A Florence Travel Guide
My Journey in Northern Italy
Florence is the perfect location for those wanting to see the romantic and historical side of Italy as well as explore the Tuscan wine region and the Italian Riviera. It also isn’t far from the foodie city of Bologna. If you are planning to go to Northern Italy, make sure you don’t miss out on this amazing city!
In Spring 2018, my family and I did a trip to Switzerland and Northern Italy. During our time we got to visit the beautiful city of Florence. Discover everything to see do and eat during your time in this gorgeous city.
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When we finally reached Florence, we knew right away that it was a very popular city in Italy. There were hundreds of people scrambling through the train station! When we got outside and started walking towards our hotel, the crowds were pretty heavy, but the city was REALLY clean! As we continued to walk into the heart of town, we noticed the iconic Duomo standing right before us.
Prior to traveling to Florence, I had seen the Duomo numerous times on social media. Having the opportunity to be right in front of this gorgeous church in person was incredible. It was truly a magical site!
SitInMySeats Travel did an amazing job, yet again, on choosing a beautiful hotel in a great location – right by the Duomo! Hotel Spadai was once a stately historical building that is now a 4-star luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Renaissance Florence.
I absolutely LOVED this hotel because it was beautiful and clean; located in a great area where there were a plethora of amazing restaurants, gelato shops and historical sites and it even had a great happy hour and breakfast every day! I also loved how you could hear the stunning Duomo bells chime every half hour throughout the day.
Since I stayed with my brothers again, we got the Deluxe Room and my parents stayed in the hotel’s Comfort Room. I sure had an amazing night’s rest here!
For those of you who may not know, Florence is located in Tuscany! This region is known for having some of the best food in Italy. From truffle oil to risotto, you cannot go wrong with the food in this region.
Here are some amazing restaurants we ate at during our time in Florence:
On our first day in Florence, we ate at an amazing organic restaurant called SimBIOsi. This delicious restaurant offers a beautifully rustic ambiance with some of the best food we ate during our time in Italy. My friend Ian, who I have mentioned in my recent blog posts, lives in Sicily and was able to provide us with great food recommendations since he has traveled all throughout the country. I enjoyed Prosecco risotto with pine nuts and sautéed mushrooms with truffle oil on the side. It was to die for!!! (I also paired this dish with a glass of white wine.) Because SimBIOsi is an organic farm-to-table restaurant, they do switch up their menus. If you happen to see this risotto dish on the menu, when you go to Florence, I highly recommend getting it! What is great about this restaurant is that it is located near the Galleria dell’Accademia, where The David is held.
Another great recommendation from my friend Ian is Trattoria Zà Zà, located in the Central Market of San Lorenzo. This is a very popular restaurant for both locals and tourists, so we had to wait a half hour to be seated. Honestly, I never mind a restaurant wait when I know that the food is going to be good! When we finally sat down, I ordered the Tuscan chicken that was cooked in a delicious truffle sauce and paired with rosemary potatoes. It was delicious! I also enjoyed a delicious glass of red wine with my dinner.
During our last night in Florence, we found a delicious trattoria right around the corner from Hotel Spadai called Trattoria San Lorenzo. During our time eating at this wonderful restaurant, we were able to sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous ambiance that Florence naturally offers. For dinner, I had grilled octopus with a fresh chickpea puree. It was definitely nice to change it up and not have carbs for dinner that night!
Things to Do:
Tour the Duomo:
Known as Florence’s most iconic landmark, the Duomo is one of the most amazing sites to see! As I mention above, seeing this gorgeous church in person is absolutely incredible! What makes the Duomo in Florence so beautiful is that it is comprised of pink; white and green marble façade and also has a stunning bell tower that truly dominates the Renaissance cityscape.
If you are looking to go inside of the magnificent Duomo, it is highly recommended that you book your tickets way in advance as it could take hours of waiting in line to get inside if you decide to visit last minute. Since we only had one full day in the city, we were unable to go inside. It was still so amazing walking around the iconic landmark and admiring its beauty! You could also walk up to Campanile di Giotto, the Duomo’s bell tower, by taking the rounding stairs that offer cool windows to peer through as you ascend.
One night as we grabbed a quick snack in the Piazza del Duomo, we were able to spot a religious ceremony going on. There were thousands of nuns carrying candles as they were walking out of the main Duomo doors. They ended up circling around the city as the church played peaceful gospel music. It was so beautiful to witness!
