The best things to do in Florence in less than 36 hours
Sometimes it’s tough when your besties are not living in your same city. Sure, you can go out and have a blast anyway, but you’ll miss them all the time. Even though Rome is our base, we don’t always get the chance to meet. Two weekends ago Ilaria came alone to visit, and now Federica came this weekend, so being the three of us together like the old times isn’t something that happens often. Unless we make it happen!
So last weekend, out of the blue, we decided to meet halfway in Florence! Federica studies in Florence, Ilaria works in Milan and I’m in Rome, so it was just a 1.30hour train ride for me and Ilaria! Easy peasy! From the moment we booked our train tickets, the excitement kept on going! My train had arrived 5 minutes earlier than Ilaria’s, so I went outside to meet Federica (late as usual). As I saw Federica walking towards me, we started running towards each other, until I saw Ilaria running from the other direction as well towards us! It was the cutest thing ever! That’s one best friend hug I’m not going to forget! So how did we spend this best friend reunion?
Where to have lunch in Florence
Who has a reunion with their besties and doesn’t throw in a nice lunch? Hopefully no one! Federica was our tour guide for the weekend so she chose all the spots! She took us for lunch in a place that overlooks the Central Market called Trattoria ZaZà, filled with locals. It was really good and I recommend it. Very central, lovely service and yummy food and wine! The place is really big, there’s both an indoor area as well as an outdoor. We reserved outdoor in the covered veranda and it was lovely. Inside is also very nice, but a bit dispersive! We had a shared plate of coccoli with Tuscan prosciutto and stracchino cheese (I could’ve eaten hundreds of those) and then we had a beef tagliata with grilled potatoes (amazing, order it rare), Ilaria had the chicken with truffles (highly recommend it) and Federica had a scaloppina with mushrooms (not a big fan of mushrooms, but if you are go ahead)! We also had a nice bottle of Vermentino wine. The place was relaxed, fun and just perfect.
Where to have coffee in Florence
We didn’t have coffee at the restaurant because Federica was dying to take us to this lovely coffee place called Paszkowski, overlooking Piazza della Repubblica and the famous carousel. The place is beautiful, and of course the view comes at a price. But hey, it was worth it. It’s an historic literary caffe in Florence, which used to be frequented by intellectuals such as D’Annunzio, Papini, Pratolini and Montale. It’s a timeless place for its style and tradition, since its opening in 1846. You can either sit outside overlooking the piazza, or inside, in the beautiful tea room where you will find Carlo Capanni’s fresco.
Another place I really liked for coffee is caffe Rivoire, where we went for our coffee break on our last day in Florence. For starters, the location is spectacular, it’s right on Piazza della Signoria, and you can see Palazzo Vecchio and the copy of Michelangelo’s David! The coffee is also very good and if you like chocolate, you’ll love this place! The founder of this place, Enrico Rivoire, was the Savoia royal family’s chocolate maker, and decided to open Rivoire in 1872. So chocolate is a guarantee here. If you’re into hot chocolate in cold winter months, this is the place to go!
What to see in Florence
To be completely honest, Ilaria and I have already been to Florence, so we didn’t spend our time sightseeing, it was mostly a fun reunion between the three of us! But, I can definitely tell you what you should see in your short time in Florence!
Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore
An icon of Florence, and an artistic and architectural masterpiece. This cathedral is for sure one of the most beautiful cathedrals you will ever lay your eyes on. The acclaimed architect – Filippo Brunelleschi – was the mastermind behind the outstanding dome on top of the basilica. It was built from 1296 – 1436 and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you want to get views of fascinating Florence, the 463 stair steps to the top of the Dome are definitely worth it.
Between Ponte Santa Trinità and Ponte alle Grazie is one of Florence’s most iconic landmarks – Ponte Vecchio (old bridge). This medieval stone-arched bridge was the only bridge across the Arno River until 1218. Ponte Vecchio was populated by shops of all kinds, from butchers to dealers and jewellers until 1593, when Ferdinand I decided that only goldsmiths and jewellers were allowed to have their shops on the bridge. Today, Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s icons and a must-visit. The bridge is so beautiful that during the Second World War, it was the only bridge the Nazis didn’t destroy.
