Florence was the highlight of my Italy visit. Of course, I loved my time spent at Venice and South Italy, but Florence has a lot of Art, History and Fashion set aside in one place! Everything felt very lively no matter what time of the day, I walked on the streets! Apart from seeing the historic galleries and museums, you can do a lot of other basic things and still get that amazing feel of Florence. For instance, the way we spent our first day at Florence was indeed love at first sight!
How did we come to Florence?
We took the Italian Frecciarossa train (fast train) from Venice to Florence (Santa Maria Novella Station). It was a very convenient short journey and our premium class added to our comfort! We started at 12:40PM and reached Florence by 2:30PM.
If you plan to stay around the Duomo then it will be a walkable distance from the Florence train station. This will of course depend on how heavy your luggage is but with drag-able luggage it is easily doable! Ours weighed quite a bit as we had a cruise planned that week. But we still managed to walk and drag our luggage to the hotel. As they say, Florence is indeed a city meant to walk and explore! It is beautiful and nothing makes the walk tiring!
Where did we stay?
We stayed 200 meters from the Duomo at Palazzo Ruspoli. I thought it was an admirable accommodation for the price we paid! It was more than a Bed and Breakfast place as it was very well maintained and orderly! The place is indeed a palazzo style accommodation with spacious rooms and high ceilings! It is bang on the main wide street and we had stunning views of the Duomo from our colonial style room.
We spent a while at the train station and reached the hotel by 3:15PM. We captured some pretty pictures of the room and the view of the Duomo and then left to explore the city. Staying at Palazzo Ruspoli added to my love for the city! It was not just quaint but also brought some Italian warmth whenever we saw the décor of the place!
Florence Bell Tower – Campanile di Giotto
Florence Bell tower is just adjacent to the main Cathedral next to the Duomo. The Cathedral and the Duomo both display beautiful Gothic Architecture in white, red and green marble. Not only are these three magnificent to see but they also give Florence a Character along with other monuments and galleries.
My main aim was to climb the bell tower and NOT the Duomo! I felt that ascending the Bell Tower was the best way to get outstanding pictures of the Duomo and the main city.
This had to be done before it got dark and so we waited in a queue to buy the tickets to get inside. It took us about 30 minutes to get the ticket. It rained while we waited but the discomfort was worth what we saw later!
There are several flights of stairs (totally about 500 steps) within narrow staircases. There is no lift (elevator); so if you are not physically fit to climb that high, you could skip this activity and head straight to Michelangelo’s Square.
As we climbed different levels of the Bell tower, we captured pretty pictures. Once we reached the terrace, I loved the way I saw Florence! It was stunning and we got great top views of the Duomo too!
Walking around in Florence – Break at Palazzo Vecchio!
Florence is no doubt one of the best walking cities in the world. Every time you walk, you discover a new place; something to do with either Shopping, Art or Food!
We kept walking and stopped at various natty shops and cafes.
Once we reached around Palazzo Vecchio (over looking Piazza della Signoria), we spent time taking snack-bites and having Gelatos.
We also took pictures of the square and of the free standing full size David’s replica at Piazza della Signoria . This is one of the three beautiful David replica statues in Florence! Ofcourse the original one at Academia is the one you will want to see while you are there – but this one is equally stunning!
There is also an excellent Bronze Turtle sculpture at Piazza della Signoria!
I am unsure about the others, but after the Bell Tower and Duomo, my next area of curiosity was seeing the Ponte Vecchio! Before I went to Florence, all I ever dreamt of was walking around Ponte Vecchio on the adjacent bridges and enjoying sunset views! I was immensely happy when I really did that.
You should ensure to spend at least one of your evenings around River Arno whilst at Florence. We were even lucky to see a photo shoot of a beautifully dressed newly married couple!
For me, Ponte Vecchio over River Arno is the main ‘mind-landmark’ associated with Florence. My liking for it will always be there!
Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square)
We walked to the other side of River Arno and climbed on one of the many buses to Piazzale Michelangelo. We were bang on time for the sunset and got great views of the city in daylight, twilight and after dark! It was stunning.
You can spend your evening on the steps with many others and have a great top-view of Florence. You could sing a song, propose to your partner or just gaze at the stars! Spending time here will be very memorable.
Tip – Take a jacket with you as it can get really cold. Also, if you are relying on the buses take a note of the timings for buses back to the city.
Dinner and Gelato!
Before we headed back to our hotel, we stopped for some excellent Florentine dinner. It wasn’t difficult to find a place that also catered vegetarians and vegans. Well, actually, being a vegetarian didn’t seem one bit difficult for me in Italy. I had some amazing Eggplant Parmagiana and a farmhouse pizza for my first dinner at Florence. We ended that with some Tiramisu and fresh cream!
For Gelato, we stopped at one of the many gelaterias on the way back. You won’t miss any of the top rated Gelaterias. You should try one that appeals to you because we probably had Gelatos in 5 different places in 2 days and everything seemed fabulous!
This was end of day one!
Tip -Just to say it again, I love seeing beautiful top views, scenic locations, changing colors of the sky and things in those lines! I am not a religious person so I don’t have to reserve time for temples and churches during my tours.
Day 2 – Galleria dell’Accademia, Uffizi and San Lorenzo Market!
We had a great breakfast at Palazzo Ruspoli.
This day was clubbed with Galleria dell’Accademia, Uffizi (these 2 are important for the sake of the brilliant Florentine Art!) and San Lorenzo Market! Academia is where you will see the Original Statue of David!
San Lorenzo Market has indoor and outdoor options for shopping. If you want to buy souvenirs, this is where you could check out for things to take back home. A lot of good eateries are also around to stop for some local bites.
Tip – Do reserve one full day to do Art Galleries and Museums. Galleria dell’Accademia and Uffizi offer lots to see if you are a keen observer indulged in Art, you can take an entire day only for Uffizi!
Day 3 – Tuscan Countryside!
After some indulging breakfast, we went on a Tuscany sightseeing tour the next day and it was mind blowing! We also ate some brilliant food, drank some Chianti and had the world’s best Gelato!
Do take a glance around how we spent our day in the Tuscan countryside.