Florence and Tuscany

The year is 1500 and the following people are alive and thriving in Europe- Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus, Henry VII, and from Florence: The powerful Medicis, Amerigo Vespucci, Leonardo DaVinci, Niccolo Maccheavelli, Lorenzo the Magnificent and his son Pope Leo X and Michaelangelo. It’s the height of the culture explosion known as the renaissance and Florence is its epicenter. Today, Florence is jam packed with all of the stories of this telenovela from 1500 so, Let’s dig in!

aerial photography of city building

Florence reminds me a lot of Paris in that there is simply no way to see everything this city has to offer in one go. I think you would literally exhaust yourself and collapse before you got to it all. In all, there are five marquee sites and countless second tier destinations that can keep you busy for weeks. This means you are going to have to be super picky about what you choose to do.

The headline of any visit to Florence is ART ART ART sponsored by everyone’s favorite power hungry family: The Medicis! Being the local big deal family (think Kardashians and Hiltons) these uber rich locals had money and plenty of it. They set out to enrich their lives by investing in the newest trend: art. Their legacy of patronage is what makes Florence, well, Florence! You can find their mark on the:

  • Duomo: Unless you are there for faith or you are an architecture buff, taking a stroll around the Duomo will suffice! To see the inside, you can go to mass on Sundays to get the full effect. 
  • Accademia: 
  • Uffizi
  • Ponte Vecchio

brown bridge

There are a couple of notes that could help any traveler on their trip through Florence. For example, Tuscan bread tastes very different than the Italian bread we are used to. In fact, it is not made with salt. This may be a point of pride for the region but it can be a surprise for the visitor. It also may be an expense that you skip. Additionally, you may find the restaurants in the very touristy areas don’t take customers who want to stop and have drinks during certain times.

Shopping wise, Florence is filled to the brim with lovely little shops full of artisans that create everything from paper crafts to amazing leather goods. Get ready to get your shop on! One word of caution, the old market area has been overtaken by street stalls. These hawkers unfortunately cover up the lovely shops behind them. One of our favorites is iMedici which is one of the original leather shops in the area. You may want to walk on the original sidewalks behind these pop ups (which are quite frankly unsightly!) and shop the OG stores.

silhouette photo of people standing inside building

Speaking of the central market area, the central market has been converted from it’s former use of all food stalls to two levels. The bottom is the traditional market stalls while the upper level has touristy eatery stalls. It’s not our favorite in the high season but it’s better in the shoulder seasons. One of our favorite restaurants is Zaza’s which is located just outside the main market building. Try the artichokes. Just a few doors down is another old school Florence haunt, the Lavenderia Manfredi laundry service. Considering Florence’s central location whether you are exploring from the north or the south, this easy stop could fit perfectly into your plans. Just be sure to drop off at the start of your Florence stay as the proprietor will give you a time to pick up. No negotiations. 

Accommodations in Florence can get very pricy especially when certain seasonal events are underway. This includes Fashion week. Beware of your timing because a few days in one direction or another could make all the difference to your budget. Our pick? Hotel Pendini!

assorted cakes in cake glass rack

Getting around Florence is pretty easy and there are lots of pedestrian areas that link together the major sites. However, if you are looking to get an overview, you may want to book a golf cart tour that can give you the lay of the land and help you prioritize which sites you want to see and skip.

Getting out of Florence is just as easy particularly by train. The main train station is just to the north of the city center and easily connects to all the major points by high speed train. Local trains also connect to a bevy of Tuscan town. The day trips are fascinating and plentiful:

  • Sienna
  • Pisa
  • Lucca
  • An agriturismo
  • Assisi
  • Montepulciano
  • The Cinque Terre
  • San Marino

And so many more! Florence offers one last gem that is easily overlooked. Hidden amongst the streets are tiny wooden windows that were constructed during the plague. These windows were made so that people could still buy wine without coming in contact with others. Covid put them back on the map and kept some of them in business. So, if you see a little door as you are walking around, don’t hesitate to knock and see if you get a glass of wine in response!  

woman wearing goggles wearing necklace painting on arched wall

If you are looking to get in the Tuscan mood, enjoy this quick read that showcases this area. Murder in Florence by TA Williams is a nice easy read. The author certainly takes you down the streets of Florence and gives you a great overview of the city!