Travel Guide: Florence, Italy
I spent four weeks of my summer drinking way too many espressos and eating a croissant per day in Florence, Italy. Florence is the capital of Tuscany and was the birthplace of the Renaissance movement in the 15th century. The city is filled with culture, art, delicious food and incredible views, so if you’re planning a trip to Florence, I’m jealous because I would go back in a heartbeat.
Where to Eat
Gusta Pizza — You’ve probably seen Gusta Pizza recommended on every single Florence guide. That’s because Gusta Pizza has, in my opinion, the best pizza in Florence. Like many authentic Italian restaurants, Gusta is closed for riposo, and only open from 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and then from 7-11:30 p.m. If you go for dinner at 7 p.m., expect to be greeted by a long line; thankfully, the line moves pretty quickly and is 100% worth the wait.
Mercato Central — Mercato Central is a must see in Florence. There are two floors: the grocery and the food court. The bottom is a full grocery where you can find fresh fruits and veggies, meat and fish, limoncello and much more. The top floor is a FANTASTIC food court where you can pretty much order anything that comes to mind. (Check them out on Instagram for an idea of what to expect!)
il Gatto E la Volpe — il Gatto E la Volpe was one of our go-to restaurants by the end of our trip. Because I was studying abroad with an awesome group of girls, there would normally be around 10 of us going to dinner together every night. il Gatto has a family style option on the menu called the “Pinocchio.” It is 20 Euros per person and includes wine, water, bread, bruschetta, meat & fruit board, and four different types of pasta (ravioli, spaghetti ragu, penne with vodka sauce, gnocchi with cheese sauce).
La Ménagère — The first time I walked past LA MÉNAGÈRE, we knew we had to go for drinks! The restaurant has incredible ambiance as you’re surrounded by with plants, gorgeous decor, and even a floral shop. I will say that it is a struggle to find a table or a place to sit. We also experienced extremely slow service, so I’d say to go for drinks or espresso and a croissant rather than an entire meal.
Attractions & Activities
Piazzale Michelangelo — Piazzale Michelangelo has the best views of Florence. It is definitely a hike to get to the top, but the views are so worth it. If you go around sunset you are almost guaranteed to witness a proposal; it is just that romantic and beautiful! There are several restaurants at the top where you can grab a drink and enjoy the view. We had drinks at Ristorante La Loggia, a restaurant with outdoor seating and live music.
Gucci Garden — Gucci Garden opened in the historic Palazzo della Mercanzia in Florence this past January. Gucci Garden is open from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. It is part boutique and gift shop and part museum. If you’re a student, you get free entry with a valid ID.
Galleria dell’Accademia – The Galleria dell’Accademia is home to Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture. The Galleria is not far from the city center and definitely an iconic attraction of Florence.
Travel around Italy — It is so easy and relatively inexpensive to travel around Italy once you’re there. I used my weekends to travel from Florence to Rome, Milan, and Venice. I always purchased tickets online through Italo or Italia Rail. I found that Italo had cheaper options if you are willing to be flexible with your departure times.
Take a Cooking Class – We took a private cooking class with Chefactory and had such a blast making homemade pasta, meat sauce, tomato sauce, egg flan, and chocolate lava cake. At the end of our class, the chef even gave us a list of all the recipes so we can make these delicious treats back in the States.
Climb to the top of the Duomo — The Duomo di Firenze is one of the largest churches in the world and is impossible to miss. There are three separate parts to the Duomo found in the Piazza del Duomo: the Duomo itself, the baptistry and the bell tower. You can climb to the top of the Duomo and bell tower to see all of Florence and 360-degree views.
Visit the Boboli Garden — There are so many gorgeous gardens within Florence. We visited the Boboli Gardens found behind the Pitti Palace. One ticket will give you access to the entire grounds where you can explore the amphitheater, Neptune’s Fountain, and gorgeous panoramic views.
Wine tasting in Chianti — Wine is such a huge part of the Italian culture. Chianti is a very well known wine-producing area due to its quality and a long history of wine production. We went wine tasting at Fattoria San Michele a Torri and had a good experience, but there are SO MANY other amazing Tucan wineries to choose from. Do your research and decide for yourself what works best!
Terms to Know
Aperitivo — I had no idea what aperitivo was prior to coming to Florence, but now that I’ve been introduced, I’m annoyed America’s happy hour is nothing in comparison! Basically aperitivo is drinks and appetizers to “whet your appetite” before you go to dinner. You’ll pay one set price (normally around €8 – €10) for a drink and access to a small buffet or a cheese and meat board depending on where you go. There are dozens of restaurants with aperitivo offerings to choose from, but one of my favorites was Oibò. It was €10 for a cocktail and a full buffet of meats, potatoes, pasta dishes and more. There were enough items on the buffet for us to make a full meal of it. I ordered the passion fruit martini and it was incredible. I’ve never experienced a drink like this before.
Oibò – Passion Fruit Cocktail
When this drink was first placed in front of me, I immediately assumed one of them was for someone else, however; this wasn’t the case. On the left is a glass full of ice, a shot of Prosecco and half a passion fruit and the right is a fruity martini. According to the bartender, it is up to the customer how they’d like to enjoy the drink. He recommended that I take a bite of passion fruit (sweet), then a sip of the martini (sour) and finish it off with a sip of the Prosecco (the bubbles!).
Firenze — Florence; Milano — Milan; Napoli — Naples; Venezia — Venice
Grazie – Thank you
Prego – You’re welcome
Ciao – hello & goodbye (informal)
Salve – hello (formal)
Buongiorno – Good Morning
Buona sera – Good Evening
You should always opt for the house red or white wine at restaurants; it is inexpensive and incredibly delicious!
Do not go to any restaurants with pictures on the menus or people standing outside beckoning you in, they’re almost always tourist traps, and the food will be very Americanized Italian food. We did this the first night, one and done.
There is no UBER in Florence and hailing a taxi isn’t a common occurrence as it is in New York City. There is a taxi main number you can call, but because I don’t speak Italian, I opted for the appTaxi app instead.
It’s very rare to find a coffee place with to-go cups or iced coffee beverages. I found a couple good places near my apartment that did, but it immediately labels you as a tourist.
Lattes are cafe lattes in Italy. If you try to order a latte, you’ll just get steamed milk.
I was abroad July-August and it was miserably hot and overcrowded. I would not recommend going in the heat of the summer.
Tiquets is a great resource if you’re planning to travel to Rome. They have greatly discounted tickets that couldn’t even compare to the prices I found elsewhere.
Are you heading to Milan while in Italy? You can check out my Milan guide here!