Welcome to the Tuscany region and the beautiful capital city of Florence. Once considered the Athens of the Middle Ages, it is known as one of the birthplaces of the Renaissance. The Medici family had a large play in the success of this city and never gave up on building the amazing Duomo at the cities heart. Experience Tuscany, amazing art and a whole lot more when you enter Florence.
Top 5 Things To Do
- Piazzale Michelangelo: One of our favorite spots of the city. Really brings to life what Italy is about. Street performers with amazing music, an unbelievable view of the city and people all around you drinking wine.
- Piazza del Duomo: Take the stairs to the top of the campanile and you won’t regret it. This amazing basilica is unreal to see in person. Probably one of my favorite basilicas that I have been to.
- Tuscany tour: An absolute thrill of a day tour. The tour takes you from Siena, a family style lunch at a winery, San Gigminano and then ends at Pisa. An amazing experience throughout the Tuscany region in one day.
- La Buchetta: if you come to Italy for the food and the experience, you better stop here for a surreal dining experience. Top level service and the food is beyond amazing. I rarely would put a restaurant on the list but this is honestly the best restaurant I’ve ever been to.
- Galleria dell’ Accademia: You have to see the famous David by Michaelangelo. Pictures don’t do this statue justice. We preferred the feel of this museum over the Uffizi experience. You can make the choice on your preference.
- Piazza del Duomo
- Basilica of Santa Croce
- San Lorenzo Market
- Piazza Michelangelo
- Pizza Napoli 1955
Our train ride was fantastic. The one thing I can easily say about Europe is the public transportation is above and beyond that in the United States. Our train ride to Florence was smooth and more comfortable than a lot of planes I’ve been on! As you get into Florence from the train station, you don’t have that old world feel that I would have loved. It seems like a busy metropolis with people going about their daily business. As we took our taxi to the Airbnb, we passed by the Duomo and I had changes in my view of the city in an instant. The Duomo is massive and a sight that can not be taken in briefly. I had recently watched a show on the Medici family and their perseverance in making sure that this project was completed. To know everything that went into this made it even more amazing.
Piazza del Duomo: We came back to the Duomo to climb to the top and let me go back to that word perseverance! There are a little less than 500 steps to the top but when you get there, you are greeted with an amazing view of the city. The architecture and murals are simply breathtaking as you make your climb and the only thing that takes away from this is the even better view from above! The basilica itself is also remarkable and you have a chance to go in and view the entire layout of it. I can easily see why Medici wanted to push through and create this modern marvel. I got my best pictures of the duomo in the early morning the next day around 4am. This plaza gets quite packed with people and you will most times find yourself in swarms trying to make your way through.
Basilica of Santa Croce: We chose next to go to the basilica of Santa Croce, where people such as Donatello, Michaelangelo and Galileo are buried. The lines are quick to get in and the church is beautiful inside. We did a quick tour through, there is a lot to see but the massive amount of people in tours threw us off a bit so we headed out to our next destination.
San Lorenzo Market: The San Lorenzo market has everything you would ever want in leather goods! They go on and on and on and on….! We decided to walk it briefly and then head up to the food center which was a very neat spot with some fantastic food to try. This was a nice spot that we stumbled upon and probably wouldn’t have known about if it was not for the market. Sushi, fresh pasta, seafood, craft beer, wine tasting, etc is here.
*Piazza Michelangelo: After finding an Uber to the top of the city, we sat down and enjoyed the amazing view. The view is spectacular! We took our seats on the steps waiting for the sun to go down as we popped the cork on our bottle of wine. The energy in the air with everyone around us was fantastic. I would recommend this place to anyone looking for a beautiful view and a euphoric experience bringing people of all cultures together. We were lucky enough to get a free concert as we sat. Our vocalist sang songs from John Lennon to Sister Sledge and mixed in several Italian songs. A beautiful time to take for sure. We came at sunset and it was the perfect time to come here, and obviously a lot of people think this way too! I’d recommend getting an Uber because it was perfect to bust out some wine, bread and cheese at the top and indulge in the moment. Florence is such a beautiful city and to see it from this view with Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo all in a stunning landscape from sun to dusk, was all you could ask for.
