After an awesome time in Venice, we made our way by train to Florence. I really like the Italian rail network as it is very quick and easy to use. The journey from Venice to Florence takes only about two hours and the views out of the windows are great too. If you are in Italy I really recommend you adventure around by train and explore more than one location.
Ponte Vecchio Florence
One of the most famous landmarks in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, a medieval stone three arch bridge which goes across the Arno River along the side of the city centre. It is a very interesting looking bridge to see due to the shops that are built right into and on top of the bridge.
The riverside walk to the bridge is really nice and the views are pretty. Also just before you get to the bridge, there are coffee shops and gift stores too, which we enjoyed browsing. As we walked over the bridge, along a large pathway, we were surrounded either side of us by a variety of goldsmiths and jewellers, which are the only businesses allowed on the bridge.
Duomo Florence Cathedral
We knew our accommodation was close to the Duomo Dome cathedral, but honestly, I didn’t realise how close until we turned a corner down a narrow street and there it was, looming majestically over us.
The enormous cathedral is absolutely stunning, built in the Renaissance style. It really is a beautiful sight to see. Located right in the centre of Florence, the cathedral is in the prime location to find clothing stores, restaurants, galleries and cafes/bars off the various side streets.
As the cathedral is right in the middle of the main city centre and so close to the other buildings, it was quite hard to get a really good picture of the whole structure up close. So we walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo and managed to get the best views of the cathedral from afar.
You can actually climb the beautiful Brunelleschi’s Cupola (the large dome) – if you make sure to book in advance. The entrance to the cathedral is free, although the queues in the summer months are pretty epic, so instead of joining a queue to wait for an hour or so, we decided to use our time in Florence more wisely to enjoy the facade of the cathedral and explore the rest of the city.
Enjoy The Famous Art
The best of part Florence, which we were most excited about visiting, were the art galleries. There is so many amazing art pieces to see in the city, so we did a bit of research before we arrived to make sure we didn’t waste any time and got to visit the best galleries.
I was most looking forward to seeing the original Michelangelo’s David statue, as I had heard how fantastic it is. As we walked into the Galleria dell’Accademia, and headed into the first hall, I cannot even tell you how beautiful and impressive this nude marble statue was, stood on a plinth at one end of the room. Up close, it is absolutely huge and so intricately carved – a real masterpiece. I was pleased it was raised high up so no one blocks your view.
This gallery is awesome to visit for a couple of hours. At the Galleria dell’Accademia, we enjoyed wandering through Gipsoteca (which means the hall of models). Here, there was a display of plaster models by Bartolini and Pampaloni and explanations about how these are used to help create marble sculptures.
The next gallery we visited was the Uffuzi. Located right in the city centre, this is a huge gallery contains stunning frescoed ceilings, a large variety of Roman sculptures, paintings and portraits.
The most famous, and the one piece of work we really wanted to see in the gallery, is the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. This stunning painting is a must see, but as it is hung far into the gallery, it was good fun to explore the halls and check out the amazing art throughout before we arrived at the masterpiece.
Eat Delicious Italian Food
I love eating Italian food at home, so was ecstatic to try it for real in Italy. First stop for lunch was the Central Market. Like other markets around Europe, you can buy a variety of fruits, veg, meat, fish, clothing, electrical items etc. Upstairs, there is a massive food hall filled with built in stalls/cafes. We each had a really tasty ciabatta from a sandwich deli.
On our first evening, we went to a restaurant called Fiorttuna, a really cute and traditional Italian. The lasagne was so good, along with a side of ciabatta and a glass of local red wine!
For our last evening, we headed to Yellow Bar, an organic Italian restaurant. They actually make their pasta and pizza dough on site and we were shown this by our server on arrival. It was really cool to see the lady at work making dough balls and the chefs in the kitchen beyond. I had a ham and cheese calzone (which was absolutely lush) and Vicky had a creamy tomato, green and yellow noodle dish with mushrooms. They were so flavourful and well made. I would definitely go back.
Take A Day Trip To Pisa
I didn’t realise, but Florence is very close to Pisa, so we couldn’t not go to see the leaning tower (when in Rome and that…). It was easy to get to by train and took less than an hour. The town itself is nothing special really, however, it is well worth going just to check out the monument.
As soon as we arrived, it was packed. People everywhere were doing the traditional ‘holding the tower up’ pose along the walkway. We decided to do our own ‘push the tower over’ and ‘have a tiny man hold you up ‘ pose. Classic!
The tower itself is actually really cool and we learnt that originally it was leaning due to it sinking in the soft ground on one side. However, now they have inserted cement to hold it in place and ensure it will never fall.
Pisa has very little in the way of good restaurants, but we did find somewhere for lunch just off the main road. This was ‘I Porci Comodi’, a small deli that served sandwiches, baguettes and the most amazing meat platters to share I have ever had. We found out that the guy who served us had actually lived in Newquay, Cornwall for 6 months to learn English, so we had loads to chat about. Anyway, he made our platter, then gave us a detailed description about what we were going to eat: salami, pork truffle, lard (it was so good though), raw sausage, pear slices and raw bacon with chutney, cheese and bread. I was a little dubious about trying it all, however it was all absolutely delicious!
Evening Walk and Night Life
On our last evening in Florence, we decided to go for an evening stroll to get some views of the city at sunset. So we took the road up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, on the hill along the south bank of the River Arno. The views from the top were stunning- you could see the rooftops of the city, the beautiful cathedral and the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. As it is so well known for being a great view of Florence, this meant that all of the tourists wanted to check it out too. Therefore to get the best photos, get there early with a couple of bottles of beer to really make the most of the evening.
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Florence. It is a very interesting city, full of culture, history and brilliant food to try. I would definitely recommend going and exploring Italian culture at its best.