How to Make the Most of Visiting Florence, Italy

March 31, 2016

Duomo Florence

Italy was a whirlwind of a trip that I can only describe as a magical experience.  Every time I go, I get giddy with excitement.  I remember in high school, I wanted to take Italian language classes just so I could pack up and move there.  Looking back, it was probably a good thing that my school didn’t offer any of those courses because the job market wasn’t great.

Florence was one of my absolute favorite cities to be in.  Food is delicious almost everywhere you go, and the the locals and the thousands of travellers are nice.  Who wouldn’t be?  The views are spectacular.  A city so full of life breathes the feeling of romance, luxury and allure in the air. 

Piazza della Repubblica1) Walk Everywhere

Florence has a lot of small alleys and lanes with cute shops, cafes, restaurants and boutiques.  One of the beautiful things about walking through all of the narrow lanes is coming across a really nice mom and pop shop and indulging in gelato and local pastries from a family-run cafe.  I’d walk along a different path every day to try something new.  As I take my morning strolls, I’d hear the locals opening up shop, horse carriages passing by and see the morning sun gleam into the bare streets. Florence is a large city for all that you get to see, but the museums and basilicas are all within a 5 to 20 minute walk from one another, so we didn’t need to travel far on foot to get to our desired destination.  Whenever we felt famished or tired, we’d replenish with refreshments and pastries, or dine at a restaurant facing a Piazza to take in the views and people watch. You can rent a car and park further away, but in my opinion, walking is the best way to see Florence and experience all of the wonderful food and all that there is to offer in the city.

Florence Bike2) Indulge in Local Food & Wine

It is no secret that I love food, and in Italy I really indulge. The first thing I did after I dropped off my bag was get a double scoop of gelato and water. To be frank, I consumed at least two scoops of gelato everyday on every trip I’ve made to Italy. Each vendor has different flavors, so you can always have something a little different.  Gelateria dei Neri is a great gelateria with an assortment of delicious flavors.  I also really enjoyed Gelateria La Carraia, which is right by Ponte Vecchio.

Gelato La Carraia - Florence, ItalyWhen in Italy, I’ll eat everything, but I’m usually having pizza, pasta, gelato, coffee, tiramisu or wine.  I don’t know what it is about wine in Italy, but it always tastes better to me there, and is usually about the same price of water, so we order a bottle of each during our meal.  If you walk around for 12-16 hours every day like I do, most of those calories don’t stand a chance anyways.  For those traveling on a tight budget, pick up small bites and pizza squares as explore, but I recommend having at least one meal where you if sit down at a restaurant facing a piazza.  They’re still very affordable, plus you’ll get a beautiful view, an experience you wouldn’t have at home, and sometimes live music or entertainment.

The first meal I had was in front of the Salvatore Ferragamo store and museum.  We dined outside with a glass of wine and just enjoyed the weather. When I wasn’t sitting down for breakfast, I was stopping into a local bakery for a croissant and a large cafè latte in the morning.

Dining in FlorenceLunch in FlorenceCroissants Florence

I also had to  visit the Gucci Museum & Cafe for tea and a quick bite.  It faces the Palazzo Vecchio and is a great way to hydrate, refresh and enjoy a break when you’ve been on your feet all day.

PiazzaGucci Cafe Florence4) Visit the Duomo & Basilica di Santa Croce, Uffizi Gallery, Accademia Gallery & other Basilicas & Museums. Purchase Tickets in Advanced Online.

I have yet to visit all of the museums in Florence, but one thing I know is that there are extremely long line ups.  I purchased my tickets in advanced online to avoid the long waits, but also to ensure that I could visit, as some sites get sold out for days in advanced. The last thing I wanted was to be told that they’re sold out for the next few days. If you plan to go, buy your tickets in advanced online at the official gallery or basilica websites.

If you have to see one thing in Florence, it’s the Duomo. One of my favorite places to visit in Florence, this cathedral is the third largest in the world.  The interior and exterior has some incredibly detailed work.  Basilica di Santa Croce is where you’ll find the statues of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli. Academia houses Michaelangelo’s statue of David. There were plenty of time slots available for Salvatore Ferragamo Museum & Gucci Museum, so you’ll likely be able to purchase tickets on site.

Duomo FlorenceDuomo-FirenzeView from Duomo5) Romantic Carriage Ride

Outside of Florence, the only carriage ride I’ve done was in Montreal, Quebec in Canada when it was incredibly cold.  On my birthday, Tom wanted to share a romantic ride around the city.  It was a really nice, thoughtful and generous gesture that really made for a great experience and memory.  If you’d like one, you’ll be able to find one just outside of the Duomo.

Florence Carriage Ride6) Catch the Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo

Every visit, I get an order of gelato at the bottom of the stairs for the walk up to catch the sunset atop the hill at Piazzale Michelangelo.  I was really happy to be able to share this view with Tom on this trip, since it was his first time in Florence.  It’s not a long hike, but if you want a great spot, go up early.  You can even have dinner at one of the restaurants up there.

Palazzo Michaelangelo7) Shop at the Luxury Designer Shops & at the Local Market

Italy is known for their leather.  If you’re looking for a new leather jacket or bag, scour the area around Santa Croce and visit the Santa Lorenzo Market. Scouting luxury goods in US, Canada and UK can be quite expensive.  If you plan to look for an Italian luxury brand, stop into Valentino, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace or Prada in Florence.  Not only will get you get a tax refund, but you’ll likely get a better price than back at home.

Salvatore Ferragamo FirenzeI hope you enjoyed this post.  If you did, please leave a comment below. Have you been to Florence?  What are some of your favorite things to see or do there?  Where do you like to shop?

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  • Erica April 1, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Wow I love these photos! I from Milan, but I think Florence is one of the most beautiful city!
    Hope you had a great time!
    I have been twice to Florence and I will go again the 25th of April 🙂
    XO Erica

    • miki April 4, 2016 at 11:06 pm

      I LOVE Milan! So awesome. I’m envious that you’ll get to return so soon. I can’t wait to go back to Italy!

  • maray April 2, 2016 at 5:13 am

    Beautiful pics! Kisses 🙂

    • miki April 4, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks so much!

  • Laura April 3, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I would love to go to Florence.
    I was in Rome a few days ago and yes I also ate gelato everyday! 😉
    It’s also great because they have lots of gluten-free food!


    • miki April 4, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      Oh, you were so close! Next time, definitely make a visit when you’re nearby 🙂 The gluten-free food is huge! Thanks for sharing that! 🙂

  • Konstantina Antoniadou April 3, 2016 at 10:04 am

    ohh. gorgeous photos

    • miki April 4, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks! 🙂

  • yuka April 3, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    walk everywhere is probably the best tip I have heard for any trip! there is so much to see just walking around town and the experience is so different from cabbing it places

    • miki April 4, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      I agree! 🙂 Cabbing will also drive up the cost. You can spend that on food or new bag, right? Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Rae April 9, 2016 at 7:39 am

    Wow! Florence looks absolutely beautiful! There are so many places in Italy I would like to visit. This is making me want to plan my next trip!

  • Mel Carr April 19, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    I love this post dear! It’s so fun comparing experiences & it looks like you had a beautiful time as well. I felt the same way about just wanting to get up & move there. 😛