Italy. There are so many reasons why this country is a favourite holiday destination of mine (and of so many others). Florence was the first Italian city I fell in love with and I think it's going to be a lifelong love affair.
In an effort to make leaving London a little easier, I spent my last two months there hopping all over Europe (in between working as an interior designer full time, training like a maniac, and spending all of my £££ on food). There was no way that I could move back to Melbourne without making one last trip (for a little while at least) to Italy. Steeped in history, rich with architecture and art, plus as the capital of Tuscany, Firenze was the obvious choice!
Food is a pretty big thing in my family (if you've seen us eat, you'll know this is the understatement of the century) and although we are Chinese, I grew up eating a lot of Italian food, in part due to some Italian family friends... but mostly due to the fact that Italian food is just damn delicious. So it's unsurprisingly, this trip to Firenze was really all about going from one meal, to a snack, to the next meal, to another snack, with some architecture and sightseeing in between.
I've really been missing the monthly (fornightly... sometimes weekly...) European getaways and I cannot wait to get back to Italy. Hope you enjoy my recommendations for Firenze and if you're going soon, lucky you. L x
Visiting during February meant we had the pick of places to stay; so nabbing somewhere with a view of the Duomo was a no-brainer. Plus the Duomo is super central and Florence is a very walkable city. Soggiorno Battistero is located right next to the cathedral's baptistery (hence the name) and the title photo of this post (literally the view out of our room's window) should be enough to convince you that a Duomo view is a good idea.
ARCHITECTURE & SIGHTS
The Duomo is pretty difficult to miss (particularly if you're staying next to it), as it is one spectacular piece of architecture. Taking almost 150 years to construct; you wouldn't know it took three different architects (Arnolfo di Cambio, Filippo Brunelleschi, Emilio De Fabris) to complete the project, as the building reads so cohesively. Regardless of the time of year, pre-book your visit if you intend to climb the dome and the bell tower, as there are set timeslots. Be warned, there are lots of steps, and the campanile (bell tower) stairs are very narrow. It is not advised that you do this climb after a large lunch and double scoop gelati (as we did). Oh and don't take a nap between your campanile and cupola climbs... you may not wake up from your food coma in time!
Originally recommended to me back in 2008 by our B&B host, Danilo, Piazzale Michelangelo is the place to go for the best view of Firenze. If you enjoy a walk, the walk up is a decent climb, but the reward is well worth the effort. Go at sunrise or sunset for a truly stunning view.
A leisurely wander around the Giardino di Boboli is the perfect way to walk off all of that pasta you've eaten. It may not have the jaw dropping wow factor that Versailles has, but it's still a joy to wander.
There are only a handful of bridges in the world with shops on them, and the Ponte Vecchio is possibly the most famous. Lined with jewellery shops, this bridge over the River Arno is not necessarily the most beautiful, but it has tons of character.
This was not our first time in Firenze, so we had visited many of the tourist hotspots before. If it's your first time visiting Firenze, the galleries are a must. Queue early for the Uffizi to see Botticelli's Venus and then make your way to Accademia, as you can't visit Florence without seeing David!
Museo degli Innocenti, only recently opened, and we were really only interested in seeing the architecture (we may or may not have arrived 20 minutes before close due to the aforementioned food coma...) There are some beautiful architectural features and some interesting (though slightly creepy) exhibits.
It's not strictly a sight, but Luisa via Roma is a must visit for a shopaholic/fashion addict like me. The curation and VM is spot on.
FOOD & DRINK
Italian food is very regional and I like to stay true to the region when eating in Italy. Unfortunately on this latest trip, I didn't find any of my favourite pici (chunky chewy pasta) on the menu. If you're a fan of pork and like gamier meats, then try Cinghiale or wild boar, it's one of Florence's favourite ingredients. I would recommend booking dinner, no matter the day, as it was difficult getting a spot at some of these places!
Continental breakfasts are not really my thing, so often in Italy I grab a cornetto with a macchiato on the run. For Aussies and Kiwis, Italian style coffee can often be on the bitter over-extracted side. Give Ditta Artigianale a go, they serve a decent coffee and roast their own beans.
At La Ménagère you might not be served with the prettiest breakfast (a piece of white toast with some non-fluffy scrambled eggs), but it will be tasty, and you will be surrounded by one of the most babe-ing spaces. Who doesn't want to eat in a light filled dining room with a baby grand piano?!
Obicà is every mozzarella lover's heaven. If you have a lactose intolerance, probably best to give this one a miss, ha! Great for lunch or aperitivo.
Osteria Santo Spirito is on the south bank of the Arno, and it doesn't look like much from the outside, but this is the place for one of the best lunches in town. The gnocchi gratinati ai format morbid al profumo di tartufo is the gnocchi to end all gnocchi... cheesy, truffle, potato goodness, with grilled cheese on top. And it's a steal at only 10 euro!!! This was definitely the food coma culprit.
Just around the corner lies cosy Il Santo Bevitore, offering some interesting flavour combinations (deer and black cherry gnocchi) alongside some classics (nduja with pecorino).
If you've read my Rome guide, you'll know that I am obsessed with gelati. Whilst we didn't quite make our daily quota of 3 gelati a day, it wasn't for lack of trying. Our favourite by far was Gelateria La Carraia, the pistachio and white chocolate was INSANE. Other spots to try: Gelateria dei Neri, Carapina, and Gelateria de Medici (a little bit out of the way, but a favourite of mine from 2008).
And whilst not Tuscan in any way, you won't find me saying "no" to arancini and cannoli. If you are in need of an afternoon snack, make a pitstop at Ara for Sicilian snack food.