Italy. I have dreamt of the day I would finally be able to go to Italy and this Summer, that dream came true. It was on the top of my list to visit Italy while in Europe and the rest of my group was on the same page. Although there were other cities I wanted to visit as well (such as Venice, Milan, and the Amalfi Coast), we had a limited amount of time so I guess I'll just have to go back ;). Our first stop in Italy was Florence, and my oh my did I fall in love with Florence.
Everything about the city was amazing. The food, the sights, the shopping.. Everything! The food was to die for, hands down. But the city itself was so quaint and the culture was just something I loved being in the midst of. We also took this time in Italy to take a break from going out like we did in Spain, so we ended almost every night with an amazing dinner paired with bottle/s of wine, gelato, and an early bedtime. It was heaven. It was pretty hot while we were there, and all our Airbnb had to offer were fans, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the weather. I mean, it's Summer after all! My friend Lindsey met up with us while in Florence, and she made a great addition to the team. She came with recs from a bunch of her friends and made sure we ate at great places everyday. I also will say that the Florence airport is probably the best airport I've ever flown into. Granted we had been in the Barcelona airport more times than we could count, it was nice to be able to fly into somewhere small that didn't lose our baggage like they did when we got to Greece, and it was so quick. We landed, got off, got our bags almost immediately, walked outside in 2 minutes, got a taxi, and went on our way. Once we landed, it took us probably fifteen minutes from getting off the plane and getting into a taxi.
The one thing I will say about Florence... well Italy in general, and I'll get more into that in Rome, is that August is the month where most people are on holiday. And it's not like America where there's a long weekend and everyone goes back to work, or company shut down during Christmas. People just decide to close down for random periods of time and they're just like "deal with it." Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly respect that and totally believe in vacation on your own time, I mean hey, I took months off of work and traveled to Europe so who am I to talk?! But since August is the time of the year when most Europeans do this, I would highly suggest visiting any other time besides August since a lot of the stuff we wanted to do, mainly restaurants, were closed. And these were restaurants highly recommended by various different people that we were unable to try. With that being said, we had an amazing time in Florence regardless.
WHERE TO STAY
Since I have only been to Florence once, I am no expert on where to stay, but we very much enjoyed the area we were in. We stayed south of the Ponte Vecchio, or the Arno River, which is where I would recommend. North of this is where the Duomo is and it's very touristy. Like... very. It was nice to walk to the center where all the shopping is, but then we got to go back to our little area which was a lot more quiet and quaint. Florence is a very small city, so it's quaint all over and we walked everywhere, but everyone is visiting to go to the Piazza del Duomo so it got super crowded. From our Airbnb to the Duomo, it took us around 15-20 minutes by foot. Our Airbnb was right by the Piazza Michelangelo and was a small little villa. It was very cute and felt like we were on the countryside, we also had our own balcony. I got bit by like 1,000 mosquitoes because we left the windows open, but that's besides the point. I'm sure all hotels are nice as well, but I loved being a part of the town since I stay in hotels all the time in America, and it was nice to be a part of the culture. The area was just very peaceful to be in and would highly recommend.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
The Duomo in Florence or The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore: A must see + do. This is the heart of the city, where all the hustle and bustle is, and where everything stems off of I feel. This is the main cathedral of Florence and has so much history to it. It's really confusing how it all works, in the sense of how to see it and where to go, and I'm not even sure how to describe a lot of it myself. Basically, there are different ways to experience it and you have to get tickets way in advance to basically go and stand in long lines. If you know me, you know I don't like lines or having to wait, and neither did my friends. So we opted for a tour that they offer called A Little Peek on Florence. This is basically the best way to get all your bases covered. You sign up and you meet at the Piazza at a certain time to get your ticket and meet your tour guide. It's a very small tour group, so it was manageable. You walk around then you basically skip all the lines to get into the cathedral itself, then you go up to this terrace where there is absolutely no one else besides your tour group, then after you have the option of walking up the hundreds of stairs to get to the top of the dome. It was perfect because we got to see what we felt like we were obligated to see, and ended up loving it. The view from the terrace and the top of the dome were breathtaking. You seriously get to see all of Florence and it's amazing. Beware that it is quite a long trek up and the stairwell is so narrow that it gets super claustrophobic. We were running on only a few hours of sleep and barely any food so I felt even more faint than I would on a full stomach and solid 8 hours, but we did it and it was worth it.
