When I returned from my trip, everyone asked me which area was my favorite. Without a doubt, I answered “Florence,” only to have that opinion reciprocated by everyone else who also visited Italy. Florence has the charm of a small town preserving the history behind the city while still offering modern day comforts. Almost everywhere is walking distance; you won’t need to walk more than 20 minutes to get from one location to another. I could spend weeks in Florence but if you only have three days, here’s an itinerary to guide you through the city.
Day 1: Hit up the museums. Start by visiting the famous David statue at the Accademia. They say there are three occasions in Florence that will take your breath away and seeing the statue of David in person is one of those times.
I was under the impression that the statue was only 5 feet tall but it’s actually a large centerpiece. The beautiful work of art is the main attraction of the Accademia; you won’t need much time to explore the rest of the museum as it is quite small (nothing like the Vatican!). Just like all the other museums in Italy, you can purchase tickets ahead of time on their website. After you had your full dose of David, walk 6 minutes and arrive at the Duomo. The Duomo is the second occasion in Florence that will take your breath away. Again, for some reason, I was under the impression that the Duomo was a small church. It is nothing of the sort. The sheer size of the chapel is impressive. The detail in the craftsmanship of the Duomo is absolutely astounding.There are maps located around the Duomo that will direct you to the ticket offices. You will need to purchase tickets and reserve a time when you would like to enter the main section of the Duomo. The ticket also grants you access to all of the monuments including the belltower. You can spread out your visits if you prefer, visiting different sections of the Duomo over the course of 72 hours.When you are ready to visit the main chapel, be prepared. There are almost 500 steps you have to climb to get to the top and we are talking about some narrow steep stairs people. It’s a workout but you won’t regret it once you reach the final step. There are breathtaking views from every angle, giving you a 360-degree view of Florence. Climb down the 463 stairs and treat yourself to a scoop of gelato. There are many, many gelato stores in all of Italy but only some that really stand out. I urge you to resist entering Venchi, which can be found everywhere in Italy, and walk on over to La Strega Nocciala. Known for their special buontalenti flavor, La Strega has some of the best gelatos around. Of notable mention is also Eduardo which is located right off of the Duomo. The pistachio gelato is mindblowing with intense pistachio flavors. I could have had one every day. There are many restaurants to dine at around the Duomo but if you want an exceptional dinner, walk 13 minutes to Taverna del Branzino. I was fortunate in staying near this restaurant, allowing me to visit more than once. The restaurant serves tradtional Italian food made with exceptional ingredients. Some of my favorite dishes included pici with sausage and black kale, white truffle pasta and of course, the branzino.
The owner is a sweet gentleman who clearly is passionate about his food and hospitality. Many of the dishes are finished tableside. Watch as he debones the branzino at your table, finishes the pasta with white truffle and drizzles your salad with top quality olive oil.
You may be stuffed at the end of your meal but when a petite Asian lady comes around with the dessert cart, you can’t help but order a plate of their baked goods. The warm apple cake with custard was the perfect ending to our meal along with the basil limoncello. When I return to Florence, I will be sure to come back.Day 2: You know you can’t leave Italy without buying some goodies to take home. This is the perfect time to visit Mercato di San Lorenzo. The indoor and outdoor market offers everything from leather items to fresh produce to charcuterie to dry goods. Many cheese and charcuterie stores will offer you samples and vacuum seal the items, making it easy to transport back home. You know this is a great market when the majority of the customers are locals.
Afterward, walk 15 minutes and head to the Uffizi gallery. For 18 euros, you can purchase tickets to visit the Uffizi, Pitti Palace, and Boboli gardens. The Uffizi is one of the most visited museums in the world, holding a vast collection of works from the Italian Rennaissance. The Pitti Palace has another 5 museums including the Palatine Gallery, the Royal Apartments and the Porcelain Museum. Right behind the palace is the famous Boboli gardens. The Boboli gardens are what I imagine how wealthy people in France live with driveways lined with beautiful foliage and clusters of large sculptures throughout. Make sure you give yourself enough time to see everything this museum has to offer.
Adjacent to the Uffizi is the Piazza della Signoria, the town hall of the city which holds many statues for you to see. Here you will find Neptune’s fountain, a copy of the statue of David and other great sculptures. The piazza also comes to life throughout the day with artists selling their work, people singing and playing music and locals just hanging out. In other words, a great place to people watch.
Day 3: One doesn’t mention Florence without mentioning Ponte Vecchio. The oldest bridge in the city has amazing views with shops lining on both sides. You can also take a boat trip on the Arno river and experience seeing the Ponte Vecchio from a different perspective. One of the best things about visiting Italy during the holidays is the endless Christmas lights that adorn the streets. Ponte Vecchio is also nearby Piazza della Repubblica, another main square with the famous carousel. Nowadays the square is an impromptu stage to street artists and shows. I highly recommend visiting after sunset as this is when the piazza comes to life.
Take a stroll and walk around the city. Some of the best finds are when you get to explore with no specific destination in mind. The streets of Florence are so beautiful you will have a great time just wandering around. For more picture worthy scenes of Florence, climb the hill to the church of San Miniato al Monte or visit Piazzale Michelangelo. Both will offer amazing views of Florence.
Day 4: Book a wine tasting tour. This was one of the highlights of my trip as you get to see the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany. I will dive more into details about visiting the countryside in the following post so stay tuned!
Next up: San Gimignano