Florence, Italy

APRIL 21 - MAY 2, 2019

 

gelato, red wine, cobblestone streets, motorbikes, focaccia bread, blooming wisteria, cappuccinos, marble sculptures, red rooftops, Tuscan sun

 
 

Attractions

  • Piazzale Michelangelo - overlooks the city with incredible vistas. Grabbing some food from the deli and hiking up here for a picnic on a beautiful day is one of my very favorite things to do in life.

  • Boboli Gardens - honestly not as nice as I remembered!

  • Bardini Gardens - didn’t make it this time but I think they might be prettier than Boboli.

  • Live jazz at La Menagere - awesome experience hearing live Chicago-style jazz in this cozy downstairs lounge. Unique and good drink menu.

  • Galleria dell’Accademia - quite a small museum. There is an upstairs as well. Besides the David, which is alone worth the visit, it’s got lots of sculptures and Gothic (pre-Renaissance) artwork.

  • Uffizi - download the Rick Steves Europe app, click on Italy > Florence, Venice, and Siena, and listen to the Uffizi Tour.

  • Il Duomo - climb the 463 stairsteps (really not that bad, but make sure you aren’t claustrophobic) to the top for a great panoramic view of the city. The line for climbing to the top is on the left side of the Duomo if you’re looking it the front doors straight on. Make sure you have a reservation that has a specific time on it in order to get in; only a limited number of people are let in each day.

  • Mercato di San Lorenzo - indoor/outdoor street market selling leather bags, scarves, and other souvenir/touristy things.

  • Mercato Centrale - indoor market hall selling local produce (honestly not very visually appealing), with a nice cafeteria upstairs with tons of good options.

  • Brancacci Chapel - didn’t make it this time but I believe it was one of my favorite attractions last time I was in Florence.

  • Bargello Museum - didn’t make it this time, but apparently a great sculpture museum.

  • San Miniato al Monte - didn’t make it this time but a church a little further up from Piazzale Michelangelo.

Food & Drink

  • Wine bars

    • Il Santino - favorite wine bar and one of our favorite places period in Florence! Cozy and warm, with great wine and excellent charcuterie boards. Great service. Tiny place, so I recommend going around 6 p.m. to get a spot. Recommended for aperitivo, but we ended up staying there through dinner one night and left full.

    • Le Volpi e l’Uva - right by the Ponte Vecchio but tucked away in a quiet spot. Make a reservation so you can get a spot.

    • Gurdulu - didn’t make it this time but looks like a trendy, upscale place for drinks.

  • Gelato

  • Coffee

    • Ditta Artigianale - pretty good coffee, okay service, cool interior. Lots of seating, good place to work. Has a big food menu in addition to coffee.

    • La Menagere - part coffee shop, part restaurant, part flower shop, part gift shop, part lounge…this place has a lot to offer. We went for coffee one afternoon and saw live Chicago-style jazz on the Saturday we were in town downstairs in the lounge (another favorite spot during our stay!).

    • Libreria Cafe La Cite - Austin vibes, lots of seating, good place to work.

  • Deli

    • Alimentari Uffizi - great little deli. Get some pecorino cheese, salami, mortadella, and olives and head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a picnic. (But get your bread from S. forno!)

    • Pizzicheria - didn’t make it but sounded comparable to Alimentari Uffizi.

  • Bakery/Breakfast

    • S. forno - get the focaccia, pizza, brownie…or really anything! They also have good, inexpensive, and strong coffee.

  • Lunch

    • Panini & Vini - great sandwiches that you can get on the way up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. I got smoked salmon with pesto.

    • All’Antico Vinaio - a sandwich shop with three locations on one street - when you see three lines of 50 people each, you understand why! Amazing sandwiches for 5 euro each. (The lines move quickly!)

  • Lunch/Dinner

    • Osteria Cinghiale Bianco - great, friendly service. Make reservations - the front room looks cozy but we got stuck in a tiny backroom because we didn’t have reservations.

    • Osteria Santo Spirito - wasn’t very impressed with the cured meats, bread, or the truffle gnocchi that everyone raves about, but decent food. Good location on the corner of the Piazza Santo Spirito and good service.

    • Trattoria Giovanni - slightly upscale, cozy trattoria with good but not memorable food.

