To begin, please know that there are endless things to do in Florence; there is something for everyone. However, there are 3 places that you must see while here.
- Coming in at number 3 of my top 3 list, there is Le Cascine Park. This is Florence’s largest park. It is filled with trails, nature, and physically active individuals. My weeks would not have been as fulfilling without the few runs I took each week through Le Cascine, along the Arno River west of downtown.
- At number 2, there is Piazza Santo Spirito. Not only is this plaza on the quieter, south side of the Arno, but it is also filled with restaurants and even has weekly farmers markets. At the center lies a quaint fountain – an excellent place to read a book on a nice day. When you need a brake from that slower chapter, look up and take in the beautiful Basilica di Santo Spirito.
- My number one site to see in Florence is the Pitti Palace Museum(s). Although this gargantuan structure is off-putting from the street, its inside is full of Medici commissioned objects, frescoes, and paintings. There are 4 different museums, plus the Boboli Gardens, therefore this is an excellent place to spend at least half a day for only 8 euro. While there, you must see the Palatine Gallery and the Fashion Museum; art and history buffs should love this experience.
La Giostra is my best restaurant recommendation. It is more expensive than the average Florentine meal, but the pastas and dishes are delectable. There are interesting ravioli flavors; be brave and try one of them. It is located on Borgo Pinti, near the Oblate Library, less than a 10 minute walk from the Duomo.
The following are some tips for anyone planning to visit Italy:
- Italians have a strong culture; they may initially come off as rude, but they are – in fact – kind, artistic, and definitive. Remember there is a language barrier and do not take it personal if a local blows you off when you are asking for directions.
- Ignore people trying to sell you things on the street; this includes if someone offers you something “for free.” They are just trying to make a living, but locals will tell you to be weary of them because their financial desperation can lead some to steal from aloof pedestrians.
- Be careful at night. If something feels “off” tell yourself that it probably is and quickly remove yourself from that situation. Walk on well lit streets, preferably where there are other people.
- Look both ways before crossing the road. From my travels up and down the Italian peninsula, it seems the driving gets more erratic the further south you go.
- Visit Naples! It is beautiful and has the best food I have ever had in my life. Some people think it is unsafe, but this is a stereotype; practice sound street smarts and you should be fine.
- Appreciate where you are. After Greece, Italy is historically the 2nd “builder” of human civilization. The peninsula’s endless cultural artifacts, paintings, and history make for a dense New England lobster bisque, waiting to be devoured.