Every new city I visit in Italy gives me a new and improved flavor of Italian living. A better grasp of culture, language, and even a small glimpse of what daily life might look like for a local. For me, a place could be absolutely breathtaking and full of life and constant stimulation, but if it lacks a certain “mood” the experience changes completely. I am very sensitive to the atmosphere of a place and it always determines how deeply I fall in love with that destination. Get my drift?
With that said, Florence or ‘Firenze’ in Italian gave me everything I wanted plus some! I can’t express enough how much I loved that city and every single thing I tasted, toured, felt and even the people I met along the way. It left me wanting guzzles and guzzles more and to never have to say goodbye again.
Now, let me show you my short list of what I loved most and what I highly recommend you see while there. Even if just for a few short days.
- Buy the OPA Pass for the Florence Duomo Complex
Best investment ever! I am sure that many of you reading this are traveling on a budget. Well so am I! So we are a good match for each other. 😉 Though I travel with a small pocket of money, I do pick and choose what is important to invest my money in. For example, it is more important to me to see the museums I have always dreamed of exploring and eat delicious local foods than stay in a nice hotel in a central location. Budgeting requires sacrifice and often comfort if you’re not careful.
The OPA Pass is only 15 euros and allows you access to the Baptistery of San Giovanni, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Crypt of Santa Reparata and the Opera Musuem. Ummmm YES please! The best part is you have 48 hours to explore these sites from the date you purchased. Since I was only there a weekend, this was perfect for me and I bought the ticket in the morning during my train ride. If you are interested in this cumulative ticket go to this site.
Il Grande Museo Del Duomo Florence – https://www.museumflorence.com/ (DO IT!)
As for the sites, my absolute top favorites were Giotto’s Bell Tower and Brunelleschi’s Dome. Be prepared to climb over 400 steps to the top! It is quite a trek up the narrow staircase and crowded with tourists trying to exit as you are entering, but it’s worth it! Just make sure to not bring any bulky items with you because there isn’t room! I unfortunately made the mistake of carrying my stuffed too tightly backpack and let’s just say I was not everyone’s favorite person. 😉 Once you reach the top it will all be worth it. The views of Florence are SPECTACULAR and unmissable.
2. Rent a Bike
Now this was one of the best decisions I made! I love biking anywhere and everywhere and Florence just so happens to be a very bikable city…that is if you don’t mind a few bumps on the ancient cobble stone streets. I found Tuscany Cycle bike shop near the Piazza di Santa Croce. The girl working was Alexa from Philadelphia and she has been in Florence for 3 years and is now dating the bike shop owner and managing Air BnBs for a living. We swapped stories on our experiences with Italians this far and what it’s like being an American in Italy. She was so great and I highly recommend this place. It is 15 euros for a full day, 9am-7pm and located centrally in the city. Check them out below if you want to experience the city by bike.
Tuscany Cycle -https://www.facebook.com/tuscanycycleflorence/?pnref=about.overview
3. Mercado Centrale
I can’t speak enough to how much I loved this place. If you have ever experienced Chelsea Market (which was a favorite of mine) in New York City, this place reminds me of it. It is full of food markets for meats, cheeses, wines, olive oils, pastas and fresh produce to make up the best of the Italian style meals. Basically the most delicious foods groups of all time! The upstairs is a large, upscale food court with too many savory smells to resist. I chose a place called La Carne E I Salumi and ordered the G4 menu item. It is a mixed grilled plate with chicken, sausage, bacon and pork. It is 15 euros for the plate and an extra 3 euro for a side of veggies or potatoes. Obviously this plate is not for the faint of heart and only meant for you meat lovers out there, but in my opinion it was money well spent.
A bonus is that Mercado Centrale is right next door to Mercado di Lorenzo which is an outdoor market famous for it’s genuine Florence leathers, beautiful Tuscan jewelry and local art.
4. Boboli Gardens
When deciding where to spend my afternoon nothing sounded more enjoyable than wandering around a gorgeous open air museum dating back to the 15th century surrounded by autumn leaves, sculptures, fountains and luckily lots of sunshine. I felt like I had been transported into the world of Pride and Prejudice and nothing could be more magical. The Gardens span around 11 acres and I walked a good portion of them and took
plenty of pictures of course! This could be said about all of Florence, but these gardens would be perfect for a picnic on the lawn while gazing at the Palazzo Pitti with a lover. Maybe even picking up the groceries at Mercado Centrale beforehand and riding over in a bike. Just a romantic suggestion 😉 Go to this site below to buy a ticket for 10 euro and not only see breathtaking gardens, but see exquisite views of Tuscan countryside from the Giardino del Cavaliere.
5. All the Piazzas!
First off, there are too many Piazzas to admire (which is one of my favorite parts about Italy) but I will name the few that particularly stood out to me. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Piazzale Michalangelo. I got to see this square at night and boy was it lovely! This place is a little more off the beaten path from the rest of the tourist sites but well worth the extra 10 minute or so walk. You have to hike up several stairs to the top but it’s all so beautiful and old and amazing…sigh…
Once I reached the top there was live music and people everywhere enjoying each other’s company on old stadium like steps. I started up a conversation with a girl from Austria who was travelling alone like myself. Then we were generously offered a glass of red wine each from a group of Florentine locals and a few friends from abroad. I enjoyed the rest of my evening in their company over Aperitivo (yummy snacks and a cocktail before dinner hours) and a walk through the night lights of the city.
Another must see piazza is of course Piazza Della Signoria where you will find the FREE but replicated statue of David by Michalangelo and the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune).
Overall, Florence was so lovely and of course I could write on and on about things to do and places to see but I hope this short list gave you a beautiful picture of all this beautiful city has to offer.
Thanks so much for reading!
Con Tanto Amore,