It's been a while since we've worked on our Throwback Thursday tradition, so we're bringing it back with a bang. This week I bring you a giant post about one of my favorite cities: Florence. I lived here when I studied abroad so I had plenty of time to explore...so I give you my complete Florence guide.
Let's start with the most important thing: food. I mean, it's a huge reason that most people visit Italy. Eating was one of my main activities while in Florence, so I've got you covered. It took me a really long time to narrow down my absolute favorite restaurants because there's so much deliciousness going on in the city. Here are my top picks.
1. Trattoria San LorenzoThis cozy little family-owned restaurant is right in the center of town, near the Duomo. If you go here you must order one thing and one thing only: the lasagna. Ok so technically you don't have to order it, they have a whole menu, but you'd be wasting your time reading it. The lasagna is that good.
2. Gusta Pizza
I spent a lot of time pizza hunting in Italy, and this was my hands down favorite. Good news, it's a little walk across the bridge from the main part of town, so you can work off the pizza before you even get there.
Don't let it's non-descript exterior fool you, this restaurant is a must-visit. The interior reminds me of an old farmhouse kitchen. I ate here multiple times and never had a dish I didn't love. One of its highlights it the pasta with wild boar sauce, a popular Tuscan dish.
4. Acqua al 2
If you want to get dressed up and have a nice dinner, this is the place to go. My friends and I went to Acqua al 2 on our last night together in Florence, and to this day I'm still dreaming of their blueberry balsamic steak. Make reservations or be prepared for a wait.
5. Giubbe Rosse
Giubbe Rosse is an Italian steakhouse located in the Piazza della Repubblica. I happened upon it when I tried to take my parents to Acqua al 2 and it was too busy. Steak Florentine is their specialty and the chef brings the huge slab of meat out to your table and slices it for you. If you're in the mood for seafood they have a sister restaurant next door.
Florence has some of the best shopping anywhere. You can barter on the street for a leather wallet and then turn the corner and go into Chanel. The city is especially known for its jewelry.
1. San Lorenzo MarketThis market sprawls all over the main part of town. Each morning vendors roll out their massive carts and each evening they roll them back in. Let's just say that the fact that the market was right outside my door was a little bit dangerous considering my shopping habit. There's so many things you can buy here but I think the best thing to look for is leather goods. Some vendors will put out low quality leather, but if you shop around you'll soon learn the difference. Never pay the price marked on the tag, the vendors will barter with you if you play it smart.
2. Scuola del Cuoio (the Leather School)I visited the leather school for a field trop and found it fascinating. The artisans work with only the highest quality leather and can create custom pieces. They have a shop if you want the real deal when it comes to Italian leather goods.
3. The Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio (translated to "old bridge") is one of the most photographed places in Florence. It used to serve as a private passageway across the Arno River for the powerful Medici family. Then it was the only bridge that was left standing after the city was attacked in WWII. Today it's loaded with jewelry shop upon jewelry shop.
This is just one store window. Imagine the whole bridge full of shops packed with this much jewelry.
4. Salvatore FerragamoFlorence is the birthplace and headquarters of this legendary brand. Even is you don't feel the urge to splurge on some historic shoes, the Florence store is worth a visit. Then you can visit the Ferragamo museum in the basement for a real lesson in fashion history.
5. Mercato Centrale
The Central Market is sort of Florence's version of a supermarket...but better. I was practically giddy when made my first purchase at the fresh pasta stand. I watched them cut the pasta dough into noodles for me. Doesn't get any fresher than that. Beware if you visit the meat section, it's not all as clean cut and processed as we're used to stateside.
Florence is a hub of art and culture. It's the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and considering the city was established 80 BC, there's a few things to see and do.
1. Uffizi Gallery
You have to visit an art museum while in Florence, so why not visit one of the most famous ones in the world? You can admire the work of some guys named da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli, just to name a few. I would definitely recommend a guided tour so you can be sure to hit all the highlights.
2. The DuomoTHE most iconic part of Florence. You're sure to walk by it at least ten times while you're in the city, but buy a ticket to go inside or climb the dome and you'll get views like this...
3. Piazzale Michelangelo
In the early evening grab a bottle of wine and head up the hill to this piazza to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets you'll ever see. Most nights there's a local musician to serenade you. If you're not up for a hike a cab might be a better option.
4. Accademia Gallery
I'm going to be honest, I only went to this museum to see Michelangelo's David. From what I gathered that's why most people visit, but it's totally worth it. The David is the end-all be-all of sculptures. Since they don't allow pictures, you'll have to go see it yourself to know what I mean. I may or may not have been a little sneaky sneak and stole a little snapshot on my phone. Don't tell.
5. Piazza della Repubblica
I saved the best place for last. This piazza is my favorite spot in Florence, so it's no surprise that it's home to three of my favorite places on this list. I love the architecture of the huge archway and it's a great place to people watch. A huge bonus is it's surrounded by some of the best restaurants and shops in the city.
Gilli wins my vote for my favorite coffee shop (and as you can imagine that's a serious title in my book). It's a fancy little spot established in 1733 that has served as a meeting spot for famous dignitaries and artists over the years. My friends brought me here for a birthday breakfast and I was in heaven.
If you've read my NYC posts you know all about Grom. It's the absolute best gelato and I'm not in the least bit ashamed to admit that I visited it almost daily.
When you're done at Grom hop right across the street to Alessi for some goodies to take home with you. It's stocked full of chocolates, espressos, pastas, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil...basically any kind of Italian treats you'd want. In the basement there's a massive wine cellar and you can schedule tastings.
4. Gucci Cafe
Yes, that Gucci. The cafe is located in the first floor of the Gucci museum and it's the perfect spot to sip on a latte and feel like a fashionista. If you don't want to spring for a bag at least you can go home with some Gucci sugar cubes and napkins :)
5. La Rinascente Rooftop Bar
We're back at the Piazza della Repubblica for my last spot. La Rinascente is a department store, but if you go all the way up to the rooftop there's a bar and cafe that's the perfect spot for a bellini before dinner. This was also part of our last night in Florence festivities.
I hope by now you're on orbitz booking your flight to Florence. If so, let me know because I want to come too!