First time Florence was about 10 years ago, part of my Erasmus year in Italy. Since then I went back a few times on work related business. Most recently, I was in Florence last week-end, in an escape from the Belgian summer (that is to say grey, skies and rainy mornings that make you think twice about leaving the apartment).
Of course, if you ever decide to visit or re-visit the city, you will not be alone. The attention the city is getting is on the rise, with bus loads of people queuing at the Duomo and Uffizi Galleries every day. But this should not discourage you. It is still one of the most charming, history filled and full of tasty osterias city in Europe. If you have a choice, May and September should offer you a bit of more breathing space. Also, booking ahead online, now possible at a number of cultural musts, including the Grande Museo del Duomo, Uffizi Galeries and the National Museum of Bargello. And this brings me to my favorite places in Florence. Here are my top choices for a long week-end in Florence:
- National Museum of Bargello, focusing in particular on four masterpieces by Michelangelo and Donatello;
- Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza Signoria for overall great interior architecture;
- Palazzo Davanzati or an ancient Florentine home;
- The Baptistry including the Gate of Paradise.
Of course there are many wonderful places that should be on your list if you have the time and are interested in everything beautiful. The Ospedale degli Innocenti come to mind, as do the Uffizi Galeries. Also, if the weather is nice, leave a few hours for the Boboli Gardens.
And while you are sightseeing, do not forget to get your pasta and bistecca fiorentina fix at a one of the many authentic places. Again, here is a list of my favorite 5. A bit off the beaten tourist track but I really think the food is worth the effort:
- Pizzeria Antica Porta – via Senese, 23 – amazing oven pizza from freshest ingredients
- i Toscano – via Guelfa 70, if you like tripe and bistecca fiorentina at reasonable prices in a family run place popular with locals
- Osteria delle belle donne – via delle Belle Donne, 16, for lunch on-the-go in a typical Italian atmosphere
- Trattoria Marione – via della Spada, 27, for great pasta
- Gelateria della Passera – via Toscanella, 15, difficult to stop at one scoop
Recounting all these great places makes me hungry already. Also, makes me want to book another Italian trip soon.