So here I am, sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops, stuffed from having just had lunch at my favorite panini place, and thinking on the evening ahead: the music venue I might check out and the Sangria I'll have with my friends at our favorite spot. Call me cocky, but I can’t help but feel I’ve started to figure this place out. Over three months here and I have discovered not only local treasures, but some gems of my own as well. So here it is: my quick and dirty guide to Florence. Though a day is not near adequate to see all this city has to offer, if you only have one day, here is how I’d spend it…
Every Italian knows that the only way to start your day is with coffee: not the Starbucks doused with sugar and syrup, but a straight espresso shot at the bar with maybe a croissant on the side. At this point, I’ve certainly come to embrace Italian coffee. In fact, coffee here has such a better kick that I’m wondering if coffee in the States will even do the trick for me now. However, my love for Italian coffee doesn't change the fact that a pastry for breakfast doesn’t cut it. So Le Vespe is my place. One of my favorite cafes here in Florence, they not only have hearty breakfast options like pancakes, eggs, and the goods, but also smoothies (somewhat of a rarity here in Italy) and a variety of other options. So it's pretty much a perfect spot to fuel up for the rest of your day.
Onward toward the Uffizi. The area around Santa Croce is full of wonderful shops and cafes, including my favorite Florentine record store, Data Records 93. Exploring as you travel from one place to another is absolutely essential. One of the many beauties of this city are the streets dotted with treasures, waiting to be stumbled upon.
The Uffizi is definitely worth a visit. Housing renowned Renaissance works like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Caravaggio’s Medusa, even those who aren’t art fanatics are likely to still enjoy exploring the various rooms. Warning though: all museums (Le Vespe too, as a matter of fact), are closed on Mondays. Also, anticipate a relatively long line to enter. It goes pretty fast, but it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll have a wait.
If upon leaving the Uffizi you’re starved, what I consider the best place for paninis in Florence is right next door, Osteria All’antico Vinaio. You’ll know it by the lines leaking out the door and the sidewalks cluttered with people standing, eating their glorious sandwiches. Though you can craft your own panini after entering, I think the best approach is to pick your meat and ask them to do the rest. My typical order: “I’ll just have a really good sandwich with fennel salami.” They’ve never done me wrong.
Not far from the Central Market is Museo Novecento, a modern art museum that, believe it or not, is my favorite museum in Florence, despite being almost completely overlooked by tourists and locals alike.
After visiting this museum, several hours can be largely left to exploring. Not far away is the architectural pride of Florence, the Doumo. Also in this area are Accademia (housing Michelangelo’s David), Piazza della Repubblica and a great shopping area. Shops in Florence are always a treat, especially with how many artisans house their crafts in stores dotting the streets. Anything from Chanel to a silver artisan shop can be found with a little exploring.
About an hour and a half before sunset, heading toward Piazzale Michelangelo is definitely the way to go. And why not have a little gelato on your way over to the view? I would suggest crossing the Ponte Vecchio, the famous Florentine bridge and going to my absolute favorite gelato spot, Gelateria della Passera. This whole square has wonderful restaurants and cafes, making it a good stop even if you don't have a sweet tooth.
The walk up to Michelangelo's is quite a trek, but so worth it. If the view from Michelangelo’s doesn’t cause you to fall in love with this city, nothing will. Sitting with a bottle of wine on the steps and watching the sun sink is my favorite thing to do here, but just as a warning, buy your wine before you get to the top, as the wine there is quite overpriced. Italians love taking their time to be in the moment. So do the same and relish your time and this gorgeous view.
After the sun drops, I’d suggest making your way over to Santa Spirito, another piazza and home of one of my favorite restaurants, Santa Spirito Osteria. You really can’t go wrong with the menu here. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every dish I’ve tried. Close to this restaurant are a variety of bars within the piazza, the perfect place to grab a few drinks and enjoy the open air and energy of the piazza.
So there you have it. From gelato that will make your mouth water to a view that will make your heart melt, if you decide to follow my [not so] quick and dirty guide to Florence, the city I’ve fallen for, I can guarantee you will fall for it too.