Florence – Do, See, Stay, Explore.
I have so much to say about Florence. It is the city I fell in love with the quickest and every day was filled with a new adventure that was even better than the last. Florence is a must see destination. This city will sweep you off your feet and leave you wanting more and more and more.
Where to Stay:
We stayed just over the river across the bridge away from the city center. As you know when we travel we prefer to stay somewhere local and less tourist-y. That way we can really get a feel for what it is like to live in each of the city’s that we have visited. Florence did not disappoint. We stayed in a loft apartment in a building that was over 200 years old with only four other tenants living in it. It. Was. Amazing. And the area we were in was adorable. Little bars and shops lined the streets and just up the hill from where we stayed was the Michelangelo Plaza (which I’ll talk about later).
I cannot recommend this apartment to you more. The host of this AirBnB provided us with a guidebook of things to do in Florence that were his local favorites and he also listed off the “must see” tourist attractions as well. He was so responsive to all of our questions and was quick to help us with any problems that came up.
What to Pack:
You can find this pair of shoes here.
Let me say that one more time for everyone who decided to skip that last sentence. PACK YOUR TENNIS SHOES. We did so much walking in this city and most of the walking was up flights of stairs. And when I say flights I mean we walked 1,000+ stairs on the first two days in the city. Bring your tennis shoes. You’ll thank me later.
The weather was perfect in Florence. There were days when I wanted my shorts and days when I opted for jeans (depending on what we had planned for the day) and was never uncomfortable. It rained a couple of days so be prepared for that. We ended up having to buy an umbrella off a street vendor while we waited in line to see the statue of David. The rain doesn’t last long but it comes down pretty hard.
What to Do:
This is the city’s main church. For obvious reasons. The church takes up the entire city center. You can’t miss it. I suggest skipping the tour of the inside of the church and just purchasing a ticket to walk up to the dome. Most people will be in line for the inside tour and we were at the front of the line and got in right away when we went to do the dome. Reserve a time slot ahead of time! You will walk up 463 stairs (tennis shoes, you’re welcome) but the views from the top of the dome will take your breath away. You can see all of Florence and the hills of Tuscany from the dome. It’s a long way up but you can make it and when you do you will be so thankful that you did.
2. Bell Tower
Do not do the Bell Tower on the same day you do the Duomo walk. The Bell Tower is another 414 steps to get to the top but again the views of the city (and of the Duomo) are unbelievable.
3. Tuscany Bike Tour
Escape Florence for a day and go on the Tuscany Bike Tour (there’s wine included – yes). You get to see one of the vineyard’s (and the castle that sits on the vineyard!) and then bike 15 miles around the hills of Tuscany stopping at the top for a delicious lunch and, you guessed it, more wine. This day was one of my favorites. If you’re worried about the 15 mile bike ride don’t fear. There is a transport van that follows the groups the entire time just in case someone needs a break. The ride is a lot easier than you would imagine. I haven’t biked in about 10 years and managed to do the whole trip with no issues even after I drank my weight in wine over lunch.
4. Michelangelo Plaza
Go and watch the sunset from the top of the Michelangelo Plaza! Do yourself a favor and walk a little ways down the road where the crowd starts to disperse and settle on the steps in front of the St. Michael’s church (it’s blue and white you can’t miss it!) You get the same view but the spot is much less crowded from the tourists. Pack a little picnic, grab a bottle of wine, and watch the sunset of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
5. Bill Viola Exhibit
OK. This exhibit only goes through July so if you are traveling to Florence between now and July get to this exhibit literally right. now. I could go on and on about this artist for forever but I’ll spare you. We stumbled upon the Bill Viola exhibit our first day in the city. We couldn’t get into our AirBnB until 5 so we had some time to kill. We decided to go in not knowing anything about the artist or his work.
My mind was blown.
He uses electronic art and the film / photography approach to art and creates images that are often inspired by pieces of work from the Renaissance time period. He is known for slowing down his images 10x’s so the viewers can pick up on every move, every action, every reaction from the actors creating the scene. Each room provides unique stories and beautiful pieces of art work that I will think about for the rest of my life.
Bill Viola is truly inspiring.
6. Statue of David
Like the Duomo and the Bell Tower, seeing the Statue of David is a more tourist attraction but one that has to be witnessed in person. Pictures will never do this statue justice. The history behind this sculpture is beautiful and the detail that went into it is astounding. The line to get in will be long so reserve a ticket ahead of time. This will help you avoid the long cue. Arrive 30min prior to your reserved time and do not rush.
Florence is a beautiful city that is bound to take your breath away. You will love the culture, you will love the food, and you will love everything that the city has to offer you.