Florence, Italy: a city filled with incredible art, delectable food, awe-inspiring architecture and far too much to see in a few days. Anyone visiting for a short period of time would not have the opportunity to see everything there is to see. So, to save you some time and a lot of regret if you miss these things/places, I’ve compiled a list of must-sees when visiting Florence, Italy.
Located up a long, hilly road, Piazzale Michelangelo offers the best panoramic views in the entire city. You can choose to walk up the hill, drive if you have a car, or take one of the many bus tours up to the top. No matter which way you choose to get up to Piazzale Michelangelo, it will be worth the trip. At the top you can visit the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, a beautiful church with a marble front. Piazzale Michelangelo offers a spectacular view of the entire city of Florence, so bring your cameras!
Travel Tip: If you choose to walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, bring a pair of walking shoes/sneakers, a water bottle and of course a camera. Your feet will almost definitely hurt from the amount of walking you do your first few days in Italy so to avoid this, make sure to bring a good pair of walking shoes.
The next place on your list should be Fiesole, Italy, located on a hill on the other side of Florence. You can drive up to Fiesole or take a public bus to the top. At the top of Fiesole, you can visit the church and convent of St. Francis, and get a breathtaking view of the city among olive gardens.
Definitely the most prominent structure in Florence, the Duomo is definitely on the list of must-sees in the city. You can take a tour of the inside and also climb to the top for a view of the city and the Arno River.
Travel Tip: This is a very tourist-y area and is crowded until after sunset. Wear shoulder bags or keep your money and valuables somewhere a pick-pocketer can’t get to. If you’d like to tour the Duomo, make sure to get there very early in the morning to ensure you skip the long line.
Next stop, Ponte Vecchio or “Old Bridge.” The bridge, which extends across the Arno, is lined with shops that are buzzing during the day. I recommend visiting the bridge both during the day to see the shops, as well as at night to see the lights illuminating the glossy river.
After crossing the Ponte Vecchio, the first place you should visit is the Giardini di Boboli, or Boboli Gardens located behind the Pitti Palace. The gardens extend for 11 acres and are filled with beautiful trees, flowers and sculptures dating back to the 16th – 18th century.
Travel Tip: It is cheaper to buy tickets to multiple exhibits in the Pitti Palace so if you think you want to visit the Boboli Gardens as well as any of the museums located in the Pitti Palace (The Costume Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Porcelain Museum, The Silver Museum, or the Palatine Gallery and Royal Apartments), I recommend planning them for the same day.
This Italian tradition involves going to a restaurant before dinner and ordering a drink that comes with appetizers. While the Italians still eat a full meal after, a lot of places throughout Florence have “Americanized” the Italian tradition to include a full Italian buffet with the purchase of a drink (they offer both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). My favorite place was called Kitsch Devx and was located on Via San Gallo. The restaurant lived up to its name and was immaculately decorated with “kitsch-y” décor. The drinks are strong and the food is fresh and delicious. One large drink and a buffet can range from $6-$9 depending on the drink you choose.
Travel Tip: Waiters and waitresses in Italy (and almost all of Europe) are paid a high salary instead of hourly wages like they are in the United States. Most Italian waiters/waitresses do not expect a tip and are sometimes offended when people leave a tip, thinking the customers might believe that he/she is in need of money. If the waiter/waitress does an exceptional job, it is acceptable to leave a tip of no more than 5%.
If you are lucky enough to visit Florence, even for a short period of time, these 6 things definitely have to be on your list of things to do. Don’t forget to also stop and see the David at the Academia and, since you’ll be doing a lot of walking, grab a couple cones of gelato on your way! My favorite was a combination of frutti di bosco (mixed berry) and limone (lemon).