Florence was the second stop of our Italian adventure (check out our favorite parts of Sorrento and the Amalfi coast here if you missed it), and with so much to see and do in this historic city, we wanted to share some of the top things to do if you are only there for a few days. We arrived to Florence by train and had just 3 nights to explore all that the beautiful city had to offer before heading on to our final stop of Venice. Both Grant and I had been to Florence before – in fact, it was one of the places we visited on the trip where we met each other for the first time, so it holds a special place in both of our hearts! We did a little more research before arriving in Florence, just knowing that we would need to plan our museum visits and any reservations in advance. While it was a whirlwind of 72 hours and we didn’t even come close to seeing everything in Florence, these are the 3 things we recommend you prioritize for your visit here:
Artwork, Museums, Historic Sites – Florence is home to some of the most incredible art and history! The two most well-known museums are the Accademia and Uffizi Gallery. The Accademia is home to Michelangelo’s David and the Uffizi Gallery has pieces from the Italian Renaissance that artists that range from Botticelli to Caravaggio to Raphael to Titian. Both of these museums can have staggering waits if you don’t make an advance reservation. We opted to take advantage of the Firenze Card which is essentially a 72 hour “city pass” to over 70 Florence museums and attractions. TLB Tip: The Firenze Card is 85 Euros each, so take a look at the museums and attractions included (as well as museum opening times with many closed on Mondays) to decide if it’s a good fit for you! We picked up our Firenze Card after arriving at the train station and then were able to make our reservations for the Accademia and Uffizi at the ticket counter specifically for Firenze Card holders. In addition to these two museums, we also visited the Palazzo Vecchio Museum where we saw Dante’s death mask and several rooms that were included in the movie, Inferno. The Bargello Museum was a great option for anyone who loves sculptures (don’t miss Donatello’s David!). One place that I wish we had more time was the Pitti Palace and surrounding areas. This gorgeous palace was the chief residence for the Medici family and is home to incredible art and sprawling gardens. Despite a very rainy visit while we were in Florence, we were able to enjoy a walk around the Boboli Gardens and Bardini Gardens which overlook the Arno river and downtown Florence. The final place we wish we had gotten to visit was the Duomo – the iconic church in the center of town. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to book a reservation to view the church and no walk-ins are allowed, so we highly recommend you prioritize this reservation before you arrive if you wish to see the inside of the church.
Authentic Food – With all the walking and sightseeing, we definitely worked up an appetite in Florence! Pretty sure that our whole Italy trip was centered around two things – us viewing historic sites and eating! Since we were visiting three distinctly different Italian cities and regions, we wanted to make sure that we enjoyed the local cuisine in each city. From our research, we found that Florentine steak, wild boar pasta, and truffles are some of the Florence or Tuscan specialties. Our first night in Florence, we went on the hunt for the Florentine steak and La Fettunta did not disappoint! This tiny hole in the wall restaurant does not take reservations, so arrive early if you want to get a seat. In typical Italian fashion, we each ordered pasta as our first course and were shocked by the huge portion sizes! We tried not to fill up too much before tackling our 1.3kg steak. TLB Tip: Florentine T-bones are sold by the kilogram but often start at 1.2kg+ so be sure to ask what the total weight is before ordering; otherwise, you may end up with a surprisingly high check at the end of the night! Our steak was cooked perfectly (traditionally served medium rare or rare) and needless to say we were stuffed at the end of the evening! For our other meals around Florence, we tried to select dishes that included wild boar (pappardelle was fantastic at il Nuttino!) and truffles. I don’t think we had a bad meal with any of these options! Though, for anyone allergic to tree nuts – be forewarned that many truffle cream sauces are made with cashews. Finally, I can’t end our food highlights without mentioning some of the most amazing sandwiches from I’ Girone De’ Ghiotti. This was another tiny restaurant where you saw a good mix of locals and tourists grabbing a quick bite to eat. They have a set list of about a dozen specialty sandwiches or you can select your own combination of meats, cheeses, vegetables, and sauce. Not only was it super affordable (around 5-8 Euros per sandwich), but the ingredients were so fresh and the portion sizes were HUGE! We’ve been home for a few months, and Grant still talks about this place. So if the owners of I’ Girone De’ Ghiotti are reading this and want to build a location in Alpharetta, GA, hit us up to be your first USA franchisees!
Tuscany Tour – Finally, one of the best parts of Florence is the rolling countryside and endless vineyards nearby. So naturally, we had to make sure that we enjoyed some Tuscan wine! We looked up several different wine tours and ended up selecting one through Airbnb Experiences – our first time booking through here. TLB Tip: Never used Airbnb? Use our referral link here to get $40 off your first stay and $15 for your first Airbnb booked experience!
What an amazing day we had on this tour! Definitely a highlight from our stay in Florence! Roberto was a great host and gave us a behind the scenes glimpse into the true lives of winemakers in Tuscany. We were accompanied by his friend Leo who was not only a knowledgeable sommelier, but was also very personable and spoke great English. We loved getting to visit the co-op to get a behind the scenes look at how must winemakers produced their wine. Unlike the United States where most winemakers own all of their own equipment and produce their wine on-site, most Tuscan winemakers are producing quantities that are mainly for personal consumption. Because of this, they buy in to the co-op where they can all use the shared equipment during the harvest and bottling process rather than owning their own equipment.
After we left the co-op, Roberto and Leo took us to the beautiful Castello di Santa Maria Novella, a thousand year old castle that stands on the highest point between Florence and Sienna. The castle is privately owned and mainly used for special events, but still is home to a small olive grove and vineyards. We enjoyed some delicious crostinis with truffle olive oil produced at the castle along with Prosecco before we had the chance to tour the castle ground. I even braved my fear of heights and made it to the top of the castle parapet!
We ended our day at Roberto’s family home and vineyard, which has been in their family for centuries. We had a chance to explore some of the vineyards and take photos before going inside and being seated for an incredible meal. The table was filled with some of the best meats and cheeses we have ever tasted, and it was hard to not fill up on this first course! As we ate, Leo paired different wines for us to try and explained the difference between some of the local Tuscan wines. The wine was wonderful and the group was very helpful at accommodating any allergy concerns. We had a delicious meat sauce gnocci following our meat and cheese course, and the main course was truffle pasta with freshly shaved truffles! And as if we weren’t already full enough, we had a delicious lemon torte dessert too. All of the house wine was wonderful and we had the opportunity to purchase some at the end of the tour. We ended up buying two bottles of our favorite Chianti, but sadly had to leave one bottle behind when we were unable to check our bag at the airport (more on that story another time!) Luckily, they ship to the US, so we may be reaching out to order more! Definitely book this experience if you are looking for an authentic look at the wine of Tuscany and want a more intimate and personal experience.
What is your favorite part of vacation? Is it the food and wine, the historic places and artwork, or the countryside? It’s hard for us to choose just one in Italy!
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