People seem to fall more easily in love with Florence than Rome. This makes sense to me, logically. The city is a little less chaotic, itâ€™s easy to get around on foot, and everything is manicured with a Renaissance-like precision. Florence is a city of art.
I covered just about everything I wanted to do in four days. This is my imperfect itinerary.
Day 1 — Get lost, and see the Duomo
My hostel (the Plus Hostel Florence) was about a 15-minute walk from Duomo–the cathedral named for Santa Maria del Fiore. I figured I’d get acquainted with my neighbourhood, and so I spent a good chunk of my first day just wandering the maze-like streets of the Old Town. The historic centre is actually a UNESCO protected site.
I walked for hours. There are stretches of streets that could be Anywhere Town, lined with designer brands and ritzy hotel fronts. And then youâ€™ll turn a corner and thereâ€™s a giant bronze statue of a man riding a turtle in front of a church. (Itâ€™s called â€œSearching For Utopiaâ€ by Jon Fabre. I didn’t make that up.)
Eventually I went searching for a rooftop bar recommended by a million people, but I couldnâ€™t seem to find it. So I ended up buying an Aperol Spritz at a tiny punk-ish bar named Music CafÃ©. Iâ€™ll never really understand the allure of an Aperol Spritz. It takes like dish liquid. I kept trying to appreciate the drink over and over again. I tried so many times. All I earned was a hangover.
But, anyway, I was definitely the only tourist in the spot and so I spent some time here naval-gazing and reflecting on whether or not Florence might be THE city for me. (Hint: itâ€™s not. Too clean.)
So, the Duomo.
After studying Cultural Landscape in the United Kingdom (yeah, thatâ€™s a thing) and having completely exhausted myself cathedrals and churches on the Camino de Santiago, Iâ€™m a wee bit over that whole spirituality thing. But the Duomo really is magnificent.
Itâ€™s got an impressive Renaissance dome and a Gothic exterior. Itâ€™s the fourth largest cathedral in the world, and it completely dominates the centre of Florence. Its interior is not as exciting, in my opinion. But admission is free, so itâ€™s worthwhile to visit, and you can pay to go up into the tower. Itâ€™s probably the only line-up in the city that moves fast.Â Remember to cover your knees and shoulders before you go in, lest you cause some priests to blush.
Day 2 — Art ALL DAY
I admittedly was in no way prepared for the hassle of getting into Italyâ€™s museums and galleries. I donâ€™t know what I was thinking, but I certainly didnâ€™t know that I should have bought fast-track tickets weeks in advance. Months, even.
I was told to show up at the Uffizi Gallery early if I wanted to not be standing in line-up for hours. It is, after all, one of the most famous Renaissance museums in the world. I showed up at 8 AM and the line-up was already snaking around the corner.
Botticelliâ€™s Birth of Venus is one of the main draws, but I can assure you, the entire place is jaw dropping. I picked up a free audio guide from Rick Stevesâ€™ website instead of dishing out 7EUR for a museum guide.
Optimistically, I decided to tackle Accademia Gallery as soon as I left Uffizi, around noon. The line-up to see Michelangeloâ€™s David wasnâ€™t too terrible, and it helped that I started talking with some Canadians while waiting to get inside. (It did start raining, though. So that kinda sucked.)
David was well worth the trip to Florence. Itâ€™s impossible to fathom how a 26-year-old like Michelangelo could build some a perfect work of art. The statue is enormous. It made me emotional. Gazing up at Davidâ€™s perfectly chiseled abs, his veiny muscles, his penis just hanging out in all its glory, I thought, â€œHow did a 26-year-old create this and I can hardly afford to pay my cell phone bill?â€
I also thought, “David is a goddamned babe.”
Day 3 — Food in Florence
It might be a tell-tale sign of getting older, but I believe diving deep into a city or regionâ€™s food culture is one of the few real ways tourists can get to know local life these daysâ€¦even just a taste of it.
And I like doing that with food tours. I love when people tell me what to eat.
I opted for a food tour with Walks of Italy around the Santâ€™Ambrogio market, kick-starting the morning with some wine and espresso. Because why not start the day off with red wine tapped from a barrel, free pour?
Eating like a local in Florence means a lot of Tuscan cucina povera, or â€œpeasant foodâ€ (street food). I tried lampredotto made from cowâ€™s stomach, and trippa. But then we moved on to cured meats like finocchiona (fennel salami), and pecorino sheepâ€™s cheese, and fresh pasta, and MORE WINE.
Day 4 — Ponte Vecchio and Oltrano
Why are the best places always â€œacross the riverâ€?
Thatâ€™s Oltrano, on the other side of the River Arno.
First, I went to see the Ponte Vecchioâ€”the famous covered bridge where shops still sale outrageously priced gold and other goodies (feature photo). Youâ€™ll find a shit ton of hawkers there too, with blankets spread out on the ground, covered in knock-off purses and sunglasses. It makes for a pretty awesome Instagram photo.
Florence is also known for its particularly styled, elaborate gardens, like Fabbricotti or the Boboli Gardens. I didnâ€™t want to spend my whole time roaming around gardens like a gnome, so I decided to visit Boboliâ€™s luscious green space. I was mostly aloneâ€”perhaps on account of the rain. Not my smartest hour, but the views were worth it.
Afterwards, I headed over to Piazzale Michelangelo for the epic sunset view over Florenceâ€™s bridges. Despite the crowds, it was one of my favourite moments. And probably my favourite image from Florence.
I really liked the Oltrano area. I found myself eventually at Piazza Santo Spirito, hanging out on a bench in front of the church, waiting for Osteria Santo Spirito to open so I could gorge on gnocchi in truffle oil, red wine, and tiramisu.
And although Florence wasnâ€™t my Forever City, itâ€™s hard to hate a place where gnocchi comes covered in truffle oil.
What did I miss? Let me know in the comments!