Someone hand me a Spritz! These are my first thoughts when arriving in Florence. Florence, my love … my heart, and my favorite city on the planet. And YES I mean, FAVORITE. I have never fallen in love with a city as quickly as I did with Florence. I day-dream of quitting my job, leaving everything behind and starting a new life as a Fiorentino. Everything about this city is heavenly. The people, the history, the art, the food and OF COURSE the Spritzes!
Day 1 :
Upon arriving from Venice, we arrive at the central rail station. As we headed outside, we see a taxi line and hop in. Not even 5 minutes and we are on our way. Super easy and super quick. I have booked transfers from the rail station for many clients but, honestly, I don’t think it’s necessary. The drive to the main square is only about 15 minutes with traffic. The taxi was just about 10 Euros.
We arrived at our new home for the next five days the Hotel Spadai. I can not praise this hotel enough. It’s a 4 star in the heart (you can’t get MORE in the center) of Florence’s main square Piazza del Duomo. You are one block away from the most impressive site in Florence, The Duomo. This hotel is my go-to for not only me but, the number one hotel I recommend in Florence. They have an excellent breakfast, nightly cocktail and hors-d’oeuvre hour. I love this hotel. I can not say that enough.
Once we have checked in we are out the door to explore this incredible city. A little background on me, I am absolutely obsessed with the Medici Dynasty. I wanted to relish in the history of what used to be The Medicis’ Florence. My first stop was the Piazza de’ Pitti, or Pitti Palace. It’s an extremely important landmark that was located just twenty minutes from our hotel. The palace was purchased by Cosimo I de’ Medici 1549 from a prominent Florentine banker. Interestingly enough, a private corridor called the Vasari Corridor was built to connect the Uffizi, Palazzo Vecchio (the Medici formal residence) and atop the Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti so that the richest nobles of Florence did not have to deal with the common folk. The Medici’s were known for their vast wealth, and can take credit for much influence over the Italian renaissance. The architecture tells a story within itself, and what’s inside is decidedly more impressive. The gardens were a sight to behold, and provided us with a wonderful quiet walk after touring the palace. The view of Florence alone makes it one of the best places in the city to take a photo, and I always tell my clients it’s a MUST see. Make sure you plan on spending a half day here at least, and especially if you would like to tour the Boboli gardens. There are many galleries, and the gardens rival that of Versailles. You can walk up to the gate and purchase tickets. No need to pre-book here.
The resemblance is uncanny :
After a beautiful afternoon at the palace, we headed to get some pizza because you know… we are in Italy!
After a lovely breakfast at hotel Spadai, we made our way to the Accademia. Having skip the line tickets is a must. The line outside was already over 300 people deep. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from the hotel. One of the things I love about Florence is everything is within walking distance. I had pre-booked a guided tour with a Ph.D. art historian. With my love for all things Renaissance, I thought having someone with detail knowledge would only serve to enhance my experience. Now, there are some fantastic paintings in the first few galleries, so don’t rush. It can get a bit crowded in there; I am not going to lie. Just take a few deep breaths and enjoy the art. Take your time getting to David. This 17ft tall masterpiece was sculpted between 1501 and 1504. Created the brilliant yet arrogant Michelangelo. Michelangelo had rivalries with both Leonardo Di Vinci and Raphael. He was a perfectionist and made it his priority to be the best at his craft. It is easy to see why with just a few glances at his work. Our guide pointed out every intrigue detail, and even pointed out that the only mistake Michelangelo made was one extra vein on the back of David’s right calf.
The Accademia is quite small in comparison to the Uffizi but, it is not to be missed. Make sure you book a tour, or at the very least skip the line entry. It will save you time and stress!
After finishing up at the Accademia, we headed out for a bit of lunch. I can not say this enough about the food in Italy… it’s insane. I did not have one bad meal, honestly. We had pasta at lunch and never felt full. I loved it. I could seriously get used to this! Not sure my scale would though.
With our appetites satisfied we head to our second tour of the day: The Uffizi. Where the Accademia is small and quaint, the Uffizi is MASSIVE. You could spend a whole day here and still not see it all. With some of the most famous paintings in the world make sure you take your time and SEE every gallery. If you are a fan of the Italian Renaissance, then this is the museum for you!
