Hands down, Florence is my favorite city in the world. I think for most people, the city that they studied abroad in or the city that gave them their wanderlust has a special place in their heart. The summer after my freshman year I did a national study abroad program, so it wasn’t with my University and there weren’t any other students from Georgia there with me. I loved it that way. Florence is the city where I found my independence and really started to grow into my own person. It is also where I found my love of food and wine, and of course, travel.
I was SO excited to share my favorite city with my favorite person, and it was my favorite trip that we’ve taken so far. We saw all sites, drank all the wine, and even found my old apartment from my study abroad summer. Florence is exactly how I remembered it, and I hope you get a chance to fall in love with it too!
Climb to the Piazza Michaelangelo to watch the sunset. This is always my number one recommendation when I hear that someone is going to Florence. When I studied abroad, this was my favorite thing to do: climb to the top of the Piazza Michaelangelo with a bottle of wine and some cheese, and watch the sunset. The panoramic view of Florence is so beautiful, and watching the sun set over Florence is the best.
Also there is a church across the street from the Piazza, called San Miniato al Monte. It’s a really pretty and unique church. We didn’t get to do it this time around, but during the weekdays you can hear the Gregorian monks chant at 5:30 pm in the summer (4:30 pm in the winter). It is such a cool experience.
Eat at the Mercato Centrale
Overall, I felt like Florence hadn’t changed very much in the past 10 years. The one major (and amazing) change was the addition of the second floor of the Mercato Centrale – a food lover’s heaven. I was already pumped to show Timmer the Mercato Centrale because we loooove a good food market (re: London) and Florence’s food market is amazing. There are so many vendors selling meats, cheeses, oils, wines, lampredotto (pro tip: you must get a lampredotto at Da Nerbone on the first floor of the market).
But this new second floor food hall blew me away. Atlanta people – imagine a huge indoor farmers market plus Krog Street Market with more seating, a wine bar, and another large bar in the center. We tried the ravioli wontons and ate the best cannoli I’ve ever had, and of course perched ourselves up at the wine bar.
Shop around the Mercatos
Right outside the Mercato Centrale is the Mercato Lorenzo. There’s also the Mercato Nuovo, which is a smaller (but still great) market. You can buy leather jackets, leather bound notebooks, purses, scarves, etc. It’s a great place to buy souvenirs because you can haggle down the price, while getting something you’ll actually use. I still have FOMO of not purchasing a bunch of cute scarves there – they would have made great Christmas gifts!
Tour the Duomo
The first time we walked past the Duomo on this trip, I almost started tearing up because (1) it is honestly so beautiful and (2) it brought back all the memories. I used to walk past the Duomo every day when I studied abroad. Even Timmer couldn’t stop smiling because it really is just such a beautiful sight to see. We also watched the show Medici on Netflix, so it was pretty cool to see Cosimo’s prized Duomo in real life. (Pro tip: watch this show before you go to Florence because it helps you appreciate the Medici family when you can put a[n actor’s] face to a name).
We got Skip the Line tour tickets to the Duomo through the best tour company in Florence, Slow Tour Tuscany (more on them later). This tour was awesome because we actually entered through the exit, allowing us to completely skip the lines and the madness of the crowds. We also had an official tour guide of the Duomo, so she was really knowledgeable about the cathedral, and we got to go to areas that were roped off to the public. This tour includes a free ticket to the Museum of the Misericordia, which was super cool for my doctor hubs.
As I mentioned above, we watched Medici on Netflix so we had to go into the Palazzo Medici. It was really cool to see rooms from the show, especially the Magi Chapel, which is more beautiful than the show or any pictures do it justice. The Medici family had such an impact on the city of Florence, and it was interesting to learn more about them and to see their old residence.
Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio
The Piazza della Signoria is probably the most important square in Florence because it is in between the Duomo and the river, and it houses the Palazzo Vecchio. The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall and a symbol of civil power in Florence. I definitely recommend visiting this museum because the architecture and the artwork inside is gorgeous and there is so much history inside.
You also have the option of purchasing a ticket that includes climbing the tower and the battlements. I definitely recommend climbing this tower instead of the Duomo because if you climb the Duomo, you’ll have a good view of Florence, but the Duomo won’t be in it. Instead, the view from the tower includes Florence and the Duomo.
Another one of Florence’s famous symbols is the Ponte Vecchio. During WWII it was the only bridge across the Arno River that the Germans didn’t bomb. The Old Bridge is filled with jewelry shops that are fun to browse. Make sure to cross the bridge at least once, and then stop for a glass of wine on the other side of the river. We stopped into Osteria Del Ponte Vecchio for some tiramisu and views of the bridge while waiting for the rain to pass.
See the David
The Galleria dell’Accademia is one of the most visited art museums in Florence (second to the Uffizi Gallery), and is home to the iconic David statue by Michelangelo. The Accademia itself is kind of underwhelming, but the David is as magnificent as everyone says. If you have a chance, I do recommend making time to see it! We just happened to go on a day that tickets were free – which was such a fun surprise – and we went at night, so there wasn’t a line to get in and it wasn’t crowded.
Splurge on a good Wine Tour
The highlight of our Florence visit was our Tuscan wine tour, and really everything we did with Slow Tour Tuscany. We found this wine tour online, but then saw they also had a Truffle Market tour, and then also used them to get Skip the Line tickets to the Duomo. Annalisa worked with us directly to put together the exact wine tour we wanted, and scheduled the Truffle tour for a time other than the times listed on their website. In other words, they completely customized our tours for what and when we wanted in order to best accommodate our Florence schedule.
In case you missed it, my husband is super passionate about wine. He did a lot of research to find the exact wine tour that he wanted, and Slow Tour Tuscany customized it even more. I plan on writing a whole other blog post about our wine tour because it was such a perfect day and deserves its own. Overall though, it was a small intimate group of wine lovers (we went with just one other couple and three members of STT), two very different and delicious wineries, saw secret rooms not open to the public, and had homemade lunch with the wine maker and his sweet mother and family.
We also had a tasting at Antinori after our Truffle Tour. They showed us pictures of the vineyards each wine’s grapes were from, and gave us a delicious cheese board!
Next Time in Florence:
No amount of time is ever enough for me in Florence. This time around, we didn’t get a chance to really explore the other side of the river, and we didn’t go to the Uffizi Gallery. Next time we go, we are definitely planning on taking the Slow Tour Tuscany guided tour of the Uffizi. There is also a Secret Passages Tour in the Palazzo Vecchio, which shows the secret passages of the Medici, that sounds really interesting. We also didn’t have a chance to do apertivo, the Italian version of happy hour…but I know we’ll be back!
When I studied abroad, I loved going to Osteria All’antico Vinaio (Antico is what we called it), so I had to show it off to Timmer. It has been hyped up and is super popular, so during lunchtime there is usually a line. We went at 10:30 am to miss the busy time, and the sandwiches were delicious. They are also huge, and Timmer and I could have just split one.
To get some really really really delicious gelatto, cross the Arno River and go about a block down from the Ponte Vecchio to the Gelateria Santa Trinita. Best gelatto ever.
Trattoria Lo Stracotto has great wine and traditional Florentine food (try their ribolita and lasagna), La Ménagère and Oggi are super cute and trendy, and Degustaria Italiana has great truffle pasta. (Hint: open this post in Google Chrome and it will automatically translate the links from Italian to English.)
Stay tuned for my posts about the Truffle Tour and our wine tasting day!