Piazzale Michelangelo: This is a square on a hill that is right around where our Airbnb was, so on the south bank of the Arno River. We would walk outside our front door and the stairs to go up where right there. We came here on our first night at sunset and it was perfect. You can see a panoramic view of Florence and the colors at sunset are magnificent. There are little cafes that have seating where you can get some appetizers and wine, which is what we did, and loved it. Once the sun set, live music started playing and granted it was our first night there, I started to tear up. It was very beautiful, all of it, and I will replay that moment in my head forever. The perfect start to a night in Italy.
Boboli Gardens: This reminded me a lot of Versailles in Paris. Just really pretty gardens that seem endless and a ton of sculptures and statues that kind of come out of no where. We didn't spend a ton of time here since it was really hot that day and we had already been walking around a lot, but it's a great place to have a picnic or simply just stroll around.
Uffizi Gallery: We were told we had to go here. Amazing museum that is right in the heart of Florence. Get tickets ahead of time! This is where the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli is located.
Via de' Tornabuoni: If you know me, you know my love for shopping. Tornabuoni is basically the Florence equivalent of Rodeo Drive. In case you didn't know, shopping for designer items is much better in Europe. A given, I know, but not only is it cheaper, you also get a tax refund. I died at the Gucci flagship here and all the stores were very beautiful.
Leather Market: There are tons of different leather markets around Florence, and they all sort of sell the same stuff. You can find purses, backpacks, wallets, belts... you name it. They have everything. Just be careful because a lot of the stuff is overpriced and some of it isn't even real leather. Keep an eye out on some items that may be a scam, but don't be afraid to negotiate. People are willing to lower their prices, especially first thing in the morning since you are their "first customer."
L'Antica Cantina del Chianti: This is a wine and specialized food store right by the Duomo. It's like a little market that sells all kinds of oil, balsamic vinegar, wine, pasta, etc. A great place for gifts!
WHERE TO EAT
All’Antico Vinaio: Huge panini, seriously it's like a 5x5" square of yumminess. I don't remember the name of mine but I love prosciutto and they had a few with that in it so that's what I go. Lindsey had the one with prosciutto and truffle and that was great as well. As much as I say you should get your own and share, you could easily split one with another person. A must go! Pro tip: If you don't want to wait in line, go across the street to the restaurant and you can get the same exact thing.
Gusta Pizza: We heard nothing but good things about Gusta, but this fell under the "on holiday" category so we never got to go.
So instead we went to... Totò Atto II: Great quick pizza. Pick your slices and they warm them up. We sat outside since it was super hot inside when we went.
SimBIOsi: Another pizza spot that we went to after the leather market. Great pizza and another place where you should split.
Zeb Gastronomia: Michelin guide recommended. This was right by our place and my friend told us we had to go. Food was unreal, they serve based on courses so you get to try everything. We started with ravioli, both the bolognese and truffle were so good. It's a small, counter-seating restaurant and the chef/service was a little rude, but it was still good. Sometimes you just can't enjoy your dinner when people across the bar from you are staring and talking about you and your friends.
Osteria Santo Spirito: Recommended by friends, and they did not lead me astray! Got the truffle gnocchi and I DIED AND WENT TO TRUFFLE HEAVEN. It was beyond delicious and still dream/drool of that meal.
Trattoria Zà Zà: Known for their truffle, so naturally we had to go. Big restaurant with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Me and a friend split their truffle pasta as well as their bolognese. We also just got their house wine which was a perfect pairing.
Il Gelato di filo: Right by our place and our go-to gelato spot every day. It's right across from Zeb so if you go to dinner there, you MUST come here after.
Gelateria La Carraia: Another gelato place. This one is right on the water on the south side of the Arno.
Gelateria dei Neri: Came here after drinks at Locale, another good spot.
Locale: Super LA-type drink spot. If you love design, you'll love this place. The roof is made entirely of steel and glass and they open it up at night. Drinks are VERY expensive. Our cocktails were 20€ each. Good atmosphere though. They also took us on a tour of the private dining downstairs that was pretty spectacular.
That's a wrap on Firenze! I hope this guide is helpful and if you are there, do not hesitate to reach out and I'll give you some more intel if necessary! I definitely plan to come back to Florence so if you have any other recommendations or places I missed, please comment them below!
Next stop, Rome! Now enjoy some more photos from one of my new favorite cities in the world.