Pizza Napoli 1955: We decided we needed one more bite to eat before heading home, so when in Italy get that amazing pizza! We stopped in at Pizza Napoli and were impressed with the service. The pizza wasn’t anything special, but the kindness of the server and the location was what drew us in. Right on a busier street of the city, not too far from the Duomo, we were able to sit and people watch. The waiter also made my partners pizza into a shape of a heart to throw in some of that Italian romance!
- Tuscany in one day tour
- Tuscan Winery
- San Gigminano
- IL Vivandiere
- Piazza della Signoria
Tuscany in one day tour: We booked a tour through trip advisor for the first time and it was with the walkabout group for a Tuscany tour. We do not regret it one bit. This was a perfect way to see the highlights of Tuscany from the comfort of a bus without having to drive, worrying about navigation and planning the experience. We were initially worried as there was a long long line of people ready for this tour but honestly you are separated and never really see the busses other than yours. The tour guide was fantastic with walkabout tours and it was a perfect way to see Tuscany in a day. The Tuscany region is huge and unless you have a week to tour the area, you might not have the ability to get out of Florence. Which is why I would recommend taking a day tour such as this to see the region. It’s well worth it because Tuscany is an amazing area, especially for the wine and food lovers out there.
Siena: Our first stop on the tour was Siena, a beautiful city with a passion for horses. It’s interesting that the town is divided into different groups based on where you live, you would never notice during a normal day unless you are there to experience the Palio. This is a horse race twice a year between the households for all the glory in their central area. The intensity of this race reminds me of Harry Potter and the battle of houses! If you’re not here for the race, you still have to experience the center, the worlds oldest bank and the amazing basilica. Siena was founded by two brothers that fled from Rome after their father was ousted. There are several statues of the she wolf that they brought with them from Rome. Siena is a magical quaint city and we had the perfect amount of time to get acquainted.
Tuscan Winery: We then next moved on to a winery for a Tuscan style meal that couldn’t help you feel like part of a big Italian family! The setting has your group around a big table and continuous food and wine is brought to you. The winery was a wonderful experience and the view was unreal. It is surrounded by grape vines and olive trees but you never lose the view of the Tuscan country side. The largest wine produced in Tuscany is Sangiovese which translates to “Jupiter’s blood” for the very dark red color to it. It’s a great wine and Italians love their wine and their food so this was a great stop to take it in!
San Gigminano: The next stop had us climbing high atop the Tuscany region to San Gigminano. The view at the top of the city is the iconic view of the Tuscan area. One of our favorite things to do in this quaint city was going from shop to shop. We stopped into a cheese shop where the woman allowed us to try many fantastic cheeses from the area, most of them are Pecorino but aged different ways. The taste in your mouth is refreshing!!! We ended up choosing a cheese aged in flowers and another aged in walnuts. There are various other places you can go whether it’s tasting different cured meats or stopping into an award winning gelato stop.
*Pisa: Moving on, we made our way to Pisa with the iconic leaning tower. Two brief things on the tower, if you can climb it, do it. It’s a beautiful view of the surrounding area including the mountainous country side. I won’t mention that you have to take the cliche photo of you holding up the tower and trust me you won’t forget, there are hundreds of people around you all grabbing thin air or taking various other poses that take them to elite status for holding buildings up with a mere finger! My other thought on Pisa has to be on the surrounding area with merchants and pick pockets everywhere. Never have I seen such a clash between two walls. Clean, beautiful monuments on one side of the wall with a much different view on the outside entrance. All in all, mark this one off the list of wonders!
IL Vivandiere: To end our night we went to a great little restaurant close to where we were staying called lL Vivandiere. Great food like the wild boar stew and zucchini flowers enjoyed with very reasonable prices make this a wonderful recommendation. It’s also a perfect location to stop next at the Piazza della Signoria.
