If you’re an art and architecture aficionado with an insatiable appetite for pasta - put Florence at the top of your travel list!
This was my second time seeing the beautiful Tuscan city and it was just as mesmerizing as the first time I visited 10 years prior. I wanted to share our itinerary and some noteworthy stops in case you’re planning on heading over any time soon.
We spent just over 3 full days in Florence and loved every minute of it. I think it’s a perfect amount of time to spend here - you can take in all the main cultural sights without feeling rushed and can still catch a few moments of relaxation in between. The city is incredibly walkable, so our main method of getting around was by foot.
There is no Uber/Lyft service in the city and much of the historical center has traffic rules restricting non-local, non-taxi vehicles so renting a car isn’t a great option either. Taxi stands are spread out throughout the city center (mapped here) so you can pick up a ride there or order a taxi via your hotel/the IT Taxi app.
Where To Stay
We stayed in a small boutique hotel called Oltrarno Splendid. The couple that owns the property also own a handful of other beautifully restored hotels in the city (Soprarno Suites and AdAstra being among them). We opted for Oltrarno Splendid because it was their newest property and we loved the look of it.
We really enjoyed our stay at this hotel. It had more of a “bed & breakfast” vibe, the place was small - less than 20 rooms I believe - and every morning there was a DIY breakfast station set up in the cafe area with coffee & tea, fresh pastries, breads, jam, eggs, cheese, meats and veggies. The housekeeping was daily and it was super clean, comfortable and quiet. There is a manager on duty at the front desk daily who can help with any restaurant reservations, general inquiries about the city or special requests in regards to your stay. We would happily stay there again or check out one of their other properties in the city. I loved the quirky decor style!
The hotel is located in the Oltrarno neighbourhood (hence the name). Oltrarno is on the other side of the Arno river and it is home to many wine bars, cute shops, restaurants and cafes. Given how walkable Florence is, it only took us 15 minutes to walk from Oltrarno into the center of town to Piazza Del Duomo.
Where To Eat (a Pasta Enthusiast’s Guide)
We had our fair share of amazing meals on this trip - for lunch we loved going to the central market, Mercato Centrale Firenze, which was highly recommended by one of my friends on Instagram. The first floor was a traditional stye market where you can shop for food and on the second floor there is a food hall with several delicious stands serving up everything from truffle appetizers to pasta to pizza and more! The fresh pasta stand was our favourite and we came back twice. I ordered the regular gnocchi one day and the stuffed gnocchi another day - both to die for. I’m still thinking about them.
Vini e Vecchi Sapori was also great. It’s a really small family-owned restaurant with a cozy rustic atmosphere. It has amazing reviews for dinner too but we could only get a lunch reservation. The pasta dishes and appetizers I ordered were delicious. They write their menu by hand, and each day it’s something different. Il Santo Bevitore is another great casual spot for both lunch and dinner, especially if you’re staying in the Oltrarno neighbourhood. For dinner a crowd favourite was La Giostra - for me, the pear ravioli was the most delicious pasta dish of the entire trip. They had pretty large portions and a really fun atmosphere. My husband was obsessed with their steak & balsamic vinegar reduction!
If you’re in the mood for something fancy - the tasting menus at La Bottega del Buon Caffe and Essenziale were great. The former uses only local ingredients grown on their farm a few miles out of town while Essenziale changes their menu daily in accordance to what’s fresh at the market. The tasting menu is blind, which made for a really fun group dining experience. You didn’t know what dish was coming next and it was really exciting. They can accommodate dietary restrictions as well, just let them know ahead of time. We also heard amazing things about Ora d’Aria but sadly it was closed during the time we were there. I bookmarked it for next time!
For something a bit different, we went to a Sicilian restaurant on one of the nights called Ara e Sud. If you’re a seafood fan, I definitely recommend adding this restaurant to your itinerary. The food was unlike anything I’ve had before and super delicious.
For gelato - an excellent gelato shop was just around the corner from our hotel so that is the one we frequented the most. It was called La Carraia and it was so good! Be sure to stop by there if you’re strolling in the area.
