Florence, ITALY – capital of Tuscany, this smaller city is full of Renaissance history and gives off a distinct Italian charm. While Florence is home to Michelangelo’s “David” statue, Botticelli’s works in the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo basilica, we came with another agenda: olive groves and vineyards. After working a week in Rome, we were officially on a 2 week holiday to explore the beautiful countryside and get a crash course in Tuscan wine.
Florence: 4 days / 5 nights
*Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore & Pisa): 2 days / 1 night
*Tuscany Wine Region (Chianti Region, San Gimignano, & Siena): 3 days / 2 nights
*Montepulciano: 3 days / 2 nights
*Tuscany Guide Coming Soon!
We loved our Airbnb for many reasons: close walk to the Duomo, quiet, super stylish, cozy, comfortable, and next door to our favorite restaurant, Trattoria Zaza. Perfect location for first timers which is exactly how we felt after being away for over a decade. Santo Spirito across the river is the perfect choice for anyone returning to Florence that wants a more local vibe.
Aperativo hour runs from roughly from 6pm-8pm. Italians eat dinner a bit later from 8pm-10pm and it’s best to make reservations and check when the kitchens open. Typically, once you get a table, it’s yours for the night which can make walk ins a challenge.
Trattoria Zaza – SO GOOD we came back three times! It’s a very large restaurant for European standards with several options for outside seating. Extensive menu with literally every classic Italian dish. Favorites included: tortellini with ham in a creamy truffle sauce, ravioli in walnut sauce, and veal escalope.
Gustapizza – OMG! Still dreaming about this pizza in Santo Spirito. Arguably the best pizza on the planet thus far, but we haven’t been to Napoli yet. I received this recommendation from a friend who studied in Florence and she wasn’t messing around. Simple ingredients, friendly staff, and super affordable at €5-€8 for classic pizzas and €10-€14 for special pizzas. Full of locals, students, and tourists so try to plan your visit around off peak hours.
Mercato Centrale – a food hall for artisan chefs where you can find pizza, pasta, wine, gelato, cannolis, and more under one roof. It’s a social spot to meet friends and grab a drink. It rained during our time in Florence, so we used Mercato Centrale to enjoy a snack and plot our next move.
Osteria delle tre panche – on the top floor of the panoramic Hermitage Hotel, overlooking Ponte Vecchio. More of a fine dining experience as they specialize in truffle dishes. Best rustic cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life is served here!
Cuculia – our Thanksgiving meal in Florence. Upscale, quiet, romantic restaurant with small plates that pack incredible flavor. I would come back to Florence for their chestnut ravioli and tortelli with rabbit alone.
All’antico Vinaio – Florence’s most famous sandwich shop! Head over for an early lunch or mid day snack before noon to avoid a long line. For €5 per sandwich, you can eat really well on a budget. They are loaded with meat, so we split one! Top picks: La Favolosa and La Dante.
Coquinarius – the most unique dinner with an artichoke gratin with hazelnut crumble, pear and cheese raviolini (a must!) and cod with black cabbage.
Venchi – follow your nose to the chocolate fountain wall for gelato, crepes, and fine chocolate.
Restaurants we didn’t make it to this trip that are still on the list: Il Vezzo, La Buchetta, La Giostra, Osteria dell’Osso, Il Nutino, I’Girone de Ghiotti, Ristorante Brandolino, and I really can’t believe I missed Gelateria Edoardo.
Firenze is packed with museums as it was at the heart of the Renaissance including the Uffizi, Galleria dell’Accademia (where you can see the original David), Palazzo Vecchio (Medici’s Palace and Townhall), Basilica of Santa Croce (where Michaelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo are buried) and many more. It’s important to schedule your visit ahead of time online as the Uffizi and Accademia require visitors to reserve a time slot. While the Uffzi focuses on paintings, the Accademia is all about sculptures.
Leonardo da Vinci Museum – ok, so we aren’t huge museum people, but we do look for more interactive experiences like this one! It’s interesting to see some of the original sketches of common day things and learn about da Vinci’s other talents in mathematics – not just art. Great for kids, but also adults with curious minds.
The Duomo – entrance is free. There will likely be a line, but overall it moves quickly. All attractions and restaurants require proof of vaccination, so the additional green pass checkpoint does create an extra wait time. If you want to visit other monuments in Piazza del Duomo, you do have to buy the single “Grande Museo del Duomo” to climb up the Dome and the bell tower, visit the Baptistery and the museum. The outside of the Duomo is more impressive than the interior, but still worth a peek inside.
Panoramic View from Piazzale Michelangelo – time to walk off that pizza and pasta. You can also take Bus 12 or 13 from the city center, but the walk was quite enjoyable. It’s more of a gradual uphill path on long stairs – not steep. Another 5 minute walk and you’ll find the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte, atop one of the highest points in the city. Pack a snack + wine and take in the views without all the tourists just down below at Piazzale Michelangelo. Great to visit at any point in the day or sunset.
Buca 27 – local apparel shop a few blocks from the Duomo with wool sweaters (Florence was at the center of the European wool trade and brought much wealth to the city), leather sandals, and coats. Great prices for good quality men’s and women’s clothing.
Dolce Vita Vintage Lab – cool spot to find vintage purses/wallets from designers like Burberry, Gucci, Dior, and more, cashmere sweaters and coats, and even soccer jerseys.
Leather shops – your head will start to spin with all the leather options in the city. Do your research ahead of time to understand what you are looking for and where you can find it. There is no shortage of purses, gloves, jackets, coin purses, shoes, belts, etc! However, not all leather is created equally. Things to assess:
Aroma – musky and natural
Suppleness – soft not stiff
Color – the highest quality natural leather in tan or brown can stand on its own, without any added color, to reveal the natural grain. Dyes often mask lesser quality leather.
Stitching – should be tight and regular, with small stitches sewn close together
I bought a gorgeous pair of brown leather riding boots, but sadly can’t remember the name of the store! Check out this guide for Florence leather market 101.