Florence is a beautiful city, perfect for the art lover, sculpture admirer and history buff. While I have an appreciation for art, I can only appreciate it in small quantities. A, on the other hand, could spend all day touring art museums and sculpture centers. What made it even more special to him is that as an antiques dealer, he has dealt with quite a few reproductions of famous bronzes or sculptures we saw scattered throughout Florence. And me? I was dreaming about all the good food and charming streets Florence had to offer.
So what follows is a mini guide to Florence – the highlights, where to stay, where to dine, and what to see when you are limited on time.
I would recommend booking a place well in advance (if possible). The best locations are the first to go. We stayed in a charming apartment that we found via VRBO located on the snazzy Via della Vigna Nuova that was central to everything: the Arno River, Piazza del Duomo, pizzerias, gelaterias, you name it. The apartment had everything and accommodated all 7 of us. There was an adorable cafe a few doors down called Caffe Amerini where we enjoyed the most delicious cappuccinos and apple croissants. If you prefer a smaller apartment, be sure to look for one in this area – from my past experience, you won’t want to walk far to reach a city’s highlights. This place was close enough that we could pop in throughout the day to change for dinner, take a midday rest or pickup something we had forgotten.
If you can’t find a restaurant you like in Florence, I would dare say there is something wrong with you. Florence is teeming with delicious restaurants, old and new, offering everything from Florentine steaks to pizza to homemade pasta dishes to fish. Literally everything.
For cappuccinos and Italian-style breakfast…Caffe Amerini. As mentioned above, this place is amazing. It holds long hours (open until 7pm, I believe), offers a wide selection of breakfast foods including croissants, muffins, yogurt, makes awesome cappuccinos. Also, you may get the chance to meet the owner, who is super friendly and welcoming.
For pizza…obviously, there are so many to choose from but I would recommend Pizzeria Riva d’Arno which overlooks the river. You can’t beat 8 euro pizzas and beer with a view this great.
For a delicious sit-down meal…Trattoria L’Oriuolu is a MUST. The food is fantastic: the homemade pasta is perfection, the tiramisu is OUT OF THIS WORLD, the service is fantastic, and the owner is a pleasure to talk with. Did I mention the tiramisu?
**Note** The first restaurant we visited was a Rick Steve’s favorite (Antica Trattoria da Tito) – I do not recommend this restaurant for several reasons including, price, quality, service, the usual. This place is most certainly a tourist trap and even though it has received quite a few great reviews, there are just too many other restaurants in Florence that offer better food in a nicer atmosphere (not as crowded = better service and food).
It goes without saying that the Duomo complex is a must-see. Buying tickets (which cost an affordable 15 euros as of 2016) allows you entrance to several things: Brunelleschi’s Cupola (aka Duomo) that you can climb, Giotto’s bell tower (aka campanile) that you can climb as well, the baptistry of St. John (below with gold and bronze doors), the cathedral, and the Duomo museum. We climbed both structures (the Duomo and campanile) to the top for fantastic views. Stop in the baptistry and cathedral for beautiful artwork.
Uffizi Gallery and Accademia (where the original sculpture of David is located) are also must-dos if you have the time. We did not do either one, choosing instead to stroll around Florence but if you are an art lover and don’t care to wander streets, be sure to visit these.
If you go the route we did and choose a leisurely day, be sure to make your way to Piazza della Signoria where a very well-sculpted reproduction of David is located. There are quite a few other sculptures (seen below) located there as well.
Take a stroll through Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge full of vendors and colorful houses.
Giotto’s bell tower
Famous door of the baptistry of St John
Piazza della Signoria
Reproduction of David
*Thanks to the owners of Florence Apartment for giving us a small discount for the duration of our stay.