Florence is the first city Chris & I visited when we came to Italy for the first time. We spent a week there, renting an apartment in the Oltrarno neighborhood and trying to hide the stars in our eyes and nonchalantly wander the streets, pretending to be locals. Ha! I doubt we fooled anyone.
We fell in love with this beautiful Renaissance city during our time there and have been back many times since then. Lucky for us, Florence is not far from Milan. The fast train (the Frecciarossa) travels from Milano to Firenze in 1.40 hr. This makes Florence a really easy quick weekend away.
Top 10 Florence Tips.
- Stay in the Oltrarno.
- Make dinner reservations ahead of your arrival for a more relaxing first evening.
- One word. VESPERS. Make time in your schedule to take the lovely walk up the hill to the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte to hear the monks gregorian chant vespers every evening in the crypt. An incredibly moving experience, and San Miniato has a stunning birds eye view over the city, in a serene setting (unlike Piazzale Michelangelo) which is another bonus. (times & details on their website)
- Go on a Clet Art walk, looking for street art by the famous street artist (who also has a studio on Via dell’Olmo, 8.)
- Get up early and walk over the Ponte Vecchio when the masses of tourists are still sleeping, and the shopkeepers are getting ready for the day. This was one of the best tips I received when planning my first trip, and we still do it every time we visit. There’s nothing like seeing this historic bridge empty and waking up for the day, all the shops locked up like literal little jewel boxes.
- The Brancacci Chapel is very much worth it- reservations are necessary but free.
- Climb the Bell Tower for incredible views of the Duomo.
- For fantastic views of the Ponte Vecchio, watch the sunset from the Santa Trinita bridge.
- Take your kids on a Galileo quest. Take a walk to the house he was born in, Visit the Museo Galileo, and then stop to see his tomb at the Basilica Santa Croce.
- Splurge and book a private tour of the Vasari corridor. Get an insiders look at the Medici family’s famous walkway that connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti. (You won’t believe the art collection inside, and the tiny porthole windows looking down at the Ponte Vecchio make for an interesting perspective.)
3 Days in Florence.
There are a million and one things to see and do in Florence! Here are some of our favorites and an outline of how we like to spend a Florentine weekend.
5p Arrive | Drop bags at your hotel. Ask your hotel to make reservations for dinner (if you haven’t already) I recommend you have a restaurant already picked out, many hotels have relationships with restaurants (not always good) and send guests their way.
5.30p Oltrarno walk | Explore & get acquainted with the neighborhood, poke your head into shops & studios.
6.30 Walk along the Arno River. | Get your first glimpse of the Ponte Vecchio from Ponte Santa Trinita. I won’t deny I got a little teary the first time I saw it…
7p Aperitivo | A great way to feel the local culture is to embrace Aperitivo time in Italy. Order a drink, have some nibbles, people watch and chat with your friends.
9p Dinner | Make sure to try some of the local specialties, Bistecca Fiorentina, Ribollita (in winter) Panzanella (in summer) Pappardelle with cinghiale ragu (wild boar)
11p Night time art walk | An after dinner walk is so nice at night. Look for street art, or walk through Piazza della Repubblica or Piazza della Signoria which are packed with people during the daytime but lovely and beautiful at night.
7.30a Ponte Vecchio Walk | Early morning is my favorite time on the Ponte Vecchio, when it’s quiet and the city is just waking up. (See tips above)
8a Coffee | Stand at the bar like the locals (and pay less) or find a café in a piazza, a patch of sun and enjoy a slower coffee moment, pinch yourself because you’re in FLORENCE!
8.30 Visit the Sant’Ambrogio market | One of my most favorite things to do everywhere I go! Less touristy than Mercato Centrale (which I also love) Have fun browsing the stands inside & out and watching people get their weekend groceries.
9.30 Basilica di Santa Croce | I adore this place and go every time I’m in Florence. You have to buy a ticket, but it’s so worth it. (make sure to visit all the tombs, the frescoed chapels, the Pazzi Chapel, tiny museum & refectory.)
11.30a Snack/caffé | Need a quick pick me up? It’s a great time to try a piece of schiacciata all’olio, a Florentine type of focaccia topped with olive oil and coarse salt that is simple and delicious. (A favorite spot on the way to the Brancacci chapel is Il Fornanio just around the corner from Piazza Santo Spirito)
12p Brancacci Chapel (reservations needed) | This 15th century frescoed chapel is breathtaking and a must see, in my opinion.
1:30p Lunch | Enjoy lunch al fresco in Piazza della Passera
3p Gelato Break | You have to have gelato at least 1-2 a day while in Florence, what flavors will you try? My favorites are Nocciola & Pistacchio. (hazelnut & pistachio)
4.30p Take a Scenic Walk | Walk up to the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, walking by Galileo’s house and stopping at the Giardino delle Rose on the way up.
5.30p Gregorian Chant | You have to do this. You just must. The church (San Miniato al Monte) is stunning, and free, and you get to have an otherworldly experience listening to Gregorian Chanting in the crypt of the church. Amazing. (see tips above)
7p Aperitivo | Its your last night in Florence, so of course you must go all out and enjoy the aperitivo hour. Piazza Santo Spirito has a great & hopping aperitivo scene.
9p Dinner | Dinner tonight, at one of my favorite places- I’Raddi (see resources below) Make sure and order the spinach with garlic & peperoncino- I die! Their ribollita is outstanding as well. Actually everything we’ve ever had here has been fantastic.
11p City Stroll | If you are up for it… I love walking the city at night. You see a completely different side and it’s a fun way to wander and make believe you live here. I’m not the only one who does that, am I?
8a Espresso | Jump Start your day with Coffee & pastries at Caffè degli Artigiani, or anywhere else that catches your eye.
9a Market Stroll | Piazza Santo Spirito Market (There are some special markets worth planning your trip around- the wonderful Fierucola organic food & handcrafted items is the 3rd Sunday of the month )
10.30a Pick me Up | because this is your last day, a Mid morning coffee or gelato is needed. (that’s a thing, isn’t it?)
11a Art + History | Palazzo Pitti or Boboli Gardens (or another museum you’d like- many are open on Sundays but double check hours)
1.30p Sunday Lunch.
4p Arrivederci Florence! | Say goodbye and start planning your return asap!
Eat & Drink.
Vivanda | Via Santa Monaca, 7 (great fixed price lunch)
I’Raddi | Via D’Ardiglione, 47/r
Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco | Borgo San Jacopo, 43R
Trattoria Sostanza | Via del Porcellana, 25/R
Le Volpi e l’Uva | Piazza dei Rossi, 1R
Cantinetta dei Verrazzano | Via dei Tavolini, 18/20-r
Caffè degli Artigiani | Via dello Sprone, 16
Il Santino | Via di Santo Spirito, 60
Il Santo Bevitore | Via di Santo Spirito, 64/66
Trattoria Casalinga | Via dei Michelozzi, 9r
Brancacci Chapel (Cappella Brancacci)
EAT FLORENCE, a must have app for fab foodie (& other) recommendations.
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