Ciao! Welcome to another chapter in my Travel Diary series. This post will be breaking down the two short days I spent in Florence. Sadly, it was actually closer to a day and a half since I didn’t arrive in Florence until Monday afternoon and left for London Wednesday morning. I will definitely be back to do more exploring later, but here’s the break down of my first time in Florence.
My morning began in Rome with a visit to the Vatican before catching a midday train to Florence. To see what else I did during my stay in Rome, check out my Rome travel diary here.
I’m sure the train ride through Tuscany was absolutely beautiful, but unfortunately the 6 AM checkout time I had that morning got the better of me and after snapping two photos, I wound up sleeping for the greater part of the hour and a half long trip.
Similarly to Rome, my group was met and welcomed by a coordinator at the train station and then transported by private bus to our hotel. My first impression of Florence was that it was like all the cute and quaint parts of Rome squeezed into a more compact, breathtaking city.
After checking in and dropping our things off at the hotel, we were given time to freshen up before meeting for our orientation session, where we were given a 72-hour Firenze Card. I highly recommend this if you plan on going to Florence and visiting multiple museums or art galleries. It allows you unlimited access for up to 72 hours. The pass also grants you the privilege to skip many long lines, and trust me, if you want to climb The Duomo or go see Michelangelo’s David, the lines will be long and the pass will seem worth it.
After orientation, we set off by foot to explore Florence. The appealing thing about Florence that wasn’t an option while we were in Rome is the ability to walk nearly everywhere. In Rome, navigating public transit was a daily battle during our free time when the coordinator wasn’t present. In Florence, we quickly learned our way from hotel to the city center, ditching public transportation for the time being.
Our first stop in Florence was gelato! If you read my Rome travel diary then honestly at this point, you shouldn’t be surprised. Our coordinator said that Seven Brothers was his favorite in the city, and we ended up stopping there twice. (More on that later).
Seven Brothers is a frozen yogurt styled Gelateria, where you fill your own cup and add your own toppings, then pay by weight. You do end up paying about 2 Euro more than you would at a regular Gelateria, so if you are trying to save where you can, I can’t say I would give this place my highest recommendation. The gelato was good, but so is most gelato.
They had a tiny room in the back with seats to enjoy your gelato creation that was adorably called the Selfie Room. So, I of course had to snap a selfie. Note my super stylish Firenze Card lanyard around my neck. Can you say tourist?
The first stop on the site seeing tour was the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore. When you think of landmarks in Florence, this is most likely what you are picturing. This place really sneaks up on you. Despite it’s insane height, we didn’t even see it until we reached the clearing where it’s located. I took a few pictures outside and then inside the Cathedral before deciding we wanted to climb to the top of the Duomo.
The climb to the top of the Duomo consists of 463 steps, and trust me when I say it was not an easy task. The climb mainly consists of narrow, spiral stairs that are dimly lit with no places to stop for a break. Still, if you are fully able to make the climb (there is no elevator) do it. The view is amazing and provides a 360 degree look at the city for as far as you can see. If you couldn’t tell, getting a pretty picture of yourself with the view isn’t an easy task. It’s incredibly windy — so much so that there were times I thought my phone was going to fly right out of my hand while taking the perfect shot. My super stylish accessory seen in the photos is again, my Firenze Card. We were so exhausted afterwards that we passed on the climb to the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower, but next time I definitely want to make the trek.
After we took our sore and shaky legs back to the hotel to rest before our welcome dinner. Believe it or not, I was so hungry at this dinner that I didn’t take a single picture. What a failure. We were provided with insane amounts of carbs, in the form of appetizers. I think I counted eight pieces of bread that I ate in one form or another. Everyone in the group ordered personal pizzas. I got the Margherita pizza which was beyond delicious and I wish I had a picture to share! I highly recommend Il Ristorante Il Teatro for some yummy pizza if you’re in the city.
