Florence is the most incredible city in the world! I cannot express enough how much I love this city. I was fortunate enough to spend an entire semester in Florence studying abroad, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. There is so much to gain from studying abroad and just because my experience was at the heart of Italy, doesn’t mean it’s the only reason why I love it so much. From the shopping, to the delicious food, to the most breath-taking views – Florence is filled with adventure after adventure and endless things to do! Here are just some of my favorites from my four months there:
The Art, History, and Culture
Florence is known to many as a city of culture, simply because so much history took place there. If you’ve ever heard of the Medici Family then you know Florence, considering they were one of the most influential and powerful families to run Florence for many, many, years. They even created a secret tunnel from their home that runs through the Ponte Vecchio. I didn’t know there was a tour that took you to see this tunnel until after I had left Florence, but if you have the chance you should go! What an incredible opportunity to see the secret world of the Medicis! But anyways, some super popular and highly recommended museums to see while in the city are the Uffizi Gallery (my personal favorite), the Galleria de Accademia (where the statue of David is), the Pitti Palace, and the Stibbert Museum (it’s a little less known, but still super cool to see).
Probably the best thing about Florence is their food. It’s just the most aesthetically pleasing dishes you’ll ever see in your entire life. Here are just a couple dishes of the many I ate during my time abroad – both of which were to die for! Pasta is a staple of Italy (obviously), and the best places to go are Yellow Bar, Quatro Leoni (pictured), and Osteria Santo Spirito. All of these places will offer handmade pasta with unique tastes that simply cannot be put together anywhere else. Another gem, is All’antico Vinaio – which was awarded the number one spot to eat in the WORLD in 2015. Every sandwich is handmade in front of you with only the ingredients you choose. As for pizza, my favorite place to go is Gusta Pizza (not pictured). It’s near the Pitti Palace and is a great spot for a quick lunch! I cannot emphasize enough how much you HAVE to go to this place! It’s run by four brothers and the pizza is just filled with love! And if you ask, they’ll even make your pizza in a heart shape!
My favorite spot in the entire city is at Piazzale Michaelangelo. It’s a quiet hilltop with small vendors, luscious trees, and plenty to take in. The view is absolutely incredible! During my time in Florence, I would come here to journal and just bask in the beauty of this wonderful city. It’s a must see for sure! Another great place to see the entire city of Florence is in Fiesole. I never got the chance to go, but it’s a small city above Florence (about a 15 min bus ride), that let’s you experience the culture of Florence from a different perspective.
Florence has endless stores to shop at within the city, including gold central on the Ponte Vecchio, but one of my favorite places to go get unique items at great prices was the Mercato Centrale. There are tons of vendors outside the market that will sell you blanket scarfs, souvenirs, leather jackets, purses, etc. at amazing discount prices! So be sure to bring a huge suitcase with you so you have enough room to take home everything with you! The Mercato Centrale is also a great place to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and if you’re really feeling up to it, they have cooking classes you can take as well (highly recommended!)
There are too many gelato shops in Florence to mention all the good ones, but two of my favorites were La Carraria and Edoardo. La Carraria actually had the best gelato I’ve ever had – and that’s saying a lot considering while abroad I got gelato once (or twice) a day! And even better, it’s right on the Arno River so you can sit on one of the many bridges crossing from the right and left side of town and stare at the Ponte Vecchio while enjoying some delicious gelato! Then Edoardo is right in the hub of the city center – so you get to stare up at the Duomo while eating gelato – can it get any better than that? Simply amazing! Lastly, another great gelato shop that I have to mention (not pictured) is My Sugar. It’s closer to the Mercato Centrale, but if you’re over there anyways – why not stop by? You can never have too much gelato!
Now that Florence is on your radar as the number one city to travel to in Europe, you need to find a place to stay! When my dad came to visit me at the end of my study abroad experience, he stayed at the Westin Excelsior. It is one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in! It’s right on the Arno River with stunning balcony views on the Ponte Vecchio and more. If this hotel is a little out of your price range, I would still recommend finding a hotel on the Arno River because it’s in walking distance of all the main attractions of the city, but it’s also quieter than near the Duomo – and trust me, after long days of walking and exploring you will want your quiet and restful sleep each night. Happy travels! 🙂