Welcome to Florence, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and the irresistible Tuscan capital. The city oozes presence in the form of its iconic and world-class artists that once ruled the realm, and their finesse they left behind through their artwork. It’s a destination filled with gourmet cuisine, with many small restaurants serving up locally produced, fresh pasta and some of the finest Tuscan delights known to man. For those who love to shop until they drop (or their cards decline!) Florence is the perfect place to do exactly that. The city is filled with small boutique shops, with plentiful opportunities to get your hands on some unfathomable deals on quality Italian leather and designer goods too.
There aren’t many cities like Florence, with a centralised river running through the valley, architectural masterpieces, and stunning sunsets, there’s no surprise that the city is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After all, we have to preserve the world’s unspoilt beauty. In a nutshell, Florence is like an all-you-can-eat buffet extraordinaire of art and architecture, with sculptured gothic churches, marbled basilicas and world-renowned museums.
So, how should you spend the weekend in Florence? Let me take you on a whimsical tour of my favourite hotspots in Florence, which may send your heart into a beating overdrive, as you fall in love with Florence.
Getting to Florence
Coming from London, you think they would be a vast number of flights going to and fro, at all hours. But, that isn’t always the case, and if you’re lucky enough, it comes with a premium cost too. However, if you take a slight detour via Pisa, not only does it give you the opportunity to see the gorgeous Leaning Tower of Pisa in the flesh, but also gives you the opportunity to save a few hundred pounds. Plus, it is only a 40-minute train journey from Pisa to Florence costing around €9.
Where to wine & dine?
If there’s one thing the Italians take seriously, it is their pre-dinner aperitivo. And, you cannot miss out on the gorgeous sunsets that Florence gives you on the daily, it simply seals the deal. If you’re going to visit two bars on your visit to Florence, make it these two gems.
The rooftop bar Le Terrazza is based within the luxe Hotel Continental. It’s a popular spot for locals and visitors, because of the sublime views across Florence, paired with hospitable atmosphere and good drinks selection. Think plush ivory-white plush seating, golden prosecco being poured as day turns to dusk, and apricot and ruby red colours come out to flood the sky, lighting up Florence as you have never seen before. If you guarantee a spot, booking through A Fine Hour enables you to make direct reservations with the hotel for Le Terraza. I would certainly recommend booking through them for a high chance of getting a table.
For you sunset lovers, here is another hotspot to add to your list – the Loggia Roof Bar at Hotel Palazzo Guadagni. It allows you to see experience the luminous Florentian sunsets from a different perspective. Below you will find a Santo Spirito piazza, with the hustle and bustle of bright lights, youngsters drinking in the bars, as the warm breeze hits your face as you look out over the terrace at the bystanders below. Order in a couple of Aperol Spritz’s, clink and cheers in glee, enjoying what Florence has to offer. You are likely to get a table if you walk-in, as it still remains a hidden gem in Florence.
Below Hotel Palazzo Guadagni, you will find a divine Italian restaurant called Tamero. It’s the perfect place to go dinner after you have had a couple of cocktails, to experience the delicious Tuscan pici pasta served in a Cacio e Pepe sauce. If you don’t know what that is, it is simply a cheese, butter and pepper sauce. But, let me tell you, it is the creamiest, most delectable pasta dish you ever get an opportunity to eat.
And, the list of pasta places continues. What do you expect from me visiting Italy? Carbs, carbs and more carbs!
Have you ever tried organic pasta? Well, I have the best place for you. Like the Italian culture, sharing is caring. So, don’t expect to find yourself a seat on an individual table. Instead, you’ll be seated on a long large table where you will be amongst other diners and have the chance to mingle and get to know people around you – it’s like having one big dinner party. When ordering at Simbiosi, I recommend two things. You have to try a delicious pale Tuscan rosé, it gives Cotê de Provence rosé a run for its money. Who knew Tuscany could produce such beautiful rosés? Having been to the Chianti region, they have red wines down, but they have a real business in producing some premium rosés. I digress… also, order the spaghetti in eggplant puree topped with crumb, it is an innovative take on Italian pasta dishes, especially as there is no tomatoes in sight. It’s a total game-changer.
If your truffle fan, you’re in the right city. The famous truffle restaurant has been around for quite some time and has built up a reputation over time. However, people say the quality of food offered does not match the price they charge. So, why not kill two birds with one stone and visit the Mercado Centrale di Firenze and dine at the truffle restaurant they have there? They literally make every Italian dish you could possibly want with truffle-infused and sliced on top. I mean, isn’t that your idea of heaven? Well, it certainly is mine, anyway. Honestly, it is worth a visit even if you don’t go to dine, there are other great shops where you can buy truffle, fresh pasta and so much more.
Now my last hotspot isn’t pasta related (ironically), but it definitely is in line with one of the things you have to eat when in Italy. Can you guess what? It is gelato, of course! Now, this gelateria is fantastic. I have consumed a lot of gelatos throughout Italy, but most of them don’t offer the same quality of gelato as I have previously had. I have been spoilt by it and makes me very picky, but this place is a must-visit spot. It is called Sbrino, and all the ingredients are sourced from their own farm and made into gelato. Therefore, you may find some slightly “quirky” flavours compared to your traditional gelateria, but they are delectable nonetheless. I personally went for pistachio and stracciatella – two strong contenders.
What to do in Florence?
For me, I would say Florence is the kind of place you go to ogle the art, do some shopping, drink your favourite Italian beverages, mooch through the city, and sit and admire the sunsets and gorgeous architecture. It is not a city where you have to be active like other city breaks. It’s a city you can visit, relax and explore it at your own leisure. If you have surplus time, and you love designer clothing, I would central recommend venturing out of the city, driving 40 minutes to “The Mall”. It’s an outlet known for its elite designer brands, which are sold at majorly discounted prices. Think Jimmy Choo shoes for less than £200. Crazy.
However, there are four places you have to visit when in Florence:
1. Visit the Church of Santa Croce
The Santa Croce is the burial place for some famous artists who called Florence home. For example, Michelangelo, Rossini and many others. Great artistic wealth resides in the one building alone. Beyond it all, the Basilica is known for his gorgeous interiors, stained glass windows, and beautiful outdoor courtyards. I mean, it is that beautiful, I even joked about getting married there when the time comes.
2. Explore the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most famous Italian museums in Florence, but also the most visited and the one that holds the most priceless pieces of work, dating back to the period of the Italian Renaissance. You can find many art collections, iconic sculptures, and bright, beautiful vibrant paintings. You may even find yourself spending hours and hours wandering through the quaint corridors of the museum, losing track of time. I would suggest visiting with time because it’s a museum you don’t want to rush.
Over the colder months, the first Sunday of the month the galleries allow visitors to enter for free, which my trip spanned across, fortunately. However, as you can imagine flurries of people that head over to experience the galleries during those Sundays. If you can get to the museum for when it opens in the morning, you have a better chance of selecting an entry slot that works for you as the sessions get booked up very quickly.
3. Check out San Niccolo viewpoint
The San Nicola viewpoint gives you a panoramic perspective of the city from a height, making it the perfect picture opportunity with all the gorgeous marble domes and rolling green hills that mark the edges of Florence’s valley location.
4. Admire the architecture of the Baptistery of St. John
The baptistery is a religious building in Florence but also remains as the oldest standing building in the city as it possesses the original Florentine architectural style. The baptistery is renowned for its artistically important bronze doors, and equally detailed building facades. It’s worth taking the time to admire the building and its exterior, even if you decide not to visit the inside. It’s worth it!
What are your favourite hotspots in Florence?
Until next time…