A Day in Florence

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I finally got some time to write about my Italian adventure again! As I said, I will not be writing in the exact order I visited places - and I actually wanted Rome to be the next city I would be writing about (it certainly did precede Florence), but I've got a problem there, the city is so beautiful and I want to say so much about it, that I feel I need A LOT of time to do that, and also fear that nothing I say could really compare to the jewel Rome is. But anyway, back to Florence!
I spent more than a day there, but it is a relatively small town and everything worth seeing can be seen in one day. Well, except for the museums - which I missed, and which are the exact reason I will be coming back to Florence one day. Don't repeat my mistakes and book the tickets in advance!
Getting to Florence
Florence has an airport which serves many European airlines. The airport is connected with the city by a bus service from the central railway station every half an hour, operated by a local Florence city bus company. Taxi rides to downtown have a fixed fare of €20. You can also take a train from Rome, they run approximately every half an hour, so there are many. Worth knowing: price of the train tickets in Italy rises with time, so if you purchase them in advance, you can get tickets for 9 euros. Many people were telling me (almost) scary stories about Italian trains, but I almost always used Le Frecce, speed trains that are comfortable, fast and reliable. And yes, they can take you from place A to place B for 9 euros! I once even bought a ticket for 1st class because it was cheaper than the 2nd. When booking your trip, make sure to choose the station Firenze Santa Maria Novella - that's the main train station.


Staying in Florence
Since I'm all about budget trips, I couch surfed for three nights and one night I stayed in a hostel which would've been fine if there hadn't been for some girls who felt the need to chat really loudly while others (me!) were sleeping. (Don't people usually use common rooms for that stuff? But anyway, the hostel was fine. I just got unlucky.) My general advice for staying anywhere, if you're traveling on a budget, you can read here.

Good morning
Start your day with a real Italian breakfast. Now, you might not know and you might find it strange, but Italians eat sweet breakfast. My host in Florence took me to Gilli (Piazza della Reppublica) for breakfast and later on I did the same thing in Italy every morning. Gilli is, by the way, one of the oldest restaurants in town (dating back to 1733!) and is so stylish and... well, seductive. :) Especially when you see the pastries and cakes they offer... it took me at least 5 minutes to decide! So, the typical breakfast is a sweet pastry and coffee. Very important: Italians are amazing at making coffee and yes, you might think that their coffee is too little, but it's just the way it is - please don't order cafe Americano when in Italy. Enjoy the Italian coffee. I know I did - and I'm not usually an espresso lover. But I indulged myself in it every time in Italy. This breakfast is usually eaten sul banco, which means you don't sit at a table, but eat at the bar. It's very quick too - you eat, you take three sips of your coffee, and it's time to go!

Walking around
The major sights you can see in one go. But don't forget to enjoy roaming the wonderful streets of Florence! From Piazza della Reppublica you can either walk to Piazza del Duomo first, or Piazza della Signoria. No matter what you decide, get ready to climb some stairs.


Piazza del Duomo
Il Duomo - officially called Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - is situated in this square. It's one of the Florence's landmarks and it's beautiful! Its exterior is covered in a decorative mix of pink, white and green marble. It's also the fourth biggest cathedral in the world - after St. Peter's in Rome, St. Paul's in London and the Duomo in Milan. (Ha! I can now say I saw the four biggest cathedrals in the world!)

The thing that dominates in the look of the cathedral is certainly the dome. If you wish, you can climb to the top of it - it will cost you €10, and bear in mind that the last admission is no later than 40 minutes before the advertised closing time (7 pm weekdays, 5:40 Saturday). Oh, and just so you know: you will climb 463 steps, not more, not less. :)


Piazza della Signoria
This square is a home to Palazzo Vecchio (The Old Palace) with its high tower, as well as Galleria degli Uffizzi, one of the most known galleries in Europe. But also, the square is kind of an open air gallery, as it holds replicas of some famous sculptures - for instance, Michelangelo's David. Another chance to see Florence from above is climbing up the Tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, for €10 or €8 if you are (or look like) a student, or you can also purchase a ticket for the museum and the tower (€14, €12 reduced price). For opening times, check this link. I climbed up the tower and that view was one of my favorite memories from Florence. 


Lunchtime
If you share my love for markets, you'll be happy to know that Florence has several. You can visit either San Lorenzo market (located in Piazza San Lorenzo) or Sant'Ambrogio market (Piazza Ghiberti). Both have outdoor and indoor markets, outdoor selling clothes, leather, souvenirs, and indoor selling food. Oh, what food! Even if you don't buy anything, I'm sure you will enjoy in the sights of so much cheese, fish, fruit... 

