A skyline dotted with terracotta colored roofs and highlighted by the Duomo, Florence is breathtakingly beautiful. There are few major sights to see here, like the David, the Duomo and the Uffizi. But, the main attraction, in my opinion, is the food. Every meal was wonderful, which was a welcome change from the cuisine in Rome.*
When we started planning our trip, I had every intention of spending the most time in Rome. That is until I talked to Megan, who raved about Florence. Thankfully, we listened to her and reorganized our trip, so that we spent the majority of our time there.
Here are my tips for Florence (a.k.a. Firenze):
- One of my favorite travel resources is The Little Black Book series. It has always had consistently good restaurant suggestions and is organized by area, which is key when you’re a hungry tourist. Unfortunately, I had only purchased the Tuscany one, so we didn’t have this resource in the other two cities. A lot of my restaurant finds are from here.
- Make reservations ahead of time to see the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia (where the David is located). You can do this online.
- Listen to Rick Steve’s free audio tour of the Uffizi. It’s a little cheesy, but very informative.
- Have a drink at Art Bar. I had a whiskey sour. It was delicious.
- Eat at Acqua al Due. Try the fixed menu. You will not regert it. We received this recommendation from Julee, Kim and Crystal. I still think about some of the first past dishes we had there.
- If you’re touring churches, bring a little scarf. All of them require covered shoulders and sometimes knees.
- Florence is close to a number of other beautiful places. Because we were there just four days, I signed us up for the “Best of Tuscany” tour through Walkabout Tours. We saw Siena, San Gimignano, a farm/vineyard in Chianti and Pisa. It was a hectic day, but one of my favorite parts of the trip. Our guide Barbara was informative, prompt and lovely.
- If you go to Siena, try to go in September. The cathedral there is gorgeous, and it’s the only month they uncover the floors. Carpets typically cover the floors, but during this month, you can view the intricate marble designs that look like a giant, elaborate tapestry rug.
- San Gimignano has a really wonderful bakery called Pasticceria Armando e Marcella. We tried several items, but my favorite was their pignoli cookie.
- San Gimignano has the best gelato in the world, Gelateria di Piazza, literally. Go there.
- Though there isn’t much to see in Pisa, it really is quite pretty. If you have time, spend a few hours checking out the Leaning Tower.
- In Florence, take a trip across the river via the Ponte Vecchio to drink in the view. Reward yourself for fighting the crowds with some gelato on the other side.
- The last place we ate in Florence was Trattoria 4 Leoni. Favorites here were the panzanella salad and the pear cake with chocolate, which reminded me I need to make this soon.
- See the Duomo, taking time to travel downstairs to the Crypto. There’s an interesting exhibit with pieces from the original church. I also enjoyed looking inside the Baptistery as well. Because we’re ridiculously impatient and get grumpy in lines, we paid for a combo ticket that let us skip lines and see the Duomo (usually free admission), Baptistery and Museum.
- Eat at Il Latini for lunch. The restaurant is ringed with hanging prosciutto, and while you eat, you’ll see servers slicing fresh pieces. Also, the pappa al pomodoro (tomato and stale bread soup) was delicious. If you do go, prepare yourself for the sheer volume of food you’ll be presented with.
- Our hotel, Hotel Torre Guelfa, was wonderful. They have a tall tower where they start serving drinks at 6:00. We spent a few evenings there sitting outside admiring Florence’s skyline with a glass of chilled white wine.
- Have a meal at Cocquinarius. My pear and pecorino pasta was remarkable.
- One evening, we had a fancy dinner at Oliviero. Our guidebook said it once was a favorite of Sophia Loren’s, which seems likely as it was quite elegant. We were greeted with prosecco and a delicious soup for our amuse bouche. The menu is split into two categories: traditional Tuscan cuisine and reinventions of classic dishes. I loved the ravioli filled with pappa al pomodoro and their osso bucco.
*Rome obviously has good food. Unfortunately, we traveled to Italy in August, which is the month most Italians leave the city and head to the beach. (It’s very hot in August. Very hot.) While many tourist trap restaurants are doing business, the authentic spots we tried to find were closed for the month. I like to think this gives us a very good reason to go back.