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.
1) 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.
2) 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.
When 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.
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.
5) 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.
6) 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.
7) 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.
I 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?