There’s something about Florence. Maybe it’s the wine, or the architecture, or all the beautiful, supple leather goods that can be seen through the windows as you walk the streets. It might be the fact that it’s the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is bursting with art, culture, and seemingly unchanged streets that make you feel like you’re walking back in time. Maybe it’s the gelato, or the delicious Italian cuisine.
Regardless of your motivation for visiting Florence, you are bound to fall irreversibly in love with it. The heart of Florence is bustling, alive, and bursting with Italian character. Walking around, you almost feel like you’re in a painting, or a piece of artwork, or in another world entirely.
what to see & do
Florence Duomo & Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral – When people think of Florence, they visualize Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and the Duomo. Capped by a red-tiled cupola, Florence’s main cathedral is the city’s most iconic landmark. Its mesmerizing pink, white and green marble facade and sky-high campanile (bell tower) dominate the cityscape. You can visit inside, and if you’re in good physical shape (and not at all claustrophobic), you can climb to the top of the Duomo, and take in beautiful sights of this medieval city from the top. If small, tight spaces give you the creeps, or if you’re totally afraid of heights, I would recommend taking in the city views from the Piazzale Michelangelo instead. I like to think my husband and I are in decent physical shape, and we were huffing and puffing and drenched in sweat by the time we reached the top! Not too mention you come in very close proximity to other sweaty visitors and things can get a little sticky. All in all though, as long as you’re ready for a little bit of a workout, the hike to the top is definitely worth it for the view!
Uffizi Gallery (Galleria degli Uffizi) – Located just off the Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery is a museum housing the world’s greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art. We didn’t personally go inside, but I feel like it’s important to mention if you’re visiting Florence specifically to experience Renaissance art.
The Palazzo Vecchio Museum and Tower – The Palazzo Vecchio is where Roman ruins, Renaissance art and medieval architecture collide. Located off the Piazza della Signoria and next to the Uffizi Gallery, it’s a worthwhile visit for history buffs.
Ponte Vecchio – Connecting both sides of Florence across the Arno river, the Ponte Vecchio is Florence’s oldest and most unique bridge. Rebuilt in 1345 after a flood washed it away, the bridge still stands, and is famously known for the shops, particularly jewellers and goldsmiths, who have been selling their goods on the bridge for hundreds of years. The Ponte Vecchio is a stunning structure, and is worth walking across, as well as taking in from afar.
Galleria dell’Accademia – This museum houses one of the most famous sculpture’s in the world; Michelangelo’s David. Carved from a single block of marble, David is Michelangelo’s most iconic piece of work, and was likely the most challenging to create. There is always a queue to enter the Galleria dell’Accademia to see David. It’s recommended that visitors purchase their museum tickets in advance of their arrival and/or arrive as the museum opens it’s doors for the day. We decided to visit in the afternoon, and waited for a while, before a freak hail storm/Tornado blew through Florence and literally, almost took us with it! There was damage done to the Galleria dell’Accademia during this 15-minute onslaught of weather, and they closed it for the rest of the day. We never ended up seeing David, which was very disappointing. We did however, see golfball-sized hail, and debris weightlessly flying past us down the street. Someday we’ll return to Florence so we can see David. If you don’t have time to visit the Galleria, there is a replica of the statue of David in the Piazza della Signoria.
where to eat and drink
Florence is known for it’s delectable Italian fare. In fact, one of our most memorable and delicious meals that we enjoyed in the whole of Italy, was from a Greve butcher shop in Florence called Antica Macelleria Falorni Firenze. We stumbled upon it by chance, and ended up enjoying the most incredible charcuterie, accompaniments and Chianti wine we’d ever tasted on a tiny bistro table on the side of the street. It was pure heaven.
Not to be out-done by the food, many visitors flock to Florence and the surrounding area of Tuscany for the star of the region; Tuscan wine. In reality, you really only need to drink two things in Florence and Tuscany… wine, obviously the first and most important, and water, strictly to stay hydrated in the heat and avoid headaches.
When it comes to gelato, Gelateria La Carraia was recommended to us by a local, and we visited three times in total during our time in Florence. The lemon-cookie and pistachio gelato flavours are not to be missed, and because of it’s location so close to the Arno river, it’s a lovely area to enjoy your delicious creamy treat.
I recently found a blog and website called Girl in Florence. Here you can find all her great recommendations for where to eat and drink in Florence! If you’re planning to travel to Florence, check it out!
how to experience Florence like a local
The best way to really experience Florence is to not over-plan your stay. The city centre is not expansive, and with all the narrow, cobbled streets, its best to get around on foot. Wandering through Florence, stopping in at shops, restaurants and cafe’s that look appealing to you is how you will find those hidden gems that you’ll talk about for years after your vacation is over. The tourist hot spots are important to experience, but I recommend spending the majority of your time in Florence off the beaten track, exploring the side streets and taking in the sights of lesser known but equally beautiful basilica’s such as the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and Basilica of Santa Croce.
Florence has something for everyone. I recommend giving yourself a few days to experience everything it has to offer. To experience Florence like a local, don’t rush… take your time, explore, and enjoy each moment in this beautiful, ancient city.
*All photos & opinions are my own.