Why Florence, Italy is the BEST
As you all know, I am obsessed with Florence. It is hands down my favorite place in the world. I could blabber on about it’s rich culture, wonderful people and unique architecture forever, but I will spare you the details and condense it down to the highlights:
The Duomo is the main cathedral that is the heart of the city. If ever you are lost, look up until you see the Duomo and use it as a guide back to the main area.
The River Arno is a few streets behind the Duomo. Walk along it during the day to see different neighborhoods, stores and parks.
The Ponte Vecchio is the colorful bridge full of high-end jewelry and stores that is an iconic landmark of Florence.
Where to stay:
The Duomo is at the heart of the city and is therefore the best place to find tourists. I would highly recommend staying around there if you are concerned about safety (although I find the entire city to be safe) because there is a constant stream of people.
Use Airbnb!! The best way to enjoy Florence is by staying in a house like a local, trust me. I lived on Via San Zanobi, which was towards the leather market, but I would recommend staying closer to the river as it has less locals (I would say we lived in a “sketchier” area - anywhere near the train station is more full of locals and therefore requires a little bit more caution).
What to do
Walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset. This is the best thing you can do in the city so make sure to do it. I will warn you, it is a far walk from the Duomo but bring a bottle of wine & some snacks, and you’ll quickly forget the hike.
Have you ever heard of secret bakeries? They are a gamechanger! If you are someone who can stay up until roughly 2 am, you need to check these out! The concept is that the bakers who produce donuts, crossaints, etc. for local restaurants, open early and sell their goods to anyone who knows about it.
How it works:
1. Show up at the location which usually has no marking or doorway (sometimes they are little windows that slide open).
2. Wait until the baker shows his face and asks for your order, make sure you are quiet because these are meant to be under-cover.
3. Tell them either chocolate, plain or nutella. They usually will ask you what you want, but those are the most common options. You pay 1 Euro and are handed a mystery treat. Sometimes they are donuts, sometimes it’s a croissant, the fun is not knowing (pictured below).
Walk up the Duomo or Bell Tower. You can buy tickets at a store near the Duomo. Warning: this is not for the claustrophic! It’s a very tight space with one dark staircase, but once you get to the top you get one of the best views of the city.
Check out Mercato di San Lorenzo, a wonderful marketplace full of delicious food and drinks. The bottom level is fresh food for locals (fruits, fish, breads, etc.) and the top floor hosts several food vendors. My favorite was a gelato shop selling rum gelato - yum!
The leather market is one of Florence’s best features. People come from far & wide to get their hands on these leather goods. Bring some cash & get ready to spend time searching through the many goodies on the street. There is one surrounding Mercato di San Lorenzo.
Bike around the city. Simply look up the best place to rent a bike & go to town, literally. It’s a great place to do this because there aren’t many cars zooming by in Florence. Try Parco delle Cascine,
If you are a sports fan, check out the local soccer team! I had the pleasure of going to a game at Stadio Artemio Franchi. Make sure you try to blend in because it is entirely locals in the stands.
If it’s summer or spring, spend time in the Boboli Gardens. They are beautiful, lined with flowers and a backdrop of the city - great for photos!
Where to eat
if you skipped over everything else, pay attention to this!
Don’t sleep on the “1 Euro” stores. They are full of chocolate bars & drinks that you can bring with you throughout the day. Try a Milka bar for sure!
Acqua Al 2 - Okay listen up. This is where I tried arguably the best steak of my life. So good in fact, that I got emotional eating it. We ordered the steak sampler which came with came with 3 cuts, one with a blueberry glaze, another with balsamic and the third was just seasoned. SO. GOOD. You do need a reservation because it’s so well-known.
Il Gatto E la Volpe - I have to say this place has the best gnocchi - the pesto was my favorite but the cheese one was incredible too. I think they have specials some nights so be sure to research that before going.
Trattoria Pizzeria Dante - This is a great spot for dinner because Dante, the owner, offers free unlimited wine with your meal. You are definitely in for a treat here. If you’re lucky, he’ll come over and take shots with you - ha! It might be smart to make reservations if you can.
Gusta Pizza - THE best pizza in Florence. Pesto was hands down my favorite. Grab it to-go because the inside fills up quickly, then head over towards the river to eat & people watch.
All’Antico Vinaio - This was deemed one of the best places for a panini in the city. If you are hoping to grab one, be sure to get there when it opens, otherwise if you wait until lunch the line will be long!
Eduardos is located by the Duomo & was such a classic! When we were there they served a gelato-filled crepe… omg.
Gelateria de Neri is towards the river and one of the best spots with lots of flavors.
Osteria Santo Spirito - here is where you can get some of the best cheesy gnocchi, served bubbling hot! Make reservations because it’s popular.
MasterChips: A great snack throughout the day are these yummy french fries - or chips as they say! Super cheap and easy to eat as you walk.
Bars for youngsters:
Red Garter is a great karaoke bar for you to let loose & sing all night.
Caffè La Terrazza is a rooftop bar with a 360 view of the city!!! SO cool… just expect drinks to be pricey .
The Lion’s Fountain is a college bar with loud music & t-shirts from US colleges lining the walls.
I'Margaritaio is a great place for margaritas - they are cheap & delicious!
The best gelato is not mounted into huge piles in the display case. Look for the gelato shops that aren’t on touristy streets & that have smaller-leveled gelato.
If you are needing a break, head to the river or Piazza della Repubblica to people watch - I promise it’s fun!
The best way to avoid the hecklers asking for your attention is to keep your head down or tell them no. Don’t be smiley or they will target you ha!
Well, I hope that you enjoyed this one! It took me a few hours to condense it down because I am clearly obsessed with the city. Anyways, I hope that everyone on Earth can experience this corner of the world because it’s incredible.
Cheers! xoxo - Katie