Florence, or Firenze in Italian, offers a romantic city break full of good food and wine, a rich history, and nowhere else would you find such a plethora of Renaissance art history crammed into one place. We arrived to the city from Pisa by train, and found the baking heat replaced by a cooling light rain and a city steeped in a romantic atmosphere.
Three days is just enough to fit in the major highlights of the city, but expect to be on the go!
Visit Galleria dell’Accademia
Book ahead and start early to beat the queues and crowds. You’ve likely seen a thousand pictures of the statue of David, but unlike some other ubiquitous pieces of art, David did not fail to impress. Every detail of muscle and sinew, carved into what was considered a flawed piece of marble, needs to be taken in to appreciate how incredible Michelangelo’s piece really is. Apart from his rough and unfinished looking Prisoners, there isn’t much else to see here, so taking your time, have a seat on the bench surrounding David, and take in all in.
See the Duomo
Aside from being our main point of reference while we navigating the streets of Florence, the Duomo is an impressive structure. Also known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the 15-century cathedral is visually stunning with its green, pink, and white marble façade. Book tickets to tour inside, or grab a coffee in the Piazza to marvel it from afar.
Visit Mercado Centrale for Lunch
This covered market, next to the outdoor San Lorenzo market, is dedicated to food. Although most goods on offer downstairs will not interest you unless you are staying somewhere with a kitchen, you may want to check out the cured meats, olives, and cheeses to take back (we didn’t find out until after we’d been, but apparently some places will vacuum seal your purchase if you tell them you are travelling back with it).
Upstairs is great for a light lunch, featuring street food style stalls in a gourmet food court, great for caprese salads, pizzas, truffle-inspired dishes, and more. If you’re feeling brave, try the Lampredotto, a classic Florentine sandwich made from cow stomach. I tried a bit and thought it was surprisingly nice (bit like pulled pork in flavour), even though I can be quite picky when it comes to meat.
Spoil yourself with some shopping
Whether you hunt for some bargain leather goods while at San Lorenzo market, or decide to take advantage of Florence’s extensive designer boutiques, it’s likely you’ll return home with your suitcase a few kilos heavier. At the market, feel free to bargain with the stall traders. It was quite rainy and quiet when we were there, so we were able to negotiate down on a few presents to take home. Meanwhile, you’ll find the likes of Prada, Gucci, and Versace on Via dei Tornabuoni, or for high street fashion, try Via dei Calzaiuoli.
Visit Uffizi Gallery
Home to such pieces as Botticelli’s the Birth of Venus, Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait of a Young Man, and a large collection of Italian Renaissance art, Uffizi should not be passed up. But heed the same advice as with Galleria dell’Accademia: Go early and book ahead! Made up mainly of small rooms, you might suddenly find yourself squashed in the middle of a tour group while trying to get a peak at some of the more famous pieces. But, yes, they are worth it.
Take a break from the large crowds out on the balcony near the cafe to take in some stunning views of the city over Piazza della Signoria.
Grab Lunch at SandwiChic
Of all the lists I expected Florence to top, “best sandwich” came as a surprise. But the small shop, serving a number of artisan sandwiches with fresh meats, cheeses and chutneys, was a lasting memory.
We loved it so much that we just had to go back for another sandwich when we arrived back from our wine tasting tour on the last day.
Take Some Pictures in Piazza della Signoria
Stroll along Ponte Vecchio
Expect to see some quirky shops mixed in with the high-end jewellers and designer fare on/around the famed bridge over the Arno. For example, I was facinated by an old fashion stationary shop selling old fashions stationary, quills, and ink. And the jewellery on the bridge itself is definitely worth a peak. Just avoid this area for food, prices tend to be more expensive.
Go Wine Tasting
Perhaps you came for the art, but you’ll stay for the wine. After a few days in the city, there actually came a point where we actually felt a bit jaded with Renaissance art and sculpted masterpieces. There are definitely worse problems to have, but by the end of your stay you will inevitably need some R&R. Don’t worry, Florence has you covered for this too.
There’s a few wine tours around the city itself, but this could be the perfect chance to journey out into the Tuscan countryside and sample some gorgeous Chianti wine from the vineyards themselves. Ours was through Viator, and included two vineyards and a stop at the town of Greve, and while we enjoyed it, I do feel like there’s probably better value trips out there (seemed a bit much for the food/wine we got and the stop off was far too brief to enjoy).
The scenery and the wine itself was amazing, I’m definitely a fan of the deep red wine, produced in the region between Florence and Sienna. Keep an eye out for the Black Rooster seal, marking true quality.
Some Useful Bits….
Getting there: Florence is well served by trains from Venice, Rome, and Pisa, amongst other destinations. If you are flying there, land in Pisa and Florence is approximately half an hour away.
Where to Stay: It’s quite easy to find something central and Florence is awash with B&Bs. We stayed at B&B Soggiorno Panerai, and it was ideal. Very centrally located, down the street from the Duomo, our host was so lovely, it was quite quiet, and had an old world charm which I loved. But the best part was having breakfast brought to our rooms in the morning, and it was quite a spread!