Florence, Italy

Four days in Florence, aka my new favorite European city! Part of my Two Months in Europe series!

We arrived around dinner time and walked from the Florence train station to our Airbnb just across the river. We were staying in a really cute residential neighbourhood, in the Oltrarno area. This ended up being perfect as it was still quite close to everything, Florence is a very walkable city, but it was quiet at night and had access to more affordable, local restaurants.

We went to one such restaurant the first night. This one (Trattoria il Contadino) back on the Duomo side of the river is known for good Tuscan food. It is 14.50EU for two plates, a side dish, water and 1/4 litre of wine ( we definitely got more as we had three glasses each) and includes coperto and service which many restaurants charge. The plates are huge. This is definitely a place to go if hungry. Also on the way back to our Airbnb we were surprised with fireworks!! It was the end of Calcio Storico, a Florentine sporting event which is a mix between soccer, rugby and wrestling, so the entire city had come down to the Arno to watch fireworks marking the last match.

Day One

We got started with a walking tour around Florence, we used the company La Bussola. We had a great guide, she was a local art history student so she really knew her stuff and was able to give us a lot of knowledge into the art and architecture on the streets. Also she had some amazing gelato and food recommendations ( both Gelateria de Niri and Kitsch below were her suggestions) so would 100% recommend. The tour was a good size and covered a good chunk of Florence.

Our tour ended in Piazza di Santa Croce so we decided to head over to the famous All’Antico Vinaio for one of their famous sandwiches. The line was incredibly long, we waited just over 45 minutes, but if you have time its a fun, cliche thing to do and the sandwiches are amazing. My sandwich was the size of my face and I could not finish so either come hungry or share a couple among your group.


We then walked to the Accademia to see if we could get tickets for later today as they were unavailable online. We were able to score a reservation at 5pm so we proceeded to just get lost stumbling around the streets of Florence. This city is amazing in that if you walk a couple blocks from any given tourist attraction you can be completely alone in the beautiful streets and feel you are in a small town. 

So after wandering around for a couple hours we finally got into the Accademia and made a beeline straight to David. This sculpture is just one of those things you have to see in person. It is so much more impressive and grand than the photos could ever capture. It is also so interesting just to think of all the innovation that went into creating David, with the tree trunk supporting the stature so it can be self standing.


We walked through the rest of the museum, including their special exhibit which was full of beautiful old instruments. Really great museum and not overwhelming crowded late in the day.

After walking around all day we were pretty tired so we headed back to our side of the river for a quick rest and then went back out in search of pizza. Even though pizza is really not a Tuscan specialty we had heard great things about Gusta Pizza in Oltrarno. There was a bit of a line when we got there but it moved quite quickly. We grabbed our 5EU pizzas and 2.50EURO wine to go and ate in on the steps in Piazza Santo Spirito. There is a super fun vibe out here. The square is full of other travellers/young people grabbing Gusta pizza and also families walking to and from all the restaurants lining the piazza. 


Step Count: 25,147

Day Two

My friend really wanted to find something leather to buy from Florence since the area is quite famous for their superb leather. This morning we went on a bit of a leather tour of Florence. We started off at the Centrale Market to grab a quick espresso before going to the leather market. Still confused about the leather market and if it is just all the random carts lining the streets as most of what they were selling looked mass produced. We popped into some of the more permanent stores around the market but were still very underwhelmed by the offerings.We then went to explore some other well known leather stores. The first was a major fail as the address it was listed at online did not exist and we couldn’t find it anywhere. We then made our way to the Leather School behind Santa Croce, which has a really cool story. It was made after the war to provide a career path for orphans. It was run by the church and still to this day is a leading institution in hand crafted leather and sells beautiful products. We looked into some of the workrooms to see the students and also gawked at the stunning ( but expensive) products in the showroom. If you want a more interesting and less mass produced Florentine leather experience this is definitely the place to go. 


Between this stop and our next we stopped for a morning pick me up of gelato from gelateria de neri. This gelato was SO GOOD and its pretty central so 10/10 a must eat in Florence. My lemon tasted like the lemon were picked that morning. 

In classic #taketwo style the leather shop next on my friend’s list didn’t open until 2pm so we went home empty handed.

For lunch we ended up at a cute Trattoria close to our Airbnb( Trattoria Sabatino) . Very local place with good affordable pasta and tuscan food. 

We had booked our Duomo tickets for 6pm to avoid crowds and the heat of the day. We made it to the Museum around 4pm. The museum layout is a little confusing but it is jam packed with art. Definitely do not miss this. So much of the art and sculptures from the church is now stored here for restoration purposes so there is a ton to see. The museum is also super informative and provided a lot of information on the building of the basilica, the dome (watch the video about the building of the dome) and the religious art scene in Florence. 

After the museum we were able to go into the Baptistery and then get into the Duomo before our reservation at 5:45pm and begun the climb up. The climb up really isn’t that hard but it is a lot of stairs. My biggest reservation with the climb is that it can be super claustrophobic at times so if you get claustrophobic just be prepared and definitely go as late in the day as possible. I am only a little claustrophobic and even I got quite uncomfortable at times, especially when there are people passing you on their way down in this tiny, twisty staircase.  That being said the view is 100% worth it. It was stunning from the top. The dome really does tower over all of Tuscany. We spent a long time up here just taking in the view. We made it back down before the bell tower closed so we for some reason decided to climb that to. Our legs definitely hurt way more on the second ascent but being inside the tower was really cool plus you get views of the Duomo from the bell tower.


