is just like looking right at a painting!
Here's THE place for spectacular sunset viewing in Florence. This one is going to be quite a walk (more like a hike) but the reward is absolutely worth the legwork! So make sure you've got your comfy shoes on! However, if you’re not up for the hike, no worries! It can also be reached by bus or taxi.
Situated atop of a hill, it provides a sweeping panoramic view over Florentine skyline. So get that pano-mode ready on your phone...it will be stunning! :)
Museums scatter in this beautiful city—even outdoor ones!
Thanks to the patronage of the Medici family for art (and politics) back in the Renaissance, there is no shortage of magnificent art in this city. Grandeur? Splendor? They made sure we’d all remember Florentine culture as such!
I mean, seriously, this family was THE definition of EXTRA.
But if you are super short on time, and if I was to say which one to go to, it will definitely be the Accademia. The star of the show Michaelangelo’s David is just a MUST SEE. All of its 13 feet glory, it was just so amazing to know that it was a monolithic piece of work!
So should you then buy the Firenze Card?
It depends on how many museums you think you will be able to see in 72 hours to make your 85 Euro worth it.
Most visitors really just want to visit the two major museums: the Accademia and The Uffizi Gallery. And these lines are LONG!
Academia: 12 Euro
Uffizi: 24 Euro
Boboli Gardens: 10 Euro
Note that Firenze card does give you priority/fast passes into the Accademia and Uffizi (with a pre-booked time and date)/
Because they expect lines to be long, you can also pre-book your date/time even if you do not have the Firenze card. You will stand in a separate line from the card holders.
Given that you can expect these lines to be quite lengthy,I highly, HIGHLY suggest you book in advance (there is a booking fee of 6 Euro?) Seeing those lines once you get there will remind you as to why it’s worth booking way in advance.
Lesson learned: We missed our reservation to the Accademia, and ended up getting a guide off the street to give us a guided tour so that we could skip the crazy long lines! And we still had to wait in line…but not for that long! And it was a bit pricier to get the guide.
WHAT TO EAT:
I'm going to be brief in this and say that I never had a bad meal, and that applies to both the food and service! Walking into traditional trattorias, it always felt very home-y. Tuscan food is very different from the rest of Italy, I must say. The food was always exceptional and just always had an unpretentious vibe despite its flavor combinations deserving of the highest remarks! This is one of the reasons why I knew I made no mistake in getting married in this region--because I knew we'd all eat well...and I WE DID :)
Also, for such a popular place to visit, hospitality of the people was just surprising! I can't speak for the whole of Italy on this, but I can say that this completely applies to the countryside. Everyone just wanted to feed you! Just what we came for 😄
You cannot leave Florence without having one of these monstrous steaks! It is just the yummiest piece fresh meat that you’ll probably have to share with someone! It may come with a steep price tag, but it’s damn well worth it!
This one’s a given, knowing that Florence is the birthplace of gelato. But WHERE is the question, because we all know that not all gelato are made equal! There will be as many gelato shops as there are many Starbucks coffee stores in one corner of San Francisco. So knowing which ones to steer away from will be your easiest way into a good one.
These are a Tuscan classic! It literally means "squished"! Schiacciata is an Italian flatbread brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and sometimes some herbs. And you can choose from their pre-made combos, or make your own. It's a perfect on-the-go snack!
This one's at Vinaino Fiorenza at Piazza della Signoria
Okay so Florentines aren't known for making pizza at all.
BUT if you're going to Italy, you are going to have pizza of course...yes, yes? :D
Gusta Pizza is THE place to go in Florence. Cheap amazing pizza with the simples and freshest ingredients, YES please!
This place is small. And I mean tiny! There are only about 6 tables in this restaurant, so you'll probably be sitting with strangers. But that's what I love about tiny spots like this in Europe. It somewhat forces a sense of community between those who live and visit this place. Sharing good pizza and making new friends? I love it!
So now that you know that this place will be PACKED, plan accordingly.
Okay, I'm hyping it up waaay too much. But check it out and you'll know why. :)
There is no doubt that Italians are amongst the most stylish of people out there. Bella figura as they call it, is an essential philosophy that is hardwired into the Italian way of thinking. It basically means that presentation is EVERYTHING (whether it be visually or by one's mannerisms). I mean, what else can we expect from a country who has been creating beauty and elegance all around the world ever since forever?!
Most people here dress in a very casually elegant manner. Hell, even the taxi drivers look like they are straight out of a Nordstrom suit catalog!
So you want to fit in with the crowd? You will never go wrong in bringing your best foot forward with a great pair of leather shoes!
This is one of the reasons why I love traveling--to experience style from a different point of view. Dressing the part, I personally think, is all part of the experience.
If there is one piece of advise I can give, it would be to bring pieces that are versatile enough to be worn all day. Your days in Florence will be busy, filled with museum-walking, city roaming, eating, drinking, and people watching (yes, it's a sport out there) lol. So I say, bring clothing that is comfortable but casually elegant and versatile enough to be able to do these things without having to head back and change will be best in maximizing your time.
WHERE TO STAY:
Luckily enough, this entire city is a pedestrian city. So everything can be walked. There are many hotels and AirBnBs in this city center. But if you ask me which hotel my personal favorite is, it would be Hotel Calzaiuoli. Located literally foot steps away from the Duomo, it is perfectly located for easy access to all the must-see's.
HOW LONG OF A STAY IS ENOUGH?
Because I love this place so much, I will be biased in saying that there is never enough time to stay in Florence.
For these reasons, I knew we wanted to share this with our wedding guests!
What’s beautiful about Florence is that it’s only a TINY piece of a beautiful region that can be explored. Hence the reason I rented a charter bus for my wedding guests. Tuscany is huge. And a road trip is just appropriate to soak in it’s beauty… and that is just what we did.
Driving in Tuscany is NOT easy. Especially when you get deep into the countryside, where roads are one lane each way, and super windy, it can be quite tricky. However, the views of never-ending rolling hills, Cyprus trees and a villa every few miles is just picturesque.
Beware: this can be distracting, so watch the road! :D
If you don’t want to drive, taking the train to surrounding regions (Pisa, Siena, Chianti, etc) are also an easy option! check out tickets and routes on ItaliaRail
But if you just plan to stay in Florence alone, I personally think that a 3-day weekend is just enough, just like many do. Many travelers will use Florence as a passing point as they travel through the Tuscan region.
So I hope this quick guide is helpful to you on your visit on Florence Italy or that it inspires you to visit and experience this beautiful city yourself. I assure you that it will not come short of your expectations, whether it be by the art, architecture, food, or wine!
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Comment and feel free to ask questions and such. I’d be happy to answer.
Also, have you been to Florence? I’d love to hear your experiences!