First of all, let me start this post by telling you, I fell in love with Florence this week. As a result, I took a lot of photos and I want to share many of them with you. So get set for a long and picture heavy post filled with an already embedded longing to return. I hope you enjoy it!
Chris and I have been talking about going away in March for years. We’re at the age where we’re not restricted to taking off outside restrictive term times and we’re in the perfect position to pack our bags and take a flight at short notice. So that’s what we did this week. We booked a last minute flight, an apartment through the (highly recommended) AirBnB and spent a few days in Florence.
After the idea of a dream trip to Iceland fell through when prices doubled in the two days before we booked, we were a bit lost with where to go. We toyed with a trip to Berlin but my favourite German tour guide had a lot on her plate, we considered Prague but deemed the weather too much like the dreary UK and we eventually stumbled upon Florence. Knowing little about the city, having never even considered it as a destination before I can honestly say my motivation for booking it came down to one simple motto* – it seemed like a good idea at the time – and it certainly was.
Florence is a city that’s rich with history, culture, sensational views and indulgent cuisine. From the pizza and pasta of traditional Tuscan fare to the iconic Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and Michaelangelo’s David pitched on the city’s highest point, this city is a feast for the belly, the eyes and the soul.
We flew into Pisa airport, then hopped on a transfer bus into city. Even from crossing the river on a day that was a bit grey and chillier than I expected, being greeted with the view of the city’s many bridges and pretty riverfront certainly grabbed my attention. The river snakes through Florence, splitting it in two halves. We stayed on the Oltrano side of the river, while a lot of the more touristy spots were on the other side. The city is full of typical Tuscan streets, exactly what you’d imagine when picturing this part of the world. Terracotta roofs, wooden slatted shutters in shades of green and roads bustling with people, bicycles and scooters.
Probably the most famous attraction of Florence is the magnificent Piazza del Duomo. It dominates the landscape from wherever you are, much as I would expect London’s St Paul’s did once upon a time. The Piazza is made up of three constituent parts, the baptistery (which was unfortunately covered by scaffolding during our stay, the cathedral (with the cuopola) and the campanille (bell tower).
We climbed the 400+ steps of both the campanille and the cuopola, but it’s probably not necessary to do both. Though I loved the view from the bell tower, the view is quite restrictive in that there’s a lot of wire to peer through. At the top of the cuopola, the view’s only restricted from the waist down. It’s a bit balky if you look down but not as bad as you might think.
It’s notorious that I love food so a trip to Florence meant I’d be indulging quite a lot. What I didn’t realise was that the likes of the Mercato Centrale would be like stumbling into my happy place. Despite being surrounded by attention stealing stalls offering gorgeous Florentine leather, the market is an absolute find. Packed to the rafters with stalls offering an abundance of pasta, fruit, sweet treats, mushrooms, cheese, cakes and biscotti, walking around is an explosion for the senses. Bright colours, vibrant textures, pungent smells, busy sounds and tongue tingling sights combine and create something pretty cool.
The view of the city from Palazzo d’Michealangelo is, as already mentioned, pretty spectacular. Lovely Georgina who I work with (and who blogs over on Life and Lashes) recommended climbing up there to watch the sun set, and I must admit, it was a stellar recommendation. As the city’s highest point, the view is pretty spectacular and that combined with a drink in hand and the lovely guitarist who provided the soundtrack to our sunset(s – we went twice) is a real treat. We headed up there at around 5pm, so had a good hour or so to take in the view and watch the sun go down in one of the most picturesque settings I’ve ever been to.
I think these were the highlights from my trip, but it’d be all too easy for me to just carry on chatting about my new favourite city, so I’m going to leave you with a couple of tips to keep in mind and a few last photos (prize if you spot which one is NOT in Florence). If you’re planning to visit Florence, and I think you should), I hope these are helpful!
- Check out the gelateria on the corner of Lungarno Soderini and Lungarno Guicciardini. I can highly recommend the chocolate mousse. I almost passed out it tasted so good. This is one of the cheaper gelateria’s we found, but it’s certainly not the poorest in quality – quite the opposite in fact.
- Don’t visit Florence and expect to be able to watch what you eat. It’s not every day you’re surrounded by irresistible pizza and pasta of the highest quality, ice cream that’s so creamy you find yourself daydreaming about it and a range of cakes and sweet treats you could never have even imagined (rice cakes like you would not expect/believe)
- Be prepared to walk. Florence is easy enough to see in three or four days, but if you’re going to do that, you need to do a lot of walking. Over the 2.5 days we were in the city, we walked over 75,000 steps (which is over 53km). Admittedly, we didn’t walk them very quickly and several of them were up the Campanille and the Cuopola, but I am very aware of my legs right now. And I walk a lot anyway.
- Think about going in March. Admittedly, we were lucky with the weather, but I understand the city gets almost suffocatingly hot in the summer months, as well as incredibly busy with tourists. We saw big groups of American teens on Spring Break as well as a few groups of tourists from other places around the world, but we didn’t feel engulfed by tourism, allowing us to see the city at its most natural.
- Check out Tratorria Zaza in Piazza Mercato Centrale for delicious and super reasonable seafood (we paid 16 euros for half a lobster – say whuuut!), O’Munaciello on Via Maffia, 31, in the Oltrarno area for superb pizza in a really quirky setting. There’s also a restaurant in the square by the Santa Maria Novella with red and white tablecloths and a gramophone at the front which does amazing pasta and cracking canteloupe with proscuittio.
*Thanks Dad. A motto to live by if ever I heard one