As you arrive to Piazza della Signoria, the beautiful Palazzo Vecchio along with the replica of Michelangelo’s David will definitely stand out. Built at the end of the 13th century by the architect Arnolfo di Cambio, Palazzo Vecchio was the historical seat of the government of Florence, and is now the Mayor’s office and the seat of the City Council. Palazzo Vecchio allows the public to visit many of its historical halls and rooms filled with stunning architecture and artistic masterpieces. A must-visit is the Salone dei Cinquecento, filled with jaw-dropping frescoes and artworks by Vasari and Michelangelo.
The Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is a must-see. It houses some of the most important works of art from the Renaissance period, from Botticelli and Giotto to Michelangelo, Cimabue, Leonardo Da Vinci and Raffaello, and with the Vatican Museum, it represents the most visited museum in Italy. The Uffizi Gallery has a vast collection of artworks, ranging from sculpture and paintings that date back to the 12th to 17th centuries. This astonishing gallery is divided between two floors and over 45 different halls. An entire day would not be enough to visit the whole gallery, but you should definitely visit it in your short time in Florence!
The Accademia Gallery is undoubtedly one of the must-visit galleries in Florence. It displays outstanding sculptures, including Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the statue of the David, which has been housed in the Accademia Gallery since 1873. The David was originally placed in Piazza della Signoria in 1504 as a symbol of Florentine power and pride (where today you can see its replica), and then taken to the Accademia Gallery for conservation reasons. Although most visitors crowd the Tribune hall, where the David is displayed, other outstanding works by Michelangelo include his four unfinished works, Prisoners, meant to be placed on the tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere, and the unfinished statue of St. Matthew.
The Boboli Gardens
If the weather is nice, you have to visit the Boboli Gardens, one of the first Italian gardens known for their stunning fountains. It’s so beautiful, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site for its architectular variety, which spans from an amphitheater, to caves, fountains and sculptures. If you want to visit a jaw-dropping Italian Renaissance garden with geometric shapes, you can’t miss out on the Boboli Gardens.
If you’re in love with panoramic views, don’t forget to stop at Piazzale Michelangelo! It offers for sure one of the best views of Florence and the Arno river. Designed in 1869 by the famous Florentine architect, Giuseppe Poggi, its piazza is always full of locals and tourists, and for good reason! You can either get a taxi, reach the piazzale with buses 12 and 13, o by going up the stairs that start at Piazza Poggi, right under Piazzale Michelangelo!
Where to get drinks in Florence
We decided to go for an apericena at the famous Colle Bereto, a trendy bar located in Piazza Strozzi. They serve a buffet aperitivo till 10pm, and is the perfect place for apericena. While the wine comes at a price, if you consider the buffet is included, it’s a fair price. They serve cous cous, salads, meat, pizza, cheeses and other dishes, which vary often. If you want a cool place with a nice crowd, definitely stop here for a drink!
Where to have great street food in Florence
On our last day in Florence, Federica wanted to take us to the world-famous Antico Vinaio. She goes there often and says it’s the best place to have a sandwich with Tuscan cold-cuts and cheeses! The downside is that the line to order is very long, every hour of the day, and it goes all the way outside the place! On a regular day, I would’ve stayed in line to taste what is said to be the best place for street food in Florence, but it was raining and we were quite hungry and decided to skip it! Federica had a plan B and took us to the delicious La Prosciutteria, located just down the street. We were so lucky that a group of people was leaving right that instant, so we also got a cozy place to sit to enjoy our sandwich and wine! There’s a lot of different cured meats, cheeses and toppings that you can have in your sandwich, I went for a sandwich with a Tuscan prosciutto and a glass of Primitivo red wine! Perfect way to end our reunion!
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