In Pittsburgh, I work as a tour guide, for both the university and the city itself. And, since being hired, I’ve always made the joke – “I was born a tour guide, only now I get paid for it.” I’ve found that in Europe I’m no different. My roommates will make jokes when I map out a path in Milan or Paris or Venice or Athens and lead us (too quickly, they say) through any street that is just as new to me – but I’ll tell them every fun fact that I’ve read about it that day. (As a lover of history and all fun facts, Europe has been a source of pure happiness).
And, with my temporary home being Florence, I’m going to give you a brief virtual tour of the top three sites to see in this gorgeous, historic city.
Now, all three of these sites are incredibly common to visit, and most people are aware of them even before they make their way to Italy. But, its not without good reason. They truly are must-sees.
First, inevitably, you will make your way to the Duomo. At the center of the city, and towering over every building around it, you can point it out from most points in Florence, and can’t help but “run into it.” There isn’t a bad time to see it, too. At any time of the day, in any weather, the cathedral is breathtaking. But, if for some reason you can only see it once, I would recommend to do so at sunset. The golden glow hits the duomo in all of the right places: the bell tower, the dome, and the massive, decorated front of the building, and makes the blues of the building stand out even more, now with an orange-pink tint.
Next, make your way towards the Arno – the river that flows through the city. And of course, cross the Ponte Vecchio (or, Old Bridge in English) lined with high end jewelry shops. Fun Fact: before these were jewelry shops, they had been the location of numerous butchers, conveniently placed on the river where they could easily dispose of animal bones. But, when the Medici family built their bridge from the Palazzo Vecchio to the new Pitti Palace, they preferred jewelry to butchered meats, and ordered the change.
On the other side of the river, make your way up the hill to the Piazza Michelangelo, where you can sit on the steps and take in the view of the entire city. Oh! And if all of the beautiful views make you hungry for some gelato, make your way to the Gelateria Dei Neri. It’s undoubtedly my favorite gelato in Florence – I recommend the pompelmo rosa, or pink grapefruit flavor.
Because the gelateria doesn’t close until late at night, if you’d prefer to eat dinner first, I recommend finding a traditional tuscan recipe online and buying fresh ingredients to make your own at home. The kitchen abroad, especially in Italy, is just another learning opportunity, and I find it best to take full advantage.