Florence was our third and final destination. And what a beautiful city full of amazing art and architecture. Not at all surprising since it was the birthplace of the Renaissance. In comparison to Sorrento and Rome, it falls somewhere in between the two in terms of size and general busyness. And like I mentioned in my overview of Italy post, we had the best food in Florence. Delicious!
Even though we were physically exhausted, we definitely didn’t let that stop us from exploring and enjoying the city. Talk about full days! We used our first full day to see most of the major sites – it’s amazing how much you can do when you have a plan! On the second full day, we went on a tour of Cinque Terre. And on the third day, we relaxed a little and went with the flow, covering all the things we didn’t get to see on the first day.
We stayed at Hotel Pierre and had a decent experience. The pros included a central location (walking distance to everything), a friendly concierge and staff, a clean room (and bigger than our room in Rome), and a good breakfast spread. The big con included the fact that AC service doesn’t start until May. This meant that we had to keep our window open at night because otherwise it would get too hot. And this meant that we couldn’t sleep because of all the noise! I was shocked to find out that people in Florence love to party until the early hours of the morning. And it sounded like they were doing so right outside our room. I had the hardest time falling asleep. Vishnu claims that he couldn’t sleep either, but I know otherwise. He was out cold minutes after getting into bed!
WHAT WE DID (for all of the major sites, you have to buy your tickets in advance or book tours , otherwise you’ll be waiting in incredibly long lines)
Florence Cathedral and Giotto’s Bell Tower – On our first morning in Florence, we woke up bright and early to climb to the top of the Florence Cathedral. First of all, the Cathedral is absolutely gorgeous from the outside. Breathtaking even. The climb up was fine – a little narrow in certain spots but totally doable. The views were, as you may have guessed, totally worth it!
After that, we walked over to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower. At this point, my quads were tired, but we made our way up…slowly but surely! It started to drizzle, so we quickly took a few pictures with our phones and made the climb down.
Even though I hated waking up so early, I’m glad we were two of the first people in line for both of these things. I would’ve hated climbing the narrow stairs with a million other people.
Accademia Gallery – Next up was the Accademia Gallery so we could see the David and other art pieces. We used a Rick Steves’ tour to guide us, and it was perfect. You guys. The David is larger than life and amazing to look at from both a distance and up close. It’s hard to believe that my man Michelangelo was 26 when he created this masterpiece! We also got to see and learn about some of his unfinished sculptures as well as other prominent paintings by a number of different artists.
Uffizi Gallery – The Uffizi is one of the most famous art museums in the world. It is home to paintings by Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo. The Birth of Venus was the painting we were most looking forward to seeing, and thankfully, Mr. Steves did an excellent job talking about in full detail!
Cinque Terre – We booked a Viator tour for Cinque Terre (the company was called Walkabout Florence) because we didn’t feel like we had enough time to conquer it on our own. Our package included tour guides who looked like Ryan Reynolds and Macaulay Culkin (true story!), a bus ride to Cinque Terre, a couple of guided hikes, a couple of train rides between certain towns, lunch, and a boat ride.
We decided to add Cinque Terre to our itinerary because Vishnu went there during a previous trip to Europe and really wanted me to see and experience it. And boy is it something. The Italian Riviera is GORGEOUS. At a certain point, you could see each of the five towns lined up in a row – just stunning! Thankfully, the hikes weren’t grueling, lunch in Corniglia was delicious (pesto pasta since pesto is what the town is known for), and good times were had by all. We befriended two other couples on the tour and spent a lot of time with them. A highlight for me was doing a wine tasting of the five best white wines from each of the towns and eating pan frito (fried pita bread stuffed with a creamy semi-sweet cheese). Our guide told us that pan frito is one item that can only be found in the town of Monterrosso. Obviously we had to try it!
Santa Maria Novella – This is a beautiful church that’s actually the first great basilica in Florence. We spent an hour or so here wandering around both inside and outside in the courtyard.
Santa Croce – This is another beautiful church that is also home to the tombs of people like Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and many others.
