The Italy Series: Our Guide to Florence

If you’ve been following our Italy Series you’ve probably picked up on the fact that we’re completely obsessed with Italy and all it’s beauty! Every city we’ve visited has been absolutely stunning from the sights, views, food and people. However, when it comes to art and architecture we have to say Florence tops them all.

Every building you walk past has incredible intricate detail, every gallery holds amazing art work and every rooftop you climb to has stunning views!

We spent five days in Florence during February half-term and we have to say it was a perfect amount of time to see everything the city has to offer, whilst also throwing in a day trip to Pisa. Stayed at the Plaza Hotel Lucchesi, the hotel is in a great location, just on the river and only a short walk to the centre meaning you have access to all the top sights! It also has a roof top pool but in February that wasn’t happening…

We have admit we spent a lot of time wandering the streets never knowing what we might find – our favourite holiday activity! We happily strolled across stunning churches, delicious Gelato and beautiful squares. However, before you go off the beaten track, here’s a few places you simply can’t miss…

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The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Number one on our list was The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. This stunning cathedral grabs attention in Florence for it’s beautiful exterior made up of tiny white, red and green mosaic pieces – we suggest walking around the whole exterior so you don’t miss a detail! Afterwards, head inside. The interior is less extravagant then the outside with pretty plain walls but the floor is what you’ll want to see. Similar to the exterior the floor is created from mosaic pieces – creating beautiful shapes and detail.

Another feature not to miss is Giorgio Vasari‘s painting of the Last Judgment on the ceiling. This stunning piece encompasses the whole interior of the dome and tells an incredible story. After viewing the painting from the floor you’ll want to take a closer look – and the good news is you can!

Our favourite part of visiting the cathedral was walking/climbing to the top to see the whole of Florence from above. Warning: There isn’t a lift meaning you need to walk up 463 steps in a pretty tight and spiral staircase, however it is 100% worth the climb! Plus, half way through you have the chance to walk around a walkway based at the bottom of the dome meaning you can take a closer look at Giorgio Vasari’s painting of the Last Judgment. 

Once you reach the top of the dome you’re able to go outside and see stunning views over Florence. You can see for miles in every direction – definitely one not to miss! But remember you need to walk back down!

Plus, if you still haven’t seen enough amazing views then we suggest walking to the top of the Bell Tower located next to the cathedral. Don’t worry it’s only another 400 steps, but yet again, definitely worth the climb!

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Baptistery of San Giovanni

The Baptistery of San Giovanni is located next to The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and one of the oldest churches in Florence, although the origins of the baptistery still remain a mystery – which made us want to visit it even more!

The main attraction for visiting the baptistery is to see the three sets of bronze doors which illustrate religious scenes. All the doors were carved by famous sculptors including Lorenzo Ghiberti. Lorenzo created the east doors which were once described as the Gates of Paradise by Michelangelo – and who can disagree with Michelangelo?! The doors are truly beautiful and each section tells a story.

However, the main reason we wanted to visit the baptistery was to see the stunning golden mosaics which cover the ceiling and upper walls. As soon as you walk in your eye is drawn to the glowing ceiling and artworks, you can spend ages admiring the intricate details!

Boboli Gardens

Another place we loved while in Florence was the Boboli Gardens. The gardens are vast and have so much to explore – we’d suggest leaving a whole afternoon free to really delve into this place. While wandering around you’ll stumble across lakes, ponds, hidden statuses and hills to climb. We have to say our favourite was Neptune’s fountain, located just up the hill from the Amphitheatre. It is a truly beautiful and magical place – perfect for a summers afternoon.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio is a quaint and quirky bridge we loved in Florence. Filled with shops and restaurants (some hanging over the edge of the bridge!) this is one sight to view from afar and then take a closer look.

From afar the bridge looks like a mishmash of different coloured shops, some big and some small – which isn’t wrong. Once you get on the bridge you realise it is filled with wonderful jewellery, souvenir and Gelato shops. We wandered up and down the bridge for hours just looking at all the different things on offer. We’d also suggest taking time to stop in the middle of the bridge where you can sit on the wall and take a look at the view along the river. It is truly beautiful and a great place to take some time to people watch.

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Accademia Gallery

Now, you can’t visit Florence without going to see David – and by David of course we mean Michelangelo’s David, not some waiter we took a fancy to in a bar. However, we must admit, he is just as beautiful. Those arms!

Michelangelo’s David is located in the Accademia Gallery which also holds his ‘St. Matthew’ and ‘Slaves’ sculptures, as well as many other famous Italian artists. We recommend getting there early as queues quickly form outside the gallery, we waited for around 30-60 minutes which is good seeing as we went out of season, however if we’d gone during the summer months we imagine the line would have been twice as long! But, no matter how long the line out front this is something you won’t want to miss.

When you enter the gallery your inner art historian will be released and it will be so tempting to run through the halls to find David immediately – believe us we were so excited it was hard to contain. However, we advise against this as there are so many other amazing artists, sculptures and paintings to see. Plus, David is left until the end of the gallery so if you rush you’ll literally miss everything else.

Once you get to David he is a sight to behold, we’d seen many pictures of him before however nothing compares to seeing him in person. You turn a corner and there, in front of you is this stunning marble artwork! We have to admit the sculpture was a lot bigger and had so much more detail than we’d imagined, from his face down to the veins and muscles in his arms and legs, Michelangelo didn’t miss a single detail.

Piazzale Michelangelo

After a long day exploring we have to admit there is nothing we love more then having a glass of wine in hand while we watch the sunset over an incredible view – and if you feel the same then Piazzale Michelangelo is the place for you!

A short uphill walk from the river (we advise wearing flat shoes!) Piazzale Michelangelo has incredible views over the city and is the perfect place to put your feet up. Take some wine, pre-dinner snacks and a camera with you and grab a spot on the steps. We’d often arrive just before sunset to see this beautiful city in all it’s glory, take some snaps and speak to the locals and fellow tourists who were sat on the steps as well. We have to say it really feels like a community gathering and has a great buzz and atmosphere. Not one to miss!

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After we’d watch the sunset over the breathtaking view from Piazzale Michelangelo it was time to head back down the hill to grab some amazing Italian food. We had some delicious food while on our trip to Florence, including an amazing hotel breakfast at Plaza Hotel Lucchesi! However, there were two places in particular which really stood out…

Trattoria La Casalinga

We love visiting authentic and family run restaurants on our holidays and Trattoria La Casalinga did not disappoint! It has a a warm feel, a little bit like your eating in someones living room, with homely food, great wine and lovely staff – and we mean lovely!

During our trip Camilla was hit with the flu and wasn’t feeling to perky. After dinner she asked if they served hot chocolate which unfortunately they didn’t, we said don’t worry and carried on with our wine – wine always helps right!? A few minute later the waiter came out with his own version of hot chocolate he had specifically made for us! We’re pretty sure he’d melted pure chocolate and mixed it with milk, it was absolutely delicious and hit the spot. The perfect way to end an amazing meal!

Il Santo Bevitore

For our last meal in Florence we decided to opt for some fine dining, but to our surprise it was fine dining without the price tag! We ordered three courses not including dessert – as they say when in Italy do as the Italians do and all that. Each course was absolutely delicious and the staff were great at giving us recommendations. Although this was necessary as they didn’t have an english menu – fine dining and all!

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We absolutely loved our time in Florence. So, if it isn’t already on your bucket list then add it immediately!

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