See Michelangelo’s David:
Another amazing work of art to see in Florence is the famous David. Created by the Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504, the David is a statue made with glistening white marble. David was a Biblical hero and is represented as a standing nude male.
Michelangelo was only 26 years old when he started sculpting the David and you could find his masterpiece in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. Just like visiting the Duomo, it is difficult to get into Galleria dell’Accademia to see the David as the lines are hours long as well. Even though you could view a replica of the David in the Piazza della Signoria, we all still wanted to see the real sculpture!
Thankfully, as we were walking, we ran into a tour company that had representatives all around the street. They were able to provide us affordable tickets and schedule a tour for everyone in our party that day!!! If you plan on seeing the David in Florence, I highly recommend heading to the Galleria dell’Accademia early in the morning so that you could book your tour for that day. I promise, you will get a tour because of the amount of companies offering them in that area.
In addition to the David, you could also find a variety of Michelangelo’s other amazing works of art in the Galleria dell’Accademia such as Michelangelo’s Slaves, Rape of the Sabines, Cassone Adimari, Jacopo di Cione: Incoronation of the Virgin and many more!
Shop Your Heart Out in Ponte Vecchio:
Located on the Arno River is the famous Ponte Vecchio – Florence’s oldest bridge. Another interesting fact about Ponte Vecchio is that it was the only bridge across the Arno that the fleeing Germans did not destroy. Instead, they blocked access to it by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side.
Initially, butchers occupied the shops; nowadays, it is a collection of high-end jewelers, art dealers, souvenir sellers and so much more! In addition to shopping, you could also catch views of the gorgeous bridge from four different sides and admire the stunning neighboring bridges of Ponte Santa Trinita and the Ponte alla Grazie.
Right near Ponte Vecchio is the Mercato Nuovo (New Market) where you could shop and also find the Il Porcellino, as the Italians call him, means “the little pig”. This bronze statue supposedly brings good luck when visitors rub his snout and insert a coin in his mouth. If the water washes the coin from the pig’s mouth and it falls into the grate below, you will gain great luck and will be sure to return to Florence again.
Take a Stroll:
Out of all of the major cities I have traveled to in Europe, Florence has to be one of my favorites! Not only is the location amazing, but it is also a clean and beautiful city filled with Renaissance architecture, historical buildings as well as amazing food that you could grab and take with you as you explore.
Located throughout Florence are several piazzas, sculptures, gelaterias, panini shops and pizza stands! One of the most treasuring ways to explore Florence is to grab one of these delicious specialties and admire everything around you.
A few places that are great to explore that we unfortunately didn’t get to during our day in Florence was the Santa Croce church and Palazzo Pitti. If you go to Florence and you have more than one day to explore, I was told to definitely check out both of those famous Florentine hotspots.
View the Sunset from the Piazzale Michelangelo:
The Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the most famous lookouts for a glorious view of Florence. Whether you decide to go there during the day or in the evening, you will be sure to capture stunning views of the city!
My friend Courtney, who studied abroad in Florence, told me that this place was somewhere I HAD to be if I wanted to see an amazing sunset! My family was so exhausted from traveling all around Northern Italy and walking through the city all day, so they definitely weren’t in the mood to take the journey a half hour from Hotel Spadai (near the Duomo) to the lookout. Even though they were tired, I made them do it because I knew we all would regret it if we didn’t see the sunset from that viewpoint! (Sorry, but not sorry LOL!)
(Look at how happy my parents are here!)
I will admit that it was a little bit of a trek for us to get to Piazzale Michelangelo because we had to cut through a few windy roads and there was a point where everything was all uphill. Walking up the hill was definitely the hardest part of the journey to go see the sunset, but once we got to the top, the views were worth it!
Being able to see the gorgeous views of the city in person was truly magical! When the sun started to set, Florence and all of the architectural details stood out in such an enchanting way. I also loved the views of the mountains and nearby Tuscan rural villages from afar. This evening was definitely one to remember and we all enjoyed it, regardless of the long trek!
Click here to discover more to see and do in Florence.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in Florence! It is such a great city that everyone needs to experience when they go to Italy. If you have any questions regarding my trip to Italy, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact me via social media or leave a comment below.
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