Here are some of my helpful tips for traveling to Florence.
Last week, I shared some helpful tips to traveling to Italy. I’m breaking up this series into 3 posts since we traveled to 3 cities. If you’re thinking of visiting any of these cities including Rome, Florence or Venice, I think you’ll find these tips helpful. Today, I’m sharing part 2 which covers some tips for traveling to Florence.
Tip 1: Take the high speed train
I shared in my last post that we used a travel agency to book everything. One of those benefits was having all of our transportation in country planned and organized. If you’re traveling from city to city, I highly recommend taking the high speed train.
We rode business class and found the trains very comfortable and clean. We played cards, rested and enjoyed the beautiful country scenic views outside. They even provide a drink and a sweet/salty snack.
Tip 2: Stay in the heart of the city
We stayed at Glance hotel and I think this was our favorite one.
It was clean, modern and located in the heart of Florence. It’s close to the Central Market and Palazzo dei Congressi.
Plus, I loved all of their interior design!
We hung out at the roof top one night to enjoy the breathtaking views of the city including the Duomo. They have a bar/lounge area and roof top pool but it was too cold for us to go swimming. This was when we regretted not bringing any cup ramen to enjoy on the roof top. #asianproblems
Tip 3: Visit the Central Market aka Mercato Centrale
Right when we got to our hotel, the first thing we wanted to do was eat! We walked a few minutes to the Central Market which is a two level indoor food market.
The top floor has an indoor food court and there are so many options from fresh pasta to juicy hamburgers to Chinese dumplings.
It was always super crowded in here but I would highly recommend getting the pizzas. They are freshly made in front of you in the stone oven and it is phenomenal!
Jennifer and I had to come back and eat the pizza after trying Jimmy’s from the day before. It is the best pizza ever! Man, I miss that taste! Now that’s what I call a Margherita pizza!
If you go downstairs, you can buy all sorts of foods to take home like dry pasta, sauces, spices etc.
Tip 4: Buy a nice leather bag from a local shop owner
Florence is known for selling beautiful, real leather. Just outside the food court, you will run into into San Lorenzo Marekt where they sell leather and other goods. I wouldn’t recommend buying the “leather” bags from here since it’s probably not genuine but it’s fun to go to each vendor and see all the goods they are selling. Some of the vendors would start shouting to us in Korean and it was partly annoying and amusing. It just shows how many Korean tourists travel through Florence.
I would recommend buying from a local private shop owner and bonus points if there’s an actual workshop in the back like this one! I always love supporting small businesses and you could tell which stores had a history of doing this for many years. Florence has a rich history of having a reputation for quality leather production. Jennifer, Sunny and I bought purses from this particular store called, “Pelleteria Artigiana Viviani.” I would highly recommend this store as the quality was just beautiful and so well crafted.
A couple of other stores we loved were “Donatello,” which was also family owned. We came home with purses for ourselves and for our family members and friends. One of the husbands bought leather shoes from “Benheart” as they are known to sell high quality leather products that are on trend.
Florence is also known for gold jewelry so you can also shop for that if that suits your fancy.
Tip 5: Eat at Antico Ristoro di Cambi
In Florence, you have to have steak. It’s only natural that a city that sells beautiful leather would also make delicious steaks. Sunny’s friend highly recommended this restaurant and it was one of our best meals in Italy. It says it opens at 7 but we got there at 6:30 and dined al fresco. The restaurant get super busy so make sure you get there early.
We ordered steaks, some veggie sides and had the house wine. It was superb.
Tip 6: Walk around and take in the culture, sights and sounds of Florence
One of my favorite things about this city was watching the Italians live their every day lives here in their city. We walked by beautiful architectural buildings but also schools and playgrounds. I wonder what it must be like for people to live in a city where there are a constant flow of tourists going in and out.
One of the many charming allies in Florence
Tip 7: Visit the Academy of the Fine Arts
This is where you’ll be able to see the most important collection of Michelangelo’s works on display including the original David. Can you believe the statue is 17 feet tall? It was created between 1501-1504 and represents the biblical hero, David. It gets very crowded inside but it’s totally worth going to and seeing his works of art and learning about the history of all the pieces.
Tip 8: Visit the Duomo aka Florence Cathedral
As we were walking, all of a sudden this huge cathedral just appeared! It is quite magnificent and filled with the most intricate carvings and details.
It is truly spectacular! The exterior is faced with marble panels. The colors are just so gorgeous and beyond words.
It’s truly something.
You will see so many statues in Florence. They are in museums, in the city square and on the exterior of the buildings like the Duomo. So much of Italy feels like an outdoor museum as you come face to face with such historical monuments and buildings.
Tip 9: Book an excursion to Tuscany
For one of the afternoons, we decided to book a trip to Tuscany ourselves. We booked an excursion through our hotel and it was a group trip that was about an hour bus ride. It was nice because we took naps on the bus after doing so much sight-seeing all day. We really packed in a ton during this trip.
The group excursion took us to two Chianti vineyards. Here’s me goofing around and not listening to the tour guide.
Gosh, the views were literally jaw-dropping gorgeous. It was a nice change of scenery after being in such busy and crowded cities.
This particular gentleman owned one of the vineyards and gave us some interesting information on his wines.
If you’re a lover of good wine, I would highly recommend visiting Tuscany. I don’t know good wine from bad since they mostly all taste bad to me BUT it’s worth visiting the beautiful countryside.
Here we are posing like we’re so sophisticated. Ha! We’re so not! This was the most expensive wine and it tasted like cough syrup. Too bad there were no gelaterias in the countryside. I would’ve been all over that.
I was so digging this wine tasting room. I may not appreciate fine wine but I do love fine design. I loved the mix of dark plank ceilings, stone walls, natural drum lighting and the large windows. Only in Italy can you decorate with a bunch of statues and heads and make it look effortlessly cool.
While normal people were enjoying the different wines, I was oogling the windows and beautiful architecture of this room. Gosh, I could get used to my backyard looking like that!
Tip 10: Take tons of photos
When in Rome… I mean Tuscany.
We are still looking over all our photos from the trip and reminiscing all of our wonderful memories. We’re already talking about having an Italian party full of yummy food and drinks to relieve our days back in Italy.
Florence, we will always remember you!!
Thanks for reading and letting me relive such wonderful memories. Hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween, friends! Next up is Venice!
Let all that you do be done in Love. 1 Corinthians 16:14