You’re in the cradle of the Renaissance so I hope you’re ready for some art! There is no shortage of jaw-dropping art and architecture at every step in Florence. We spent an afternoon seeing the statue of David and it was totally worth the wait, the detail and lifelike texture of the statue was incredible. David is located in Galleria dell'Accademia and he steals the show. If you’re traveling during peak season, I would recommend getting a ticket with a timed entry reservation ahead of time so that you don’t have to wait in line twice. The lines to buy tickets at the door can get super long so it’s nice to have a timed reservation and have peace of mind.
The Uffizzi Galleries were also incredible. You can spend multiple hours pouring over the paintings and sculptures in this place. There was barely any air conditioning and it was quite crowded when we went so we had to speed through it, but 100% unmissable if you’re in Florence. The museum itself is a work of art. We didn’t book any guided tours but I wish we had since it was quite hectic in there and I would have loved a more methodical approach and some more information about each room we were seeing. At times I felt rushed to keep up with the general flow of the crowd.
For MOAR art, you can visit Pitti Palace. The massive 15th century palace houses four different art museums including the Medici family painting collection and the costume gallery. The Boboli Gardens were stunning and worth spending a hot summer afternoon in, even though we were boiling. The grounds are massive - they reminded me of Schönbrunn in Vienna albeit triple the size. I would recommend getting the 3 day pass from the Uffizi website if you plan on seeing all three attractions for a reduced entry price.
If you’re a science geek like we were, the Galileo History of Science Museum will be a really fun stop. They house a selection of telescopes and tools from the very beginnings of modern physics, calculus and astronomy along with three fingers and a tooth that belonged to Galileo himself. It was less busy than the main art museums in town, which I personally enjoyed. My favourite part of the museum were the rooms that displayed various terrestrial and celestial globes made by famous map makers in the 17th century.
If you fancy some high intensity stair climbing, going up to the top of the Duomo on a beautiful day is a great way to burn some pasta calories and enjoy a breathtaking view. We also loved walking along the bank of the Arno river - the Ponte Vecchio bridge is lined with jewelry shops and was a great place to stop and get matching rings with my BFF. Walking along both sides of the river, especially at sunset, was one of my favourite things about the city. I loved the glimmer of the water and admiring the architecture of the various buildings lining the river, wondering who lived in them over the years.
If you find yourself in a clothes shopping mood, the Piazza Santa Trinita housed all the designer shops. Perpendicular to it, Via Porta Rossa has a more eclectic array of shops that sold everything from jewelry to souvenirs to clothing and fragrance. We did the most damage perusing the beauty products at Santa Maria Novella. The store itself is gorgeous, it’s almost part pharmacy museum, part boutique. Their musk-scented body and haircare range was unreal, as was their !!dog deodorant!! My pup now smells like a fancy Italian and I am very grateful for that :)
I’m a planner through and through. Whether my husband and I travel for a weekend away or for three weeks, I like to have a rough outline of what to expect each day. We don’t always stick to it 100% which is totally fine, but I find that having a loose guide can help steer things in the right direction. I found our itinerary for this trip to be particularly great and we managed to tick off all the boxes: food, culture, exploring, shopping and more food! I thought I’d share it in case you were planning a trip to Florence and are looking for a similar experience:
arrive in the afternoon, check into hotel and explore the area
lunch @ Il Santo Bevitore
more delightful aimless wandering
dinner @ La Bottega del Buon Caffe
our friends arrived in the morning so we caught up with them
fresh pasta heaven at Il Mercato Centrale Firenze
12:30 PM museum appointment @ Accademia to see David
3:00 PM high intensity interval training AKA climbing the Duomo
shopping and browsing in the Duomo area, go to Officina Profumo Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella and smell our way through their entire product collection
dinner @ La Giostra
we like to take it easy and spend the morning wandering around the neighborhood we’re staying stay in
lunch @ Vini e Vecchi Sapori
spend afternoon seeing the Galileo Science Museum and browsing the shops on Ponte Vecchio
see the Boboli Gardens
dinner @ Ara e Sud
spend the morning browsing the Uffizi Galleries
lunch back @ Il Mercato Centrale (that fresh pasta though)
more shopping and browsing and just chilling out on the last afternoon
Dinner @ Essenziale (walk by La Carraia) for late night gelato afterwards