I am one of the many people who love Florence, Italy. To be fair, I’m an easy sell for almost anywhere in the world. I can find something about almost any location that I like, even if it’s only an appreciation for the differences from my own home. But Florence gets to me in a way that very few places do. This is one place that I would revisit time and again, and for a girl who would always rather see new places, that says a lot. Florence is beautiful, sophisticated, quaint, mysterious, bustling and delicious! Between the priceless artwork, the many amazing restaurants and the beautiful Renaissance architecture, Florence truly has something for everyone.
One of the top things that people associate with Florence is David - Michelangelo's David, that is - and for good reason. David, from the bible story David and Goliath, is one of the most famous and recognized sculptures in the world. Even if you are not in to artwork, this is a must see. Pictures do not do him justice. When I first saw him, I was literally speechless. He’s 14 feet tall and in perfect proportion. For being over 500 years old, he’s still looking good!
Another must see for artwork is the Uffizi Gallery. Every time I turned a corner there was another painting that I had learned about in my college Art Appreciation class. Let me tell you, it is much more interesting seeing the paintings in person than it is from a projector in a darkened lecture hall at 9 am! From da Vinci and Botticelli, all of the great master painters are represented. They even have The Duke and Duchess of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza, which I’m still not sure why is so great.
Florence is a seriously beautiful city. Everywhere you turn, there is a church or a building that was designed as if it were artwork - you’ve got to love the Renaissance for that. There is the Duomo, which shows up in all of the iconic Florence panoramic shots. The Ponte Vecchio is the bridge crossing the Arno river, which used to be where the butchers and tanners worked, but is where you can now find the goldsmiths. There is the Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce and many other churches, each more stunning than the last. If you start wandering down any street of your choosing, you’ll be sure to stumble across any number of wonderful places.
Leather making has been a part of Florence for hundreds of years. It is still known for its beautiful leather goods to this day. While you won’t find much that is cheap, you will find some great values. I think this is one of the best souvenirs that you bring home from Italy, other than wine and cheese, but leather will last longer!
If you are thinking about buying some leather goods to take home, there are two places that I recommend. One is the San Lorenzo Market. This is an outdoor market where you can find clothing, souvenirs, pottery, plus much more and it’s fun to wander through. You will also find many stalls with leather goods. Take your time looking through the different stalls. You will see all kinds of items made of leather - from purses and wallets to belts, shoes, and jackets. There are many different levels of quality too, so compare the look and feel of several different vendors before you make a purchase. The added bonus of the San Lorenzo Market - after you’ve made your selection, you are just outside of the Mercato Centrale where you can pop in for a delicious lunch!
The second place that I recommend is very different from the San Lorenzo Market. The School of Leather, next to and supported by Basilica di Santa Croce. Here students have learned the craft of leather making for over 60 years. You can book a tour in advance to learn more about leather craftsmanship, from the history of this craft in Florence to a demonstration of the process. There are also many leather goods that you can purchase here which helps to support the school. The bonus of this location is that you can combine it with a visit to the beautiful Basilica di Santa Croce.
Gateway to Tuscany
First of all, let me say that there are so many wonderful things to see and do in Tuscany that I think it deserves time of its own. However, a lot of my clients are going to Italy for the first time and want to cover as much ground as they can in the short time they have to spend there. There is definitely enough to do in Florence to fill many days - the last time I was there, I spent a week and still didn’t see everything that I wanted to. Even so, a trip into the Tuscan countryside is worth doing. There is the iconic scenery and lots of great little medieval towns with cool old buildings and windy streets. Siena and San Gimignano are two of the more well-known.
There are also many amazing vineyards. There are some larger wineries but my favorite are the many little family-owned vineyards. I’ve had wine-pairing lunches where I felt like I was invited into their home as a guest, not as a paying client. One of my favorite memories of Tuscany was a lunch that I had at Tenuta Casanova. We were served the most amazing meal that included honey from their hives, aged balsamic that they produced on site, truffle oil created from truffles from their farm and their own award-winning olive oil, and aged cheese from their neighbor, all paired with wine that they make and age in their own cellars. Oh, and their peacocks wandered around our table and we had the most amazing views. It’s hard to top an experience like that!
I hope that you didn’t think that I would be able to talk about Florence without mentioning the food. You can get some of the most amazing food in Florence. You can basically walk into most restaurants and get an amazing meal, assuming that they are not right on the Duomo) . I’ll be writing about some of my favorites in more detail but there are many great trattorias and ristorantes all over the city where you can get incredible fresh pasta dishes. You’ll also find great pizza places and cafes for your morning cappuccino. Don’t forget about Mercato Centrale for a quick and delicious meal or snack. You also can’t leave the city without trying the Florentinian Steak - a filet with blueberry sauce. Yes, it sounds weird but it is weirdly delicious! Finally, there are delicious gelaterias thought the city. Whether it’s dessert or an afternoon snack (or morning - nobody’s judging!), gelato is always a good choice!
These are just a few of the reasons why you should consider taking a vacation to Florence. There are many more and you’ll find your favorite reasons when you’re there. Ready to book your own trip? Reach out to me here, I’d love to help you plan your trip!