Florence. The belle of Tuscany. My favourite city. The one place guaranteed to make my colleagues roll their eyes as I start burbling on about it again. This is one city I will go back to time and time again, and one of the few places I am entirely content in when I’m just wandering around admiring everything it has to offer. Here’s a quick Florence holiday guide:
This is my all time favourite spot in Florence, and you know what? Possibly even my favourite spot in all the countries I’ve visited. This square has the most stunning panorama of the whole city, and watching the sun go down over the river and the Duomo with a glass of wine from the vendor is just an incredible experience. It’s also a popular wedding photo spot (unsurprisingly…) and we saw about four separate pairs of newlyweds taking some snaps – the downside is that you will probably realise that you absolutely have to get married in Florence if the time comes, as no other place will compare…
If I’m honest, you can fit my knowledge of art onto the back of a stamp. If I’m being really honest, you could probably fit my interest in art on there too. However, on my latest trip to the city I visited the Accademia Gallery, mainly to see Michelangelo’s David statue. I’d seen a few suggestions that you may as well just go and see the replica outside in Piazzale Della Signoria so almost avoided it, but thank goodness I didn’t! After checking out a few of the other art pieces, I went around the corner and there he was, illuminated under his little dome. I was blown away. I’ve never been so impressed by a piece of art, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I will be again.
Tip: If you’re going to the Accademia or the Uffizi, try and visit on the first Sunday of the month – entry is free. I was also lucky enough to walk straight in with no queues, but apparently that’s quite a rarity…
Food and Wine
Italian is one of my favourite cuisines, and I haven’t yet had a bad meal in Florence; Pizza and pasta is very reasonably priced, and there are some cute trattorias and osterias tucked away down the sidestreets. In fact, one evening I was running short of time so stopped for a quick dinner by the Ponte Vecchio, and the meal I had was both delicious and cheap – definitely made a change from the quality you usually get in the touristy areas of a city! Even restaurants right next to the Duomo offered a pizza/pasta lunch with salad/chips and glass of wine for around 10 euros, so eating out won’t break the bank. Unless you indulge too much on the delicious wine of course, which I feel is only polite when it tastes that good…
Talking of the Duomo, no visit to Florence is complete without visiting the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The scale and level of elaborate detail of the building is amazing, and the bell tower and baptistery next door are also pretty impressive. I was a little disappointed with the interior of the Church as it seemed a little bare compared to the outside, but entry is free which is always a bonus and Vasari’s Last Judgement lines the inside of the dome. You can also climb both the dome and the bell tower, although I would pass on that and head to Piazzale Michelangelo instead – the view is even better when the Duomo is in it!
This is a close second for my favourite spot in Florence. Also with free entry on the first Sunday of the month, the Pitti Palace is stunning. You can walk through room after room of ornate furniture, art and gold adornments, marveling as you go at how Italy’s elite used to live. My real highlight though was heading outside to the Boboli Gardens; full of fountains, lakes, sculptures, views out to the Tuscan hills and even an amphitheatre, it’s the perfect place to sit on one of the benches hidden away by the citrus trees, unwind and take everything in.
A couple of tips:
- There is a cafe in the Palace but it is incredibly overpriced, so definitely one to avoid if you can!
- Make sure you buy your tickets from the office before joining the queue – even if you go on the free Sunday, you still have to get a ticket from the office first. You don’t want to have to leave the queue after waiting for half an hour, then have to return to the back like I did…
- You can buy separate tickets for the just the Palace or the Gardens if you don’t have the time to explore both.
I love Plus Florence Hostel; frequently winning awards for its amazing facilities, you can take advantage of an outdoor pool in the summer, indoor pool and sauna in the winter, gym, rooftop terrace, pool bar, decently priced restaurant and an inside bar which is perfectly set up for meeting other travellers. Oh the hours we spent playing flip cup and indulging on six euro bottles of wine… It’s also perfectly located about a ten minute walk from the train station and only a short stroll away from the Duomo, so couldn’t be in a better location. I wouldn’t stay anywhere else.
Have you done of the things in my Florence Holiday Guide? Let me know in the comments!