The highlights to hit on a day trip to Florence.
The first time that I visited Florence, I got in of an afternoon, took a walking tour, made some friends and left the next morning. I managed to walk around the key spots of the city, check out a lot of live music and meet some new people. I also touched the snout of a brass pig, which signified that I would one day return.
The pig was on to something.
On my second visit, since both Mario and I had been before, but had fond memories of Florence, we made it a long day trip. Too long, it turned out, but I will get to that.
WHAT TO DO IN FLORENCE IN A DAY
My second visit to Florence began pretty early in the morning. The plan was to aim to go inside the Duomo first thing and try to avoid the long lines. We hadn’t booked ahead for anything, which I regretted once again pretty quickly!
(Book people, book!)
Start With a Fashionable Coffee!!
We took a train in from Bologna and began with a coffee at Caffè Giacosa. The little cafe has a 200 year history. It was founded in 1815 and is now owned by Florentine fashion designer Roberto Cavalli. Cavalli renovated (note the walls are lined with glamorous fashion photographs featuring super models in his designs) but kept the charms of the place, staying faithful to its history. This Florentine hot spot was the perfect place to start our day. Though the Negroni cocktail was invented in the tiny cafe, we opted for a coffee.
CAFFE GIACOSA Via della Spada, 10r Florence 50123
A DIY WALKING TOUR
Piazza del Duomo
A good place to begin your visit is at Piazza del Duomo in the heart of Florence. The Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori is the third largest Cathedral in Italy, after the Cathedral of St. Peter in Rome (the Vatican) and the one in Milan.
As I mentioned, I am yet to go inside, so I can not offer any more than ‘book and line up early!’. Within the piazza, make sure to check out The Baptistery of St. John (Battistero di San Giovanni). The bronze doors on the building are what make this a tourist destination (aka a photo spot). The Gothic panels render religious scenes related mainly to the life of John the Baptist.
Piazza della Signoria
Continue by taking via dei Calzaiuoli to reach Piazza della Signoria. Here you can check out some statues such as the Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini and Michelangelo’s David statue. Well, the outside David. The original David statue is located inside the Galleria dell’Accademia.
This is where you will also find the Uffizi Gallery, one of Italy’s top museums. It houses a large collection of Renaissance masterpieces such as the Allegory of Spring and the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. I have also yet to go inside (I KNOW, I KNOW!!) but have been told by friends who have to allow at least two hours to explore it. Again, book online ahead of your visit, since 1.5 million people visit each year (who said art was dead?!), it is always busy.
Walk from here across to the Ponte Vecchio. The bridge has connected the river banks exactly at this point since the 12th century, it houses a lot of jewellery shops and a couple of photo op spots on the actual bridge. The bridge was the only one across the Arno river which the fleeing German forces did not destroy, thanks to Hitlers apparent fond childhood memories of it. To get a good view of the bridge itself, wander down the river banks, at dusk it makes for a beautiful photo op.
HOT TIP: This is THE place to buy your Mum a bracelet as a gift. Somehow I managed to track down the store which sold the one my Mum had bought here and later misplaced years earlier. She was stoked! Tick, tick, tick!
Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens
The Pitti Palace is home to several museums such as the Palatine Gallery, the Modern Art Gallery, a silver gallery and a costume gallery. The Boboli Gardens is also known as the ‘green lung’ of Florence. The impressive gardens are open everyday and will set you back about € 7,00. A nice green break from the city, I would visit if you have a little more time on your hands.
The Accademia Gallery houses Michelangelo’s original David, standing tall and making women weep. There is of course more to the gallery, but again, book ahead!
The best views in town over Florence are from Piazzale Michelangelo, a square overlooking the city from the first hill in the Oltrarno. Walking along the river, we made our way up the hill to take in the views. Up the top, unwind and spend some time sitting in the gardens. By now you should have sore feet, so they will thank you for it! You can also find a bronze replica of the David statue up here and opt to buy one as a souvenir. (Don’t! That would be lame).