    • Senz’Altro Bistrot - some of the best table bread we had during our whole stay!

    • Gusta Pizza - amazing pizza, especially the crust.

    • La Giostra - very romantic, upscale. The waiter made a rather unnecessary show of pouring our wine to appear fancy, which we only know because Julie’s husband is a sommelier. Make reservations.

    • Quinoa - gluten-free restaurant with surprisingly good table bread! Tyler’s lasagna was awesome, and the octopus, potato, and fish salad I had was amazing.

    • Al Tranvai - down-to-earth, simple, cozy spot with fantastic food and house wine. Tyler’s favorite steak was from here.

    • Dalla Lola - great service, great food, cozy neighborhood spot! They recommended a great Chianti Classico to go with our bistecca fiorentina and pappardelle.

    • La Leggenda dei Frati - great experience for our first Michelin star restaurant. Did the tasting menu with five courses and a bottle of wine. Memorable food - maccheroni with white rabbit ragu, a sweet bread native to Siena, and a spongy spinach appetizer - and wine. They accommodated gluten-free for Tyler and corn-free for me, and did an amazing gluten-free bread. Very reasonably priced. Modern interior with only a handful of tables.

    • Teatro del Sale - didn’t make it but heard it was a fun experience getting dinner and a show.

    • Osteria Cibreo - didn’t make it this time.

    • Il Santo Bevitore - didn’t make it but heard about it on several websites. Make a reservation.

    • Zeb - didn’t make it but heard good things about this Michelin star restaurant.

Areas + Neighborhoods

  • Oltrarno - less touristy, more local area on the south side of the Arno River. Lots of great little streets with restaurants, wine bars, and cafes.

  • San Niccolo - convergence of a few wine bars and restaurants with patios at the bottom of the Piazzale Michelangelo. Zeb, a Michelin star restaurant, is here. Also check out the shop of Florence’s popular graffiti artist, Clet.

  • Via dei Neri - long street always busy with nightlife.

  • Via Giuseppe Verdi - also a good area for nightlife.

  • Piazza Santo Spirito - locals’ hangout spot on the south side of the river. If you’re looking for lunch/dinner, go down surrounding streets for better options than those in the square.

  • Piazza della Repubblica - has a carousel in the middle and is surrounded by lots of shopping.

  • Piazza della Signoria - one of the main squares in Florence in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. Political center of the city and often the location of city events.

  • Piazza della Passera - pretty and tiny little piazza in the Oltrarno area with a coffee shop/wine bar on the corner.

Side Trips

  • Chianti - we went to the L’Orcia a Ca’ di Pesa boutique winery (an hour and a half or so outside of Florence by car) and got a fantastic tour by Diego.

  • Val d’Orcia - the idyllic representation of Tuscany.

  • Assisi

  • Lucca

  • San Gimignano - popular but heard busloads of tourists go there.

  • Siena - also popular but also heard busloads of tourists go there.

  • Pisa

  • Cinque Terre - nearly three hours outside of Florence, it’d make for a long day trip. We decided to come back here when we can spend a night or two there.

Tips

  • Bring a coat and a raincoat with you if you visit in April - weather will vary between beautiful days and cold days and rainy days.

  • Don’t buy gelato from the shops that have the gelato piled super high in the display or stick waffle crackers in your cup.

  • Stay on the south side of the river somewhere between the Ponte Carraia and Ponte Vecchio to get away from the touristy spots for a more local neighborhood.

  • Italians eat dinner around 8-8:30, and apertivo (drinks and snacks before dinner) pick up around 6:30.

  • Lots of places had nut milk and gluten-free options, with a few restaurants even having totally gluten-free menus.

  • Nothing is very organized, clear, or on time in Italy. Many Italian websites that I came across were very buggy.

  • Many stores and restaurants are closed in the afternoon, and this isn’t necessarily always accurately reflected on Google. Many are also closed on Sunday/Monday.

  • The online images I came across of restaurants did not do them justice and were very low quality.

  • Tip is usually included.

  • In some more casual restaurants, you have to go up to the cash register to pay.

  • Italians don’t value personal space as much as Americans do.

  • Bring your own bags to grocery stores.

  • Many of the streets in Florence are cobblestone, so wear comfortable shoes.