I visited Florence for the first time last year as part of my Italy trip in October, and loved it. I held back on posting my top 5 purely because I went a bit overboard on the Italy posts (I couldn’t help myself, Italy is awesome), so here it is a few months later. My shortlist of the top 5 things for us backpacking folk to do in the fabulous city of Florence, Italy.
1) Explore Il Duomo.
I didn’t know much about Florence before I visited the city. But I knew about that big orange cathedral you see in everyone’s holiday photos. Said cathedral is Il Duomo di Firenze, Italian for ‘The Florence Cathedral’. I was calling it by it’s name all along and I didn’t even know it. Anyway, the cathedral itself is part of a collection of buildings, which includes the Baptistry and Campanile di Giotto, and the complex sits in a big piazza in the middle of Florence. Being the main landmark in the city’s skyline, you can’t miss it.
I hear there are fabulous views of the city if you scale these buildings, but hands up, I couldn’t be bothered to queue up to go inside. The queues were massive, it was pouring down with rain, nah I’m good thanks. I have Google-imaged it and it does look pretty cool inside, so think it would be worth queueing if you had enough time, but I was only there for 24 hours and had other shit I wanted to see.
But the outside is spectacular. I love the exterior with it’s emerald green panels, mainly because it reminds me of the Emerald City in Wizard of Oz. But it is real pretty. Albeit the most touristy place you can visit in Florence. But it’s worth it.
Also worth seeing at night as there’s less tourists and, quite frankly, it’s even prettier to look at.
2) Visit one of the museums or galleries.
Florence is a city of galleries. There is art and sculptures aplenty and some of the masterpieces of the world are here to see. The only thing is that art-lovers of the world come here to see it, and there are queues for everything. That was my main problem in Florence. Queues for everything.
You can see ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli in the Uffizi Gallery among a host of other awesome pieces of artwork. But the queue to Uffizi was up to 4 hours. Again, in the rain. If you want to see one of the big ones, I would go very early. I just fancied walking around a gallery to get the full Florentine experience so went to an exhibit called ‘Divine Beauty’ at Palazzo Strozzi. There wasn’t a queue for this one and I got to see ‘Pietà’ by Van Gogh which is pretty cool. There are galleries and museums everywhere so if you’re not too bothered about seeing something in particular I would visit one of the lesser known galleries, they’re just as impressive.
3) Go see David.
This tacks on to the above, but Michelangelo’s ‘David’ is a major draw to Florence. I’m not crazy-big on art. I mean I like what I like, but I’m not that knowledgable on artists. But even I know about Michelangelo’s ‘David’. The thing is, it’s in the Galleria dell’Accademia. Another one with hours of queueing time involved. If I had more time, I would have liked to do it, but like I said I was just in town for a day.
But there is an alternative.
The sculpture used to stand in the Piazza della Signoria until the late 19th century when it was brought into the gallery and a replica was put out there shortly after. I decided to go see the replica outside Palazzo Vecchio instead, like a lot of tourists who CBA with the queues. It’s full size and is cool to see where it used to stand among loads of other cool sculptures. I mean sure it’s a replica, but I don’t know enough about art to tell the difference, let’s face it. Obvs see the original if you can, but I thought the replica was pretty cool nonetheless.
4) Eat and drink everything.
Ok clearly I’m not a massive art-lover, but I am a massive food-lover. And Florence has some kickass food. Like seriously, you don’t need to go to an expensive restaurant to taste the best Italian food you’ve ever had. I went to 2 amazing restaurants in Florence and would recommend both of them.
I visited Ristorante Casa Del Vin Santo for lunch and had a delicious risotto, along with really nice wine and beautiful bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I think that’s the best bit about eating in Italy, all of the extras are awesome. And my boyfriend, Josh, had an amazing calzone. And it was totally budget-friendly, I mean it was lunch. (I eat big lunches in Italy).
For dinner, we went to Osteria Vecchio Vicolo which was a bit more expensive, but still super affordable. Our mains were €12/€13. And such a nice atmosphere with authentic Italian vibes and the best house red you can find. This is the place that I had the best bruschetta of my life. Seriously amazing. I also had an outstanding mushroom ravioli and Josh had pasta and meatballs. Honestly both were crazy-good, you have to go there if you’re in Florence.
Drinks-wise, there’s a tonne of cool bars in Florence. I went to one called La Ménagérewhich was a cafe / florist / homeware’s boutique / super-cool bar. I don’t know how they managed to make all of those components come together but it’s pretty cool to be sinking a glass of red surrounded by flowers and retro furniture. Definitely check it out.
They were just the bars and restaurants I tried out, but there are loads more I was eyeing up. Take a wander and you’ll find somewhere fab.
5) Eat gelato on the Ponte Vecchio.
Ok I’ve combined 2 activities here, but it works really well. For starters, you need to eat gelato in Florence. As Florence is a bit more touristy than other places I visited in Italy, the gelato is a bit more expensive, but it’s really delicious. And the Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge that is a tourist attraction in the city. It’s famous for having shops built along it and is really pretty at night, all lit up.
So I decided to grab some rum and raisin gelato from Carapina after dinner, take a walk over to Ponte Vecchio, and look out at the city from this pretty, historic bridge. Can you think of anything more perfect?
What do you think of my Top 5? I know there’s a tonne more to do in Florence, but any you think top the art and the food?! Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!