Piazza Santo Spirito
Away from the main tourist spots, make your way back down the hill to Piazza Santo Spirito. The area is filled with young locals and a few great bars and restaurants, try Osteria on the corner. We shared prosciutto and melon here and some red wine (of course). It is a nice place to just sit down on one of the benches and people watch. The area has a lot of cute shops, good vintage clothing and book stores.
OSTERIA SANTO SPIRITO
Piazza Santo Spirito, 16/R, 50125 Firenze, Italy
ACCOMODATION HOT TIP:
Actually, when I had done a bit of researching into places to stay in Florence, there was a boutique hotel that caught my eye. Although we decided not to stay in Florence (thanks to our flights being out of Bologna), I will leave a link to it here. If you need accomodation, take a look. This place is adorable!!
Via Maggio, 35
WHERE TO EAT:
Coffee, cocktails, cakes, negroni: CAFFE GIACOSA, Via della Spada, 10r Florence 50123
HOT TIP FOR THE BEST MEAL EVER:
Lunch or dinner: TRATTORIA ‘DA MARIO‘, Via Rosina, 2, 50123 (san lorenzo neighborhood)
Famous, narrow very crowded, delicious and cheap. Worth waiting for, put your name down on the list, this is easily one of the best meals I have ever had. EVER. Like, GO!! Guys, please go. If you do eat here, you have to let me know what you thought!! The family run business serves up good wine and home-style Tuscan meals. Expect to sit at a small table with other people you don’t know, the menu is written up by hand each day and say yes to the house wine. It is worth visiting Florence just to eat here.
A good place to try local specialties, Mercato Centrale will make you want to stay in town longer so you can eat more. Upstairs there are a number of artisan cafes or downstairs you can taste local produce such as fresh cheeses, fruits, breads etc. I wasn’t game to try a tripe sandwich, the local delicacy but I hear that Il Lamprodotto is the place to do it. The upstairs area is new and very inviting.
On our wait for the train back to Bologna we stopped in for a drink and light plate of food at an okay looking bar. I didn’t write down what this place was called, nor would I go out of my way to reccomend it. However, I did like that tradition of food laid out for you to help yourself to with your drink. Italians, so thoughtful.
HOT TIP, TRANSPORT:
Ah, transport. So we decided to book the train ticket which was not changeable. At the time we were booking, a late train back to Bologna seemed like a great idea, it meant we had maximum Firenze time! Once we had spent the whole day walking, missed the first entry to the cathedral (and decided not to join in the line that soon wrapped half way around it) we were pretty ready to go to bed. Unfortunately, though not hungry and with little to do, waiting for the train got dull. Then the train got delayed by an extra 45 minutes. Making it closer to midnight once we got into Bologna.
So, if you are taking a train in to the city for a day trip, my tip is to buy an open ended train ticket back.
WHERE TO SHOP:
Luisa Via Roma was one of the best stores I have ever been into! It was so cool. Each year the company host Firenze 4 Ever a bi-annual event that opens fashion week each season. With three days of exhibitions and installations, as well as Style Labs dedicated to bloggers, photographers and designers, and a legendary party with special performances from the best international DJs and artists. I’ve been blogging and reading fashion blogs since 2010, so I have seen the incredible event covered by incredible bloggers for years.
While we visited they were in the midst of the “Over the Rainbow and My Little Pony” theme raising funds to support children effected by the devastation of the recent earthquake in Nepal. Walking into the store they had blow up clouds hanging from the roof, that you had to push through. How cool is that?! Inside there were giant My Little Pony figures and every incredible designer imaginable. I was IN HEAVEN! This was one of the most tempting places I have ever been to. I didn’t take photos, nor did I have enough cash to splurge at the time, but one day.
Luisa Via Roma 19-21 via Roma, Florence.
THE FINAL WORD ON FLORENCE
Touch the pig.
Have you been to Florence? Where did you stay? Did you actually get yourself organised and visit some of the galleries? Got any hot tips for us?
Please leave some in the comments below if you do.