It’s important that I note, The Uffizi didn’t start out as a museum. It was built-in 1560 by Giorgio Vasari for Cosmo De’Medici to house his offices, once construction was completed in 1581, the top floor was made into a gallery. Only later would It would later become the worlds first modern museum. One of the most significant museums in the world, as the the Uffizi hosts over 2 million visitors a year. Wait times to enter the gallery can exceed over 5 hours during high season. I highly recommend a tour or at the very least a skip the line pass.
I was so excited to get inside and start looking around. See, two of my favorite painting in the world are housed in the Uffizi. Leonardo da Vinci, Annunciation (seen below)
Botticelli’s La Primavera (seen below)
It also houses Botticelli’s famous birth of Venus and Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo. From Francesca to Lippi and Bellini to Raphael, the walks are a who’s who of the Italian Renaissance. This is why I HIGHLY recommend a tour. You not only learn the backstory of many of the Uffizi’s famous paintings but, a bit of the gossip and little known facts from this incredible historical period. You can get lost in here. The art is not just on the walls but, in the building and corridors itself.
Once we were done, it was yet again time for FOOD and WINE, and some sleep!
After another lovely breakfast at the impeccable Hotel Spadai we headed out. Our first stop was the Piazza del Duomo. It’s one block from our hotel so we really didn’t have to travel very far.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori is a beast of a building. You will feel excessively small in its presence. It’s hard to believe that construction on it started almost 800 years ago. The outside was extremely impressive but, wait till you get a load of the inside and it’s incredible masterpiece of a ceiling. I highly recommend doing a guided tour here. There are several different options but, my favorite is a combo tour of Baptistry and Dome climb. It’s an incredible view of the whole of Florence.
Inside the cathedral from the ground level, you can already see how impressive the world-famous The Last Judgment scenes painted on the inner dome. Painted by both Vasari and Zuccaro, world-renowned artist of their days. This painting remains one of the largest in the world.
With a quick tour of the ground level, it’s time to climb. Now, this part is not for the faint of heart. There are over 463 steps to the top. Some are normal, and some are steep and almost ladder-like. Let’s not even talk about the tight spaces. It’s a tough climb so bring your Fitbit and wear comfortable shoes.
At certain levels, you will be able to go inside and get a closer look at the interior dome.
After you climb down the stairs (way easier coming down) head over to the baptistery. The baptistery is a must!! You can’t take photos of the interior but, trust me it’s worth your time.
Lunch time, pizza… and wine… yet again.
After we stuffed our faces yet again with all the treats we could, we were ready for round two. This time some smaller not as well-known museums.
First stop, Museo Galileo. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am a space nerd. This museum was a must for me. It’s not a big museum but, incredibly impressive. It houses many first run telescopes. A star-gazer museum. Just a few euros and you can kill about an hour or two in here.
After the Museo Galileo, we head over the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. The previous prison now is an art gallery filled with some fantastic sculptures, mid-evil jewelry, and armor dating back to the Medici’s. Construction began in 1255, making this easily one of the oldest buildings in Florence. You can get right in here with no waiting and tickets are fairly cheap. It’s a great place to kill a couple of hours.
Not a vast museum but, there is much to see.
After heading back to the hotel for some Spritz, and then we are ready for dinner. This evening we took the advice of the concierge at Spadai and headed over to Le Fonticine. I can’t stress this enough, the concierge at your hotel is there to assist you. They will give you dining suggestions as well as make reservations. They are an invaluable tool.
We knew we wanted to have a steak one night. Florence is known for their beef, and I was very excited. To say the least, Le Fonticine did not disappoint. This meal was one of my favorite meals of the whole trip.
One last tip! Florence at night is incredible. Make sure you head over to Mercato Centrale. Tons of places to eat and shop. The coolest little joint in Florence. Grab a bottle and some meats and cheese and just sit. It makes for a fun evening.
The Duomo at night.
I was sad to leave Florence but, I knew I would be back. It’s one of my favorite cities in Europe and my personal favorite in Italy. It has a little something for everyone! From foodies to science nerds and from history buffs to artists. I dare anyone to not fall in love with Florence’s charm. Until next time Florence… arrivederci!