At the end of August we spent a week in Florence with my family. Compiling this post, it's no wonder we were all so tired by the end of it – we did so much. It's a city with a lot of things to do, art galleries, markets, viewpoints, eating your weight in gelato.
So if you're headed to Florence, here are a few ideas to get you started:
First things first, go to the Duomo. We probably walked passed it ten times a day but every time we couldn't help but stop and look up.
Florence is incredibly beautiful. Pretty much every Italian town we've been to has been lovely, but Florence is really something special. And even in August (peak tourist season) it was easy to get away from the crowds by ducking down the shady backstreets. The Oltrarno (artisan quarter) is particularly nice.
There are so many art galleries, it's impossible to see them all on a short trip. The two most famous ones are the Uffizi and the Academia, home to Michelangelo's David. The queues were long but so worth it (even for someone like me who isn't really into Renaissance art).
During World War II, the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence that wasn't destroyed by the Nazis, apparently because Hitler thought it was too beautiful. It's lined with souvenir shops and tourist restaurants these days, so the best view is from either side of it.
Our favourite place to eat was Mercado Centrale. The ground floor and surrounding streets hold stalls selling fruit and vegetables, meats and cheeses, and the upper level is a gourmet food court.
We visited Sant'Ambrogio too, a more local market, and even just walking around the city you'll see the odd fruit and veg stall.
Each week there are also flower, book and flea markets, but they weren't on when we were there (they close in August).
Look for Clet Abraham's signs
Artist Clet Abraham has altered lots of signs around the city that are fun to spot as you walk around.
Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy
This is the oldest operating pharmacy in the world. It still uses the original 800-year-old recipes and you can browse through all sorts of bottles and potions.
Cimitero Delle Porte Sante
A steep walk from the Piazzale Michelangelo is a little cemetery with great views of the city.
Every afternoon around 3pm, tired from walking around in the sun, we'd stop for gelato. We tried a different place each day and every single one was great.
- Grom: A small chain that uses organic ingredients. The salted caramel (my new favourite gelato flavour) was delicious.
- Gelateria Edoardo: This spot makes their own waffle cones by hand (the only place I've ever seen to do this) and has only a handful of flavours that change each day.
- Gelateria la Carraia: This one had the most flavours out of any of the places we visited and there's a little shop attached where you can buy food-related souvenirs.
This was probably my favourite thing we did in Florence. It's full of all sorts of scientific instruments dating back to the 15th century, including Galileo's telescopes.
Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
There are a few places you can go to get a good view of Florence (like the cemetery I mentioned earlier), but this one was our favourite – what a beautiful city.
Go on a day trip to Pisa
Pisa is just an hour away on the train. From the station it's an easy walk through the city, passed the Keith Haring mural and quiet little backstreets to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Where to eat
I expected Florence to be somewhere with lots of overpriced tourist restaurants, so I was surprised by how many great cheap eats there were.
- Mercado Centrale: I'll start with the place we visited most often. The gourmet food court has lots of different options but I got pizza every time – it was just like in Naples.
- Trattoria da Rocco: There's a good lunch spot in the Sant'Ambrogio market too. Choose from various pasta options and dishes of the day (I loved the aubergine parmigiana).
- Caffetteria delle Oblate: There's nothing better than feeling like you're in on a secret, and that's what makes this place so good. A student hangout above a library, this cafe has a close-up view of the Duomo.
- SandwiChic: Panini are big in Florence and this tiny sandwich shop is a good spot to get one. They have a few seats inside or you can eat in one of the nearby squares.
- Pizzeria San Jacopino: This neighbourhood restaurant was right near our hotel so we ate here a couple of times and the same regulars were always there, eating huge bowls of pasta and joking with the waiters.
- #raw: After eating a lot of pizza, we were in the mood for something a bit healthier one lunch time and this vegan all-raw restaurant was perfect. I'm not sure how they managed to make bread without baking it, but it was delicious!
- Carduccio: Another healthy option if you want something a bit lighter, this place specialises in organic salads and juices.