*Piazza della Signoria: This plaza has some amazing art, including a replica of the David statue. We took some time and strolled through at night, but it becomes extremely lively during the day. We admired the many figures around the area and moved on to search for a little night cap.
We found we were on “an American street”. We stopped into a bar and quickly realized that it was catered towards Americans. As I watched tourists dance to Drake and karaoke to Bob Jovi, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disappointment in the people here. It’s one thing to want a comfort level in a place you visit where it’s all new and English isn’t the first spoke language, but to take yourself out of the immersion in another country to sing living on a prayer confuses me. It’s like going to McDonald’s instead of experiencing local cuisine. Maybe it’s just me and there might be another point of view on this one, but I’ll always reap the experience of a local over something I would honestly pass up in my day to day life.
- Galleria dell’ Accademia
- Gallerie Degli Uffizi
- All’ Antico Vinaio
- Ponte Vecchio
- La Buchetta
We decided to fit our museums into day 3. Remember that museums in a lot of cities aren’t open on Monday which can cause for some very busy times to visit the next day when people find this out.
Galleria dell’ Accademia: We started our day at the Accademia museum and visiting the main exhibition of David. This statue is indescribable. There is something about seeing this that is truly moving, whether it’s the human body in its most innocent form, to the triumph over Goliath to the crowds around marveling. The site honestly might only be one or two pieces that are must sees but you have to see David! I had no idea the scale of it until seeing it. I have so much more admiration for Michelangelo after seeing this piece of work. After taking a stroll around the corner to the many shops in the area, we next went to the opposite side of the city to the Uffizi museum.
Gallerie Degli Uffizi The Uffizi museum is usually a higher ranked museum in Florence. Sadly, we had some challenges with this museum from the very beginning. First off, the lines for reservations were ridiculous and there was disorder. Next, I wish I would have done more research as I didn’t realize that most of the artwork was focused on Medieval and Renaissance time periods. I do enjoy Renaissance art, but have never cared much for medieval art which I have always considered dark and lacking of character. I don’t want to turn you away from the Uffizi as there are plenty that love it, I just want you to know what you are getting into. There are several pieces that are amazing but would I do it again, I’m not sure. Would I recommend it on a first trip to Florence? Not sure on that one either, it really depends on what you like.
All’ Antico Vinaio: Our first two days in the cities we continued to see lines build in front of this sandwich shop. We decided after having an amazing sandwich experience in Belgium, we had to give this a try. The sandwiches were fantastic and we could easily see why there were not stop lines in front of this place. All fresh made ingredients in front of you and the taste explodes in your mouth. We took our sandwiches outside to eat as they are very limited in seating for the restaurant.
Ponte Vecchio: We did pass through the Ponte Vecchio and it is a neat bridge, but most shops on the bridge are really focused mainly on jewelry. I love the views you get from the bridge and there are some cool places to stop after the bridge but nothing other than that. The day got quite chilly and the wind started to pick up substantially so we had a quick bite to eat and a drink at a restaurant and moved back across the bridge.
La Buchetta: Our highlight of the day was a random restaurant that we found through trip advisor. I’m not going to lie, this might have been our top experience at a restaurant ever! We came to the place without a reservation and it’s not a large place. The manager said it would be a half hour and actually offered us some prosecco to drink while we wait. The level of service and food we had that night was out of this world! My girlfriend had the Angels and Demons dish and she was in love!!! I had the Poci special and it was such a wonderful experience. The waiter brought out a block of cheese carved out, he placed al dente pasta in and stirred until it was an extremely creamy dish. To top it off, he grated some amazing truffles over the top and made this dish one of my favorites I have ever had!! I have to honesty say that if you’re going to Florence, please do yourself a favor and go here!!
At last, we came to our final night in Florence before heading off to Rome in the morning. We loved the overall experience in Florence and Tuscany. The Tuscany region was our favorite area on the trip in Italy and we will definitely be back to experience more.
*Top people watching spot