From car-less Venice to bustling Florence with narrow sidewalks, we were a bit overwhelmed when we walked from the Santa Maria Novella train station to our Airbnb apartment. We grabbed our first and by far the best gelato in Florence from Gelateria La Carraia on the way. After dropping off our backpacks, we passed over the famous Ponte Vecchio and headed straight to Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic view of Florence with a Tuscan sunset. We then climbed back down to the city and wandered into Piazza della Signoria, which was still filled with people well into the night.
See & Do
- Ponte Vecchio: The historical center of Florence is split in two by the Arno River–the Ponte Vecchio, or “Old Bridge”, connects the two halves at the narrowest point. The bridge is similar to the Rialto in Venice in that there are shops spanning the entire length of the bridge, most of which sell souvenirs and jewelry. You can get some great views of the river from this bridge, below is a shot of another less happening bridge that connects the city. Rating: 4/5
- Piazzale Michelangelo: A short hike up the hills of Florence will lead you to this beautiful plaza that overlooks the city. There might also be a bus that goes up here if you’re not willing to walk (it’s not that hard!). Forget paying money to get a panoramic view of the city–this is where you’ll get the best views, all completely for free. There are a few copies of some of Michelangelo’s famous works, including a replica of the statue of David. This is a stop that can’t be missed for postcard-perfect pictures of the city. Rating: 5/5
- Piazza della Signoria: This plaza is right in the heart of the historical area of Florence (some might even say that this is the heart of Florence). Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Duomo are all nearby. There are some amazing sculptures that can’t be missed by wandering around this beautiful square (including another replica of David!). Just standing around in the square, you will almost feel overwhelmed by the amount of art and culture that surrounds you, and everything here has directly influenced the modern world in so many different ways. Rating: 4/5
- Loggia dei Lanzi: Off to one corner of the Piazza is the Loggia dei Lanzi–known for its distinct wide arches. Inside the Loggia are a bunch of famous statues including the famous Perseus with the Head of Medusa, created in 1554. You really can’t throw a stone in Florence without hitting some of the most influential art in the entire history of the western world. Rating: 4/5
Eat & Drink
- Toto Atto II: Panini €3 Slice of Pizza €2.50. We arrived in Florence a little past lunch time and a little before dinner so we just ducked into this place for a quick bite since we were a little hungry. Order at the counter much like a NY pizza shop–prices were fairly reasonable, and food was nothing remarkable (though certainly not bad at all). Good for a cheap, quick meal on the go. Rating: 3/5
- Gelateria La Carraia: On the south side of the Arno River, a little far from the tourist center, we stumbled upon this place while heading to the AirBnB apartment we were staying at. What caught our eye was a special for 1 scoop of gelato in a cone for 1 euro–really, you can’t beat that price anywhere. The gelato was delicious–we looked it up afterwards and it turned out to be one of the most recommended places to go in Florence (so yeah, +1 from us as a recommended place to go) Rating: 5/5
- Perche No!: Two scoops for €2. This gelato place is in a way more convenient location if you’re located near Piazza del Signoria–make sure you try out their chocolate gelato as it’s way darker than what you’d get in other countries. Also recommended is whatever fruit flavors are in season–persimmon (M’s favorite fruit) was the hot item of the day when we went, and we devoured the hell out of that gelato. Rating: 5/5
- I Raddi: This place was recommended to us by our AirBnB host, and is way off the beaten track in terms of where tourists eat (which is perfect). Surrounded by locals speaking Italian, they serve authentic Tuscan food (as well as a few dishes from other parts of Italy), plus a few specialties of the chef. Rating: 5/5
- Gusta Pizza: Margherita Pizza for €5. We were hanging out in Piazza Santo Spirito with a bunch of young locals, just sipping on wine and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, when we noticed that a bunch of them were all eating the same pizza out of a box. We asked where they got it and they told us we had to go to Gusta Pizza down at the end of the block and grab a pie because it’s the best in the entire city. Well, we followed their recommendation, and it certainly did not disappoint–delicious mozzarella on soft bread topped with sweet tomato sauce and basil for the low price of 5 euros can’t be beat. Now, I’m not going to lie, we were not quite sober when we ate this so I might be overstating the deliciousness, but I will stand by the fact that it was damn good pizza. Rating: 5/5
- Gustapanino: Wine in plastic cup €3. In Piazza Santo Spirito, grab some wine to-go and sit on the steps nearby with all the cool kids. Packed every night, though it starts clearing out a bit after midnight (could have been because it was a weeknight). Rating: 4/5
- The Fabulous 70’s: Our apartment was fairly conveniently located on the south side of the river in a residential neighborhood in the San Spirito neighborhood. It’s a real short walk to the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. Our host, Max, was an extremely friendly and thorough person, giving us the weather reports for our stay and the rundown of the neighborhood, plus some great restaurant recommendations which we ended up going to (and talking about in the Eat section). Rating: 4/5
- Train from Venice to Florence: Ended up costing around €45 per person for the ticket from Venice to Florence. We didn’t book in advance, we just showed up and picked up the ticket–the trains run about every hour and we didn’t have any problems getting assigned seats since it was not peak tourist season. Be careful, though, if you don’t have a chip & pin credit card–you will have to wait in the painfully long ticket line to speak with a human to buy the ticket. We arrived 30 minutes before the train departed and still only barely made it (we have a chip & signature card but that’s not good enough in Europe for most automated machines).
- 10/29/2013– Walked 10.2 miles