Consistently ranked amongst the top 5 cities in Europe, Florence has a unique charm. It is a perfect reflection of Italian culture; the food, the wine, the art and architecture. It’s romantic, alluring, and pulls you back into an ethereal era, with loads to discover amidst its cobbled streets.
- Walk down (or up) Ponte Vecchio. This is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, across the Arno river. It is chock-a-block with shops selling jewellery, glass and other wares. However, it is at its most stunning self at dusk, when you get a panoramic view of it from a distance. All you can see is the sun dimming over the bridge, subtly highlighting the blocks of pale yellow and the green shutters. There are also lovely little alfresco bars and taverns along the bank; perfect for a glass of Vino Rosso and a cheese platter.
- Eat Florentine Steak. I love any kind of steak, but Bistecca alla Fiorentina was truly delicious! Tender, buttery and flavourful, served with a a rich sauce. Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco serve up an amazing Florentine steak, and also the best tiramisu I have ever eaten!
- Buy leather. It’s no secret that Florence is famous for its leather. Vendors selling leather jackets and goods are ubiquitous in every street corner. Most will offer items at throwaway prices just to make a sale. However, if you plan to buy quality leather, it’s best to do some research beforehand and be prepared to invest. I bought a lovely leather jacket from Leonardo Leather School, whose staff were extremely knowledgeable about leather and are known for their brilliant craftsmanship. I also bought a leather handbag by an Italian designer, Marina Galanti. These pieces are very high-quality and have stood the test of time!
- Buy tickets online for the Uffizi Gallery. I regrettably did not buy tickets beforehand, and had to queue for 2 hours to get in! This was the longest I had ever queued to get into a museum! What made it worse was watching those with advance tickets breeze in through a separate entrance. Once in though, the collection is impressive and is an art lover’s dream. The highlight is of course The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, and the sweeping view across Florence from the gallery’s terrace. I also visited the Galleria dell’Accademia to see David, the famous marble sculpture by Michelangelo. Though there was no queue to get in here, it was not worth the €16 entry fee! However, you will find Florence’s best gelato just around the corner at Carabe.
- Visit the Mercato Centrale. Mercato Centrale is a buzzing market hall in Florence that feels very old school with a modern twist. It is a foodie haven with several stalls selling fresh produce, wine, cheese, truffles and the finest of Tuscan cuisine. I wolfed down a sizzling hot pizza, prepared and baked in front of my eyes in a wood oven with the freshest of ingredients, and bought a bottle of Chianti wine to take back home.
- Take a train trip through Tuscany. The rolling Tuscan hills are much celebrated in literature and films. They can be enjoyed on a scenic train journey through Tuscany. I took a train from Roma Termini to Firenze SMN which was a picturesque journey through the Italian countryside. For a shorter journey, you can take a train from Firenze to Pisa Centrale to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa which is about 45 minutes away.
- Marvel at the Duomo. Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo, is the most iconic sight in Florence. You cannot miss it, and the majestic red-tiled dome towers over the city. The multi-colored marble facade looks stunning at sunset, and the dome can be viewed from several vantage points across the city. The terrace of the Uffizi Gallery offers a breathtaking view of this gorgeous Florence gem.