Since there was so much of the city to see in such little time, on day two our large group split up into smaller groups and each took on different sites, reporting on their site to the rest of the group later. My group went to see Palazzo Vecchio, an old palace and current town hall of Florence. This is also the place you go to get your Firenze Card.
A trip to Palazzo Vecchio includes a climb to the top of the tower which gives you an incredible view of the Duomo, along with the rest of the city. I wish we had enough time to see all the sites, but from what I heard from the other groups, next time I’m in Florence I need to check out the Galileo Science Museum and Galleria deli Uffizi.
After each group met back up to merge into the large group again, we crossed the Arno River by a walk across the Ponte Vecchio with our guide to eat lunch. As you can see, the river isn’t the most beautiful color, but hey, you’re in Florence, Italy…what is there to complain about?
My penne pasta was absolutely amazing! I forgot to take note of the restaurant name, but according to my iPhone, it was located in Borgo Santo Spirito. We sat outside and inhaled wine and bread. I think I had enough bread and white wine to last me a lifetime while I was in Italy. We had a very flirty waiter (which we found to be typical of Italian boys) who ended our meal by taking a shot with us. When in…Florence…right? The difference in drinking culture between the US and Europe is major! I’m still getting used to not being able to order wine with my meal at a restaurant.
Next we headed to Palazzo Pitti, an old Renaissance-aged palace. After strolling though, we ventured out to the gardens, which were incredible! To think that this was once someone’s backyard and they had that view of the city is insane. We walked all over and then looked at a map and saw we hadn’t even scratched the surface of the expansive greenery. You could easily spend half a day at the Palazzo Pitti, but we had a young man named David waiting for us.
To get to the Galleria dell’Accademia, you have to travel back across the Ponte Vecchio as it is on the other side of the river, and of course, we couldn’t make it there without another gelato stop. We went to Seven Brothers again and had the last gelato of the trip. I returned to my favorite, Nutella and even drizzled it with more Nutella. It was delicious. What I would give to be eating that now!
We took our gelato and hit the road, off towards Michelangelo’s David. Here’s where your Firenze Card will really come in handy. This line was long. We queued up in the shorter line, and even we had to wait for a while. We didn’t see anything else but the statue of David while inside but it really was something. Standing tall at 17 feet, it’s hard not to gawk at the craftsmanship and skill Michelangelo possessed to sculpt him. We found a seat and stared for at least fifteen minutes.
The group was dismissed and set free to explore Florence for the night. We did some shopping, and then it was time for the moment I had waited for all day. A trip to the top-rated sandwich shop in the world. Well, according to TripAdvisor at least. But trust me, All’antico Vinaio is good.
The menu is in Italian, but the workers do speak English. Since we couldn’t read the menu, we asked if we could just point to what we wanted and have them customize a sandwich, which they gladly allowed. However, I greatly embarrassed myself while ordering when I asked if I could get salami, along with ham on my sandwich. “Absolutely not,” they answered me. I thought they were joking with me, so I asked, “Seriously?” to which they replied, “This is not a McDonald’s. You are in Tuscany. We do not mix meats.” People laughed, my friends kept imitating the worker all night, and now I know. Shrug.
We took our sandwiches into a liquor store along the same street and bought three bottles of wine to split for 2 Euro each. We then set off to make it to Piazzale Michelangelo to see the sunset. Well, one of the bottles of wine busted through the bag, we didn’t know exactly how to get there, and there was no way we would make it in time for sunset. So, we stopped on a bridge to enjoy the wine, sandwiches, and sunset along the Arno…until we realized we bought wine with a cork, not a screw off top. Luckily, a group of men stopped and worked the cork out with their car keys. Not all heroes wear capes, guys.
And that was the ending to my Florentine experience. It was brief, but it was beautiful. I will absolutely be back to Florence so I can do all the things I missed out on during my short time in the city. The next morning, I caught a mid-day flight to London. Look out for that travel diary this Monday on the blog!
Hope you enjoyed,
xoxo Redhead Rendezvous