As for lunch, you know what they say: when in Rome... Or Florence, in this case. Local Florentine delicacy that you can only eat here is called lampredotto and can be bought and eaten at stalls all around the city. Did I try it? Yes. Did I think it was absolutely gorgeous? Well, let me put it this way: I was pretty much in the pasta mindset the whole time in Italy. But people in Florence swear by lampredotto, so give it a shot.


If you're more into pasta, or just have more than just one day in Florence, I highly recommend Il Chicco di Caffe (Dalla Lola), at the corner of Via della Chiesa and Via delle Caldale. It's a family run business and the place is just so genuine! It has long wooden tables me and my host shared one with some elder Italians who were entertained by me learning Italian (and helpful with that as well!). And the food - it's just amazing! Menus are written by hand (did I say genuine?), and I think the menu changes on a daily basis. I had ravioli with cheese and walnuts and my host had the most delicious meat ever. I don't remember what it was. It was the time I thought "my god, they have SO MUCH MORE than pasta". Because, as I mentioned, I ate pasta the whole time and loved it, and not once I thought it was boring. But this meat was... omg.

Art
Ok, as I said, I didn't visit museums or galleries, but I had two in my mind that I wanted to go, so I'll share anyway. Galleria dell'Accademia holds Michelangelo's David and Galleria degli Uffizzi holds pretty much of what you've seen in your arts textbooks: Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael. So I emphasize this once more: please book tickets in advance, and by that I mean WELL in advance. I knew I should have booked online to avoid lines (and seriously, you don't want to spend your hours in this lovely city waiting in line - use the links above), but I didn't realize it makes booking for the day after impossible. Like, when I went to the websites, I could book a visit in four days, and I didn't have that time.


Ice-cream
I didn't have a favorite gelateria in town, but trust me, wherever you go - you'll enjoy the most wonderful ice-cream. It's just because it's Italian.

Towards the sunset
Ponte Vecchio
This is yet another Florence landmark you probably know - the cute bridge that looks as if it has houses on it. Well, those are jewellery shops. :) And no wonder it's called The Old Bridge - it dates back to the 14th century! When you walk over the bridge, you actually don't have a feeling it's not just another cute Florentine street, so make sure you walk along the Arno river and take photos of the bridge from another bridge. 


Once you cross the river, find your way to Piazzale Michelangelo, that overlooks the whole town of Florence, and enjoy the sunset from there. Well - that's at least what I did. I actually wanted to climb some more, to the church San Miniato al Monte - they say it has less people. Perfect - because, as you can imagine, everybody goes to Piazzale Michelangelo and it's so crowded! Unfortunately I was sick around that time, I had fever and even climbing to Piazzale Michelangelo made me feel very tired. And sweaty (ugh). So if you feel like Piazzale Michelangelo doesn't satisfy your needs once you get up, go to San Miniato!


Somebody said dinner?
I was recommended a Florentine steak: "It was expensive but so worth it - I can still taste it in my mouth." Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to try it, plus it really is expensive and I think it's more reasonable if you share it with someone (oh, the downsides of solo traveling!). But you can always have pasta. :)

Wine, just because
We finish the day with a glass of wine at a very cool place: La Terazza, a bar with a rooftop view at the top of La Rinascente department store, in Piazza della Reppublica. My wine (absolutely amaaazing white wine) came with chips and little sandwiches - I guess they didn't want me to get drunk. :) When you finish, get down to the Piazza and enjoy live music by really good buskers. I listened to some people for at least half an hour. 



Around Florence
If you're staying in Florence for couple of days, think of visiting some other towns, such as Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Bologna. If you have a car... just drive through the hills of Tuscany. I'll have to do it one day - such a shame I've only seen them in other people's photographs. 

My favorite Florence view
From top of Torre di Palazzo Vecchio at golden hour. I am just in love with this. Aren't you?


Have you been to Florence yet? Do you plan to? I would love to hear!

Have a lovely Sunday night and an awesome week everyone!

Love, Tihana

2 comments:

  1. Florence was one of my favorite cities as well. I think the charm is the understated beauty of it. I love the picture you took of Duomo. Gorgeous!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! :) I did like it, but in comparison with Rome I don't think anything will ever satisfy me. Maybe it's because I saw Rome first, maybe because I just loved it too much and it didn't leave space in my heart for other places. Haha, hope it's not the latter!

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