After the both climbs we were quite hungry so we headed over to a highly recommended apertivo bar close by. Apertivo is a buffet served alongside drinks between 6:30/7-9:00. It can range from snacks to a full dinner. At Kitsch it was 10EU for an aperol spritz and unlimited food at the very extensive apertivo bar. We got great pizza, pasta, salads, roasted vegetables ( best roasted red peppers) and even literal balls of buffalo mozzarella. It was great value for money with all that food and a fun experience. Would definitely recommend using this as an excuse to get a cocktail as the apertivo is 10EU flat and cocktails are often 5-7EU whereas wine and beer are always really cheap.

On the way back from dinner we stopped by Gelateria La Carraia, a great gelato place on the Oltrarno side of the river. There is always a line but it moves so quickly you barely feel like you waited. 

Stepcount: 27,959

Day Three

Today we attempted to go to the Uffizi early to see if we could have the same luck as the Academia and get same day tickets even if they were sold out online. We had no such luck as even though we showed up first thing the ticket booth had a TWO HOUR line. Lesson learned buy tickets for Florence weeks, not days, in advance. So instead we headed off to the Piazzale Michelangelo which is a beautiful viewing point over all of Florence. I would 100% recommend going here the view was honestly stunning. You can see all of Florence ( including the Duomo which you obviously can’t see when you are at the viewing point of the Duomo) and all the surrounding hills. Below there is also a nice little rose garden you go to to escape the city. 


After we had taken about a million photos of Florence we wandered around this side of the river. We walked past the Palazzo Pitti to see if we could see any of the pretty Boblio gardens but the walls are very high so if you want to see the gardens you actually need to go to the museum.

We went back to the Centrale Market for lunch. The market’s first floor is what you would expect of a typical market with produce stalls and butchers but the second floor is a very cool eatery/food court. There are a bunch of chefs you all have stands around the second floor preparing hot food- everything from vegan food to dumplings to pasta and pizza. It is quite busy during lunch but there is a ton of seating. We picked up some food ( flatbread style pizza) and had lunch in the food hall. This is a really great way to have a delicious but affordable lunch in a central area.


After lunch we went to meet out tour group for our afternoon Taste of Tuscany Tour. We had really wanted to see Tuscany/Chianti but didn’t really have enough time to plan it ourselves so we settled for a planned tour. The company we went with was great because it is specifically for 18-39 year olds and they only take a maximum of 8-16 on their tours. Our group ended just being us plus two other girls our age from the States which was super nice. The tour was good but I still felt rushed at certain times and definitely missed the freedom of not being on anyone’s schedule. Our tour started off with a brief stop in Monteriggioni, a beautiful medieval town with only 42 inhabitants. The walls of the town have beautiful views over the surrounding Chianti region. After this quick stop we continued onto to the Lornano winery in Chianti/Chianti Classico. Our tour guide/driver was also nice enough to stop on top of this big hill which also had beautiful views of the surrounding area. 


The winery was definitely the best part of the tour. The winery itself is beautiful with a lot of the original buildings still lining the property. We started by a tour of the facilities from the big barrels to the cellars where the wine ages. The tour was done by a winery employee who was able to give us a lot of information on the Chianti region, like the differences between Chianti and Chianti Classico and DOC vs DOCG wines. After our tour we had our wine tasting. We got to try four of the wines: the rose ( surprisingly delicious) Chianti, Chianti Classico and their gran selection Super Tuscan. This winery is especially cool because half of it is in Chianti whereas the other half is in Chianti Classico so it was cool being able to compare the two major wine regions. 


After our wine tour we had time to explore Siena. Siena was beautiful but we definitely did not have enough time to full appreciate on this tour so I really want to go back on a later date. We went to this really good patisserie in Sienna called Nanini. 

Dinner: Attempted to go to one place but it was closed so instead went to another place down the street, which ended up still being pretty good. The only annoying thing is they didn’t turn off their misting machine on the patio from earlier in the day so the patio was weirdly humid for night time. 

Step count: 28,965

Day Four
For our last day we really wanted to make it out to Pisa. Originally we were planning to go to both Pisa and Lucca, but with the high chance of rain we decided than walking around a city was probably not the plan so we settled on taking it slow and just going to Pisa. Of course the rain started exactly when we got off the train in Pisa and by rain I mean literal torrential downpour. Restaurants umbrellas were flying, the rain was pouring sideways and everyone was running for cover. We hid out in a coffee shop just outside the train station until this stopped. Thankfully when it rains in Italy it is violent but quite short. It pretty much stayed clear or very light rain for the rest of our visit. 


The train station is surprisingly far from the tower and there was no wifi and we forgot to download the offline Google Map so it was a bit of a mystery at first how to get there as there are were no maps in the train station. But thankfully the coffee we stopped in gave us a map and there are some big maps on the streets as you walk away from the train station.


So after battling the rain and overcoming our lack of preparedness we made it to the tower. Its funny the tower is much smaller and more leaning than expected. I am actually not sure how it doesn’t fall over because it looks like it is literally toppling. We walked around the tower and took a bunch pictures before setting off back for main town to explore some more. The nice thing about the rain is that it was busy but not as crowded as it usually gets in high season. After exploring some backstreets we settled in for lunch and then hopped back on the train to get back to Florence for our train to Rome!

Step Count: 19,245

Favourite Thing

I really really liked Florence so this is tough. I loved exploring the backstreets and just wandering. The Duomo was stunning but also so were the views from Piazzale Michelangelo. Also wine tasting in Chianti was a dream and I really want to go back solely for a Tuscan trip now.   

Favourite Food

Loved Gusta pizza it was so good and so cheap. Plus eating outside on the street is super fun.

The market was amazing and had so much to offer, I wanted to try everything!

Tips 

Book Uffizi tickets well in advance, not worth chancing it as at 9am there is already a two hour line

Definitely try to book your Duomo climbing time at night, it was not busy, not hot and we had the best lighting. 

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