Top 10 Things To Do in Florence
If you are anything like the travel-crazed person I am then you probably try to cram as many attractions in a day or short trip as you possibly can. Honestly, if you're traveling for less than a week and then heading back to your J.O.B. and home that might be the way to do it. For me, though, I prefer to spend time doing a wide variety of things while in a new place. I like to be like a local. I like to be like a tourist. I like to eat. A lot. I like to relax. I like to rush around. So, when I spent four weeks in Florence, Italy, I was able to do a little of all the things I like. That is good news for you because it means I have a pretty thorough idea of the top places to go, things to see, etc. Here they are:
This is top on my list because it is truly breathtaking. Whether you like art, history, views of the city, or cathedrals/basilicas/churches you can find it all right here, at the Duomo. Duomo is Italian for Dome and is a huge part of Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore. You can enter the church and explore the inside. You can wait in line and climb the 463 stone steps to the Dome's terrace for breathtaking views of the city. (Remember to purchase your tickets ahead of time and get there early. Students can get discount tickets for most of the museums and attractions). You can also climb to the top of Giotto's Bell Tower for an additional view of the city AND Dome (414 steps). Honestly, choose one or the other if you're limited on time. The lines can be long and take up a good portion of your day.
2. Piazza Michelangelo
This is hands down my favorite view of the city. I recommend going at sunset and be prepared for a hike as it is mostly uphill from the city center. People congregate here every night and just watch the sunset, chit-chat, eat, listen to music, etc. It's also a good way to meet locals or hear about things to do.
3. Coffee, Cappuccino!
If you've seen my Instagram (@keatoncollaboration) I probably don't need to tell you that coffee is a major part of my life. I wake up in the morning and instantly make an attack for coffee like Lorelai Gilmore. Traveling is no exception. Although in the states I usually stick to coffee a couple times a day whereas in Europe I can switch to tea for the evenings. If you want to be like a local, order cappuccino or espresso. Florence has a price cap on coffee and if you drink it "at the bar" (counter where it is made) then it will cost you 3x less than if you were to sit down. Check out my post 5 Coffee Shops to Try in Florence
4. Piazza Santo Spirito
This is a broad one but hear me out; there are so many things to do here. It is also a popular spot for locals, so you know its good. You want coffee, food (to die for!), somewhere to sit and chat with your friends, a good first date spot, a "park atmosphere," or even a market in the warmer months? This is THE spot to be. In the center of the piazza is a fountain surrounded by some trees and benches; a nice "park" just across the Arno River. Don't overlook the Church of Santo Spirito, either!
5. Ponte Vecchio
The oldest bridge in Florence is home to the jewelry market in Florence. You can catch tourists and locals mingling on this bridge. In 1944 all of the bridges were blown up to keep the British troops from crossing the Arno River and getting to the Germans. At the very last second, the German general in Italy was able to be convinced that the Ponte Vecchio was not to be blown up due to the historical value. There is also a passage above the shops on the Arno that the Medici's used to travel throughout Florence so that they were not seen by the public. At the time, the shops on the Ponte Vecchio were occupied by the meat market. The Medici family didn't like the smell so the meat market was moved.
6. Pitti Palace/ Boboli Gardens
This is a must see for the history lovers and foliage admirers. The Pitti Palace was once home to the most powerful families in Florence. It has since been converted into a museum, but (of course) it has been preserved immaculately. The Boboli Gardens span 111 acres and is filled with well maintained trees, blooms, fountains, statues, and much more. If you feel like seeing all of the Palace and Gardens then leave at least a day free for this exploration.
7. Cooking Class
I took a pizza-making class and absolutely loved it. You learn things about cooking, of course, but more importantly you get to meet new people. Laugh because of failed attempts. Get to know that your roommate despises olives. See that there is no shortage of mozzarella in Florence. If you are an aspiring chef challenge yourself to something a little harder like a homemade pasta course. There are plenty of classes to choose from and the best part is that it's also your meal for the night!
8. Accademia Gallery
Yes, David. You might have thought I'd have more museums on this list, but Florence itself is a museum. Everywhere you look there is a statue or building of significant importance (hence #9 on this list). The Statue of David is by far the most famous sculpture there, but there is plenty to see. Again, the lines can be long so plan accordingly. This is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower- you just have to do it.
9. Walk the City
There is so much to do and see in Florence. Fortunately, just about everything is within walking distance so you don't have to factor in taxi costs. Plus, you really can soak up more of the culture by walking. Florence is known for fashion and there are a plethora of high end stores. From Gucci to Dolce & Gabbana, you can find it here. If those stores aren't your cup of tea don't worry. There are plenty of others: H&M, Zara, Yamamay, etc.This is also the time to spot out some restaurants you plan on going to. I suggest picking a restaurant near where you are staying, a local spot, and an on-the-go market or stand. That way you can experience different foods and locations. Plus, you'll have places for when you have 10 minutes, 4 hours, or an unknown amount of time but just want to stay close to the comfort of your bed. I guarantee you'll need all of these at some point.
*Impeccable chalk art is found all around the city
Opera originated in Italy and the Renaissance atmosphere of Florence allows for a different experience than if you were to see an opera show in, say, NYC. It's worth the money, a couple hours of your time, and an excuse to dress up. Count me in a million times!