The Best of Florence

Welcome to Florence, I’ll be your tour guide today!  I’ll tell you all about the best sights, food, and places to shop.  Of course the number one sight to see is the Duomo. It is the main structure that you can see in the Florence “skyline.”  It is the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen, and there is so much history behind it. The line to get inside is very long and you could wait for hours so I would recommend reserving an appointment to go in.  The next sight to see is the statue of David in the Academia Gallery. Since there are so many replicas of it around the city, I wasn’t expecting it to be that different, but I was taken aback by how large and detailed it was.  Another good tip to know is that certain museums in the city are free on the first Sunday of every month. I went to the Academia on a free Sunday and while it was extra crowded, it was worth the free admission. The third top sight to see is the Uffizi Gallery.  This is one of the oldest and most impressive art galleries in the world with pieces by famous artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Verrocchio, Fra Angelico, Raphael, and more. Again, the lines here are super long so make an appointment online before you go.  Because it is so big, give yourself at least three hours to enjoy it. Another cool attraction is the Leather School of Florence, or Scuola del Cuoio, behind the basilica of Santa Croce. Here you can watch students learn how to make leather purses, belts, bracelets, and jackets. You can even buy the finished product.  If you are studying in Florence, the best place to study is the Biblioteca delle Oblate. There is outside seating, a cafe, and an amazing view of the Duomo. Just make sure your laptop is charged before you go because there aren’t many outlets. If you want to go for a walk in the park, go to Parco delle Cascine. It is just outside of the city center so you can escape the crowds for a little bit.  I compare it to Central Park in NYC because it is so big. There are usually street vendors there selling food and drinks, and it is a great place to people-watch. Other sights to see include the Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, Gucci Garden, Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza Santa Spirito, Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Mercato Centrale, Palazzo Vecchio, and Piazza della Repubblica. Now I will break down the best food places in terms of paninis, aperitivo, and dinner.  First, start your day with coffee on the rooftop bar above La Rinascente in Piazza della Repubblica. Go into the store and take the elevator to the top floor to get the best view of the Duomo while you have coffee and a croissant. The three best places to get a sandwich are SandwiChic, I Fratellini, and Osteria All’Antico. Definitely try sandwiches with balsamic vinegar or truffle (tartufo) as Florence is famous for them. Aperitivo is similar to a happy hour in the US, but there is more food.  Usually you can get one drink and an unlimited buffet for ten euros. My favorite place for aperitivo is called San Carlo. It is only eight euros and they have amazing food and wine. Don’t fill up on the food right away because they continue to bring out different dishes as the night goes on. Other good places for aperitivo are Soul Kitchen and Moyo. A great restaurant for dinner is Trattoria da Giorgio. They have a deal where you can get a three-course meal and wine for fifteen euros and the food is delicious.  Il Gatto e la Volpe is great for traditional pasta. Lastly, I’Tuscani 2 has great Florentine steak. It is expensive so split it between two or three people. The workers are friendly and will give you free appetizers and drinks so it is worth it. If you would like to try a cooking class, Airbnb has a feature called “experiences” where you can find great deals on cooking classes throughout the city. Finally, you can’t go to Florence and miss out on shopping. The best place to window shop is a street called Via de Tornabuoni.  That is where all of the expensive designers are, and the window displays are all unique. There is a silk scarf store called Ermini that is very fun to look around. Of course there are leather stores all over the city, and I recommend going in all of them, but if you want good affordable leather go to Mercato di San Lorenzo. There you can negotiate with the workers to get the best price. Via de Guicciardini is right by the Ponte Vecchio and has cute local shops. That is all for my guided tour today, but it is impossible to fit everything to see/eat/do in one post.  Guided tours are fun, but wandering around on your own can also lead you to stumble upon some hidden gems in Florence!