Nested in the heart of Tuscany, Florence the city of Renaissance provides tourists and lovers alike an amazing perspective into Italian life and good living. This high profile city, once served as the capital of the Kingdom of Italy in the late 19th century. On top of this, it was the city where we spent our ‘mini-moon’ – so it will always have a place in our hearts.
Many artists came to Florence in their days to showcase their work. Names such as Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolò Machiavelli and Francesco Guicciardini all raised the profile of this cultural, economic and military centre.
As a result of this increased prestige it’s said that the Florentine dialect became THE Italian to speak.
- Travel to and Around Florence
- Where to Stay in Florence
- Top things to do in Florence
- Where to eat?
Originally settled by Etruscans in the 9th century BC, it later on became a settlement for roman veteran soldiers. Through the ages, it saw ups and downs, with many wars and changes of leaders, with its population going at one point to 1000 inhabitants.
At the height of its economic power, accelerated by the Medici family, Florence was called home by more than 120 000 inhabitants. In its great days, wealthy financers would invest their money all over Europe, financing wars, buildings and changing the course of history.
Travel to and Around Florence
One of the things one will notice about flying to Florence is how expensive flights can be. From London, on a good day, cheapest is £160 return pp. Pretty hefty for a city break.
A good hack is to fly to Pisa and then get a coach to Florence. In this way you also get to see Pisa and the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. For more suggestions, read this article on how to find cheap flights.
Depending on where you stay in Florence, you can either walk or use public transport. As the distances are not too long, taxi is also an affordable option.
Where to Stay in Florence
In terms of accommodation, we would recommend booking your travel through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. You can also use the widget below to quickly check hotels and compare prices.
For a good night’s sleep and an authentic Italian experience be sure also to check out Agriturismo Il Poggio alle Ville, just a stone’s throw away from Florence. They offer genuine family hospitality and authentic memorable Tuscan experiences such as: truffle hunt, home made tortelli with wild boar ragù and all you can eat pizza days!
To get a 10% off your booking email them directly at: [email protected] quoting the following code: “Paul&Hrisi2021“
Top things to do in Florence
Where to start? First of all – start off with a good breakfast, cause you’re gonna need it. If you’re on a city break, i.e. a weekend, make sure you are prepared for a day’s worth of walking.
If you don’t have enough time, you might consider Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour to cover the main attractions.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
As any self respecting tourist start your day early on and go to the main attraction: Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. This cathedral features on all of the main posters and brochures regarding Florence.
Right next to the cathedral, you can also see the adjacent Giotto’s Bell Tower.
Once you go in the cathedral, you’ll be met with a spectacular view of the various pieces of art depicting Saints and other such religious motifs. The interior of the Dome is particularly exciting and depicts the Heavens and the The Last Judgment as ordered by the Medici family.
One can only but help wonder what a marvel of engineering this cathedral is and must have been for its days. Looking at the dome, that offers a full panoramic view of the Florentine city centre, it makes you truly appreciate this building.
Make sure you buy your tickets in advance to climb up to the top and enjoy the amazing views of Florence from above.
The Baptistery of St. John
The Florence Baptistery, also known as the Baptistery of St. John, is a religious building in Florence and has the status of a minor basilica. The octagonal baptistery stands in both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza San Giovanni, across from Florence Cathedral and the Campanile di Giotto.
To add more confusion, there is a Baptistery of St. John in Pisa as well, not to be mistaken with this one.
Palazzo Vecchio and Loggia dei Lanzi
Making your way towards the Arno river, head toward the Piazza della Signoria, a square dominated by the imposing Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace). The Palazzo, hosts the city’s town hall, serving as the main administrative unit for Florence.
Near the Pallazo, in the same square one can also see an open air statue museum – Loggia dei Lanzi. It hosts many replicas including Michelangelo’s David. If you want to see the real statue, book your entrance ticket to Michelangelo’s David here.
It’s a sure winner for any photos impersonating the statue! 100 Facebook likes or more guaranteed!
Not far from the town hall you can find Mercato del Porcellino, a 16th century market. I’ve always said, if you want to get to know the people in a location, see what they buy and eat.
And that we did, from premium leather bags to posh cheeses this market has to offer anything a Florentine would want.
Further down, passing under the arch of the Uffizi Gallery head towards Ponte Vecchio. It is a great sight for tourists and offers a nice view of the river Arno.
On the bridge you will see many tourist shops selling souvenirs. We are big fans of fridge magnets, so if you are like us, be sure to check out such shops in the nearby vicinity.
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For those that are passionate by art we recommend Palazzo Pitti or Pitti Palace as it’s known in English. If not, it still makes for a few good photos on the outside.
The Rose Garden (Giardino delle rose)
Now, for those that want a park with a view, be sure to visit Giardino delle rose (The Rose Garden). From there you have a premium view of the Dome all whilst sitting on a bench and smelling the fragrant roses in the garden.
Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte
Work your way up to Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views and person could ever hope for.
This opening from the terrace of this Abbey, opens up Florence like a pop up book for adults. You can see tourists to your left and right taking photos in the hope that they can once again revisit this place if not in body, at least in spirit.
After this steep, but short climb be sure to go to Michelangelo’s Square which you can find a few hundred meters down the road. Again, you will be rewarded with amazing views of Florence to admire.
For best results, be sure to stop by one of the local bars and enjoy an Aperol Spritz.
To finish up, head down on the Ponte alle Grazie and head your way to Basilica of Santa Croce with the eponymous square. A splendid way to finish your tour of Florence of the main attractions.
Where to eat?
First of all, let’s set some things straight. In Italy there are 3 types of restaurants, some can be part of the same establishment:
- Ristorante – Formal dining setting
- Trattoria – Regular, casual dining
- Osteria – Informal dining
Why we say this – is because, as we decided to go and eat we decided to make a booking for one of the Ristorante’s we saw well reviewed on TripAdvisor. Little did we know the subtle yet important differences.
Having realised that the Ristorante wasn’t the formality (or the peppery prices) our holiday needed, we excused ourselves to go to the Osteria by pretending we really wanted some typical Florentine pizza.
With visible smirks, the waitress escorted us to the Osteria where we ate a wonderful £7 pizza. Boy was it good. Simple, fresh and good.
Talking about fresh, make sure to check out Focacceria San Marco. They are fairly central and offer fresh focaccias. One other thing we found interesting was the Schiacciata, a typical Tuscan flatbread. Can be made into sandwiches or simply served as is.
As any self-respecting tourist in Italy, make sure to visit a famous Gelateria and enjoy a scoop or two, or three … of gelato.
To sum it up, whether we you want to propose to you fiancé or simply enjoy this Renaissance jewel, we wholeheartedly recommend Florence. Its amazing and unique architecture shape this city into cultural and economic centre which has stood the test of time.
Today, just under 400 000 people call Florence home and we can only be jealous we are not amongst them.
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