Museo Galileo – When you’re with a science nerd, you go to science museums! Ok fine, I love this kind of stuff too. This museum is home to a number of artifacts, scientific instruments, and personal items from the 15th/16th centuries. The most interesting display included Galileo’s fingers. Not even kidding.
Piazza de Michelangelo – Of all the Piazzas this one is a must visit because of the incredible views! We went around sunset, which took things up a few notches – simply beautiful!
Il Vegetariano – My friend Ankita highly recommended this restaurant, and it ended up being where we went on our first night in Florence. A couple of the reviews I read online mentioned that this place fills up quickly, so we went a few minutes before the restaurant opened only to find six other people with the same idea. That’s when I knew this was going to be a good meal.
The menu here is very limited (10 items max), and it changes on a weekly basis. Vishnu wanted a pasta dish, so he ordered lasagna, and I decided to go with the moussaka. We also ordered a side salad with the special tofu dressing and a bottle of wine. And then when we were done with all of that, Vishnu got us two desserts to share. The food was delicious – one of our favorite meals of the entire trip. In fact, Vishnu’s lasagna may have been the best I’ve ever had (after my mom’s of course!).
BUT, I was so full after eating here that I couldn’t stand up straight…or take full deep breaths. Oops! I asked Vishnu if we could walk around a bit before heading back to the hotel, so that’s exactly what we did. An hour later (!), I felt much better! When in
Il David – This restaurant was on my list because someone claimed it was home to the best tiramisu he’s ever had. So of course we had to eat here too. Well, the tiramisu was good (not the best we’ve ever had) and so were the pastas we ordered. I especially loved Vishnu’s truffle ravioli.
Gusta Pizza – This was another “best of Florence” type place. And again, there was a line forming out the door 15 minutes before the restaurant opened. Anyways, Vishnu got the calabrese pizza (Margherita with spicy sausage…I think), and I went with the classic Margherita. We had no problems finishing off our respective pies! I really liked the crust and sauce here. So fresh and balanced!
Venchi Gelato – See my Rome post. Someone needs to bring this place to the US!
Mercato Centrale – We went here after our Cinque Terre excursion with our new friends. I didn’t try any food at this time, but after walking around and seeing all the goods, Vishnu and I knew we had to come back for lunch the next day. This indoor Italian market is both an actual market (kind of like a farmer’s market) where you can buy fruits, veggies, meats, etc. as well as a food market with tons of different stations and stalls. I was intrigued by the vegan stall, so I got a veggie burger. It came with vegan mayo, beets, slaw, and a bunch of other delicious add ons. Vishnu got a panini of some sort. And obviously, we had to get a tiramisu cup to share! I wish we had known about this place sooner – would’ve loved to explore more.
Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco – My friend Shannon told me about this restaurant. She’s actually friends with the owner (they met during one of her trips to Florence), and luckily, he was there when we went so we got to meet him!
We decided to eat here on our last night in Florence, and I’m so glad we saved this meal for last because it was phenomenal! And I’m not saying that because of Shannon. This is the kind of food you savor because you don’t want it to end! We started with some bruschetta and a couple of pieces of burrata topped with thin slices of truffle. That burrata was divine. One of the best things we’ve ever eaten even. For his main dish, Vishnu ordered the wild boar and polenta because boar is a Tuscan delicacy. He loved it and said it was different from any pork dish he’s ever had (that’s the best I could get out of him)! I ordered ricotta and spinach dumplings. And O-M-G! I have never eaten so slowly in my life. They were soft and creamy and literally melted in my mouth. And we obviously ended the night on a sweet note with not one but two different desserts. We went with the tiramisu and the panna cotta. I was 100% sure that the tiramisu was going to steal the show, but in reality, the panna cotta was the star of the meal. It was like no other dessert I’ve ever had before. Creamy, cold, and topped with a rich dark chocolate sauce. The best!
If we ever go back to Florence, this restaurant will be #1 on our list!
And that’s it…I’m done recapping! If you have any questions about our trip or want more details (is that even possible?!), please don’t hesitate to email me. More than happy to share!
Now excuse me while I reread my own recaps so I can relive our trip!
Have a wonderful weekend!