Narrow cobbled streets, yellow ochre buildings, renaissance landmarks on each corner, majestic domes, beautiful marble facades and tourists, tourists everywhere… I think I don’t need to describe any further, I’m talking about Florence, in the region of Tuscan, in Italy.
Its characteristic yellowish color is due to the construction of the buildings with pietra forte, extracted from the quarries of the region it’s ‘as if the city had been carved out of the surrounding hills’. Florence is crossed by the river Arno, and its bridges are emblematic to the image of the city, namely ponte Vecchio, with its jewelry shops.
The city is beautiful and unique, full of patrimony and history. Despite the number of tourists, like in any guide of Italy or the world, I absolutely recommend it, it’s like an open-air museum mainly of the renaissance, which makes it also very expensive on Italian standards… (I wonder what locals think of their city)
But you find its description and history everywhere so I will just tell you some practical information from my personal experience.
How to arrive?
We arrived by train from Rome (Trenitalia), it is great as it is comfortable and you can see the Italian landscape on the way. The trains are cheaper if you reserve it in advance.
Florence has also an airport so you could fly directly.
When to go?
I imagine that this city is crowded with tourists all year but what I can say is that if you go on eastern, for example, you will see almost only tourists and the queues are huge, but it is still a great experience. The weather was uncertain as we were in April but it was good for tourism as it was fresh but not cold.
To avoid the queues I think the Florence card (you can get in the tourism desk, there is one in from of the train station, here you find also free maps and can ask for the opening hours of every museum) is worth it, especially if you stay at least three days and want to see more than 4 museums/churches/palaces/galleries.
Ironically the first queue was to leave our bags in the station, which is also very expensive.
If you want to climb the dome of the Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore you have to reserve it online in advance here.
Where to stay?
We stayed at an Airbnb 20 minutes walking north of the city center. It was not far and there are buses but if you find something affordable in the center I think it is better as there is so much to see that you walk or stay in the queues all day so the last thing you want to do in the evening is to walk a lot back to the hotel, unless you want to digest your enormous Italian meal…
Where to eat?
We are talking about Italy so you can guess that it is not difficult to find good food.
For lunch, we have been to Gustapizza, a small place with good pizzas near palazzo Pitti, South of the river. Their service is pretty fast. You can either get a pizza to go and eat it by the river for example or get a table there.
And then to Enoteca Bevo Vino a nice place with an esplanade right before the San Miniato door.
We saw the Mercado centrale before lunch time but it looks like a cool modern place to have lunch, with lots of choices.
The first dinner was in centopoveri, a very good Ostaria, which didn’t seem very touristic. Here it is worth it to try the menu (28€ all included) with the Bistecca alla Fioretina, a great typical steak.
The second dinner was in L’Osteria di Giovanni, we called almost 10 restaurants suggested by a blogger inFlorencee: girlinflorence and they were all full, luckily we found this place. It is a big restaurant (maybe that’s why we found a table) with a great atmosphere and a great variety of Tuscan food, and they don’t stop bringing you great things, from the welcome drink to the biscuits that go with the coffee (at least in eastern). The staff is great and the food is good, you can have Italian food that’s not pasta or pizza… We had a breaded lamb and a pasta with fava bean pesto which I recommend…
This place is not far from the Arno river, which provides you a nice walk after a huge dinner…
What to visit?
Santa Maria dei Fiore – The exterior and the way it is implanted in the city are amazing, the proportions, the facade, I think to climb the dome would be a great experience, but the interior didn’t surprise me.
Uffizi gallery – Great building with remarkable works of art from Leonardo DaVinci to Rembrant, Rafael or Boticelli, there is also a terrace with a coffee and gift and book shops.
Santa Maria Novella – A mark of the renaiscanse, great facade.
Basilica S. Lorenzo – Beautifull inside
Palazzo Medici – I haven’t been inside but I always had this facade with integrated seats as a reference
Piazza della signoria – A must see, once you are in Florence you will pass by anyway, there is a copy of the David – which original is in the galleria dell’accademia
Piazza Sta. Croce – square with a lot of life and great atmosphere, it is surrounded by great facades and there are not only tourists
Piazza Pitti – A big inclined square in front of palazzo Pitti, good to take some sun, to rest or wait for the tickets
Boboli gardens – Apparently they are known as the Versailles of Italy, I loved this gardens, with many different spaces and levels, from there you have also amazing view to the city and the surrounding landscape, maybe I will write a post about them later on… To buy the ticket there was a huge queue and the ticket office is not organized for the amount of visitors it has.
Giardino delle Rose – This garden is free, is beautiful and a perfect place to rest, the views of the city are amazing
Piazzalle Michaelangelo – a must visit with amazing views of Florence with all its domes and towers
I think I wrote a lot already, the best is to see the pictures if you have some questions feel free to ask me, I was there just for three days but maybe I have the answer…
Tip: Take the opportunity to visit the city also on the evening, it is beautiful with all the monuments iluminated and the atmosphere totally different with less tourism.