Make the most of a weekend getaway to Italy
By Kelly Cronin
Whenever someone who has been to Florence talks about the city, their eyes light up in amazement. Situated in the North of Italy, Florence boasts amazing food, beautiful weather and rich history. There is simply something for everyone in this magical city. If you are trying to squeeze in Florence during a Euro-trip, or you’re going for a weekend getaway, you will not be disappointed. Florence has plenty to see, while still being easily manageable and walkable. After a weekend trip of our own, I wrote this guide to make sure you spend a full 48-hours in Florence and see some of the best parts of the city (and of course the best gelato on Earth):
Palazza Vecchio, Duomo, Piazza della Repubblica, Leather Market
On your first day, start off by visiting the main plazas in Florence. Filled with cobblestone streets and hustle and bustle of people, each plaza has an enchanting personality. To start, visit Piazza della Signoria, just in front of the Palazza Vecchio and Museum. The plaza itself is small (in comparison to others in Florence), and it tends to be on the quieter side, which is a great way to start the day. If you’re hungry, or thirsty, there’s a few options for food and drink here ranging from quick cafés to pubs to restaurants. While in the plaza, a must-do is a visit to the Palazza Vecchio Museum. The medieval building is filled with elaborately decorated rooms, paintings from the Renaissance and Roman ruins. After strolling through all of the chambers, be sure to climb up the tower for panoramic views of Florence. The view will take your breath away, and you will be able to have the most picturesque view of the Duomo, which stands out amongst the other red-roofed buildings throughout the city.
Once you’ve seen the great Duomo from above, head back down and take a look at the beautiful architecture from up close. A few different key things about the Duomo will simply stun you. First, the size. The Duomo is HUGE. As soon as you start walking towards it, you will know exactly where you are and what you are seeing. Second, the beautiful and unique decoration of the exterior. The exterior of the Duomo is intricately decorated with different lines, colors, and paneling. Mostly white, pink and olive green, the pattern on the side is rather stunning, giving a full essence of Italian architecture. Also notable are the major crowds and surrounding area of the Duomo, where people stand and sit to gawk at the amazing architecture. There is also (almost without a doubt0 a very long wait to get into the Duomo and climb on top of it, so if this is on your need-to-do list, make sure you can either find a private tour or get there early.
Gelato time: If you go to Florence, you HAVE to go to Edoardo’s gelato. They change their flavors often, but I am a sucker for a chocolate hazelnut (Nutella) flavor. The shop is right in the square by the Duomo, so if you wander around and see a black sign with EDOARDO’s and a picture of gelato, you’ve found it. Enjoy!
Continue your day with a walk through Piazza della Repubblica to enjoy lunch (if you haven’t filled up on gelato yet) and some people watching at this popular square. Our recommendation is to take in even more views by going to rooftop restaurant Caffe La Terrazza. To enter, go into the Renascente Department store and take the elevator to the top floor. Once you’re there, enjoy a cocktail and lunch with an incredible view of the city.
Once you’ve got your energy back from lunch, head over to the Mercato di San Lorenzo, aka the famous Italian leather market. If you’re looking for authentic, handmade Italian goods, this market will be your heaven. The booths are stocked with wallets, belts, handbags and other leather goods, as well as other souvenirs including keychains, magnets and other adorable keepsakes to bring back with you. If you wander just around the market, you will also find more shops and cafés.
Truffle, truffle, and more truffle!
The best way to see Florence is to eat all the local cuisine you can. Florentine food is incredible, and once you have tasted it, your mouth will constantly water at the thought of another bite of it. Enjoy an authentic evening by having dinner at Osteria delle Tre Panche (meaning three benches), where most dishes are served with some sort of truffle. The cosy atmosphere brings the Italian cuisine to life here! The space is on the small side, so we recommend making a reservation and making a full evening out of your meal (in true Italian style). Most recommend going in December during white truffle season, but we’re sure the food is excellent year round. Pair your truffle steak or truffle ravioli with a fine bottle of chianti and you will have a most incredible meal, followed by their famous cheesecake to top it all off.
Late night treat: If you’re in the mood to stay up late, grab yourself something sweet by hunting out one of Florence’s secret bakeries. Between about 1-4am, a lot of bakeries in Florence will secretly sell their fresh baked goods to people waiting in line outside. The locations of them change frequently, so your best bet is to look up local ones the day you’re there and see if you can sniff them out!
Ponte Vecchio, Boboli Gardens, Piazzale Michelangelo
Start off the day by visiting one of the most iconic spots in Florence: the Ponte Vecchio, Florences’ famous medieval bridge. The bridge is unique in that it is built up with buildings on either side, making it feel like a true shopping street when you walk through it, rather than a bridge over the river. The shops here are famous for high-end jewelry and small trinkets. Enjoy some window shopping or pick out some pieces for a unique Florence keepsake.
Lunch by the Basilica di Santo Spirito
People watching and pizza is the perfect lunch combination. Grab a pizza at a café, or join the locals and take one to go to sit in the plaza with a bottle of wine. If you prefer a sit-down restaurant, the little square here is full of hidden gem restaurants that are to die for.
Once you have filled up on more Italian deliciousness, head over towards to Natural History Museum to make your way into the Boboli Gardens. This gigantic park has a variety of gardens, fountains, statues and more for a relaxing afternoon. We enjoyed a very pleasant stroll, lounged under a shady tree and enjoyed the fresh air. Another highlight were the views at the top! An enchanting garden looks over the rolling hills of Tuscany and it feels a lot like paradise.
Once you’ve wandered through the gardens, make your way over to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a different view of Florence. We know Florence has so many places with incredible views, but trust us, you won’t get sick of it! Climb up the winding street to reach the top plaza with a full view of the city, the Duomo and the river all in one. If you’re lucky, you can catch the sunset over the city from here – a sight you will not want to miss!
Apero: Follow the Italian tradition and have an aperitivo at Golden Bar Open View. Situated next to the river, this cocktail bar has both a restaurant and a bar area, as well as an award-winning bartender and an authentic atmosphere.
Traveled to Florence and have more tips and tricks for this beautiful city? Let us know in the comments below!