Florence is one of the most popular Italian cities for tourists to visit and for good reason – the town has some of the world’s most famous art and architecture, beautiful landscape, and of course amazing food and wine! With so much to offer you could easily spend weeks in Florence, but unfortunately we only had three days so we had to do our best to catch the highlights. Here’s how we spent our three days in Florence:
After a couple days in Milan, we caught the train to Florence. The train between the two cities is under 2 hours, so it was an easy journey. When we arrived, we checked into our AirBNB. We picked this one because it was very centrally located (right next to the Duomo!) and had two floors so it felt spacious. We really loved staying here and the location could not have been more perfect for catching all of the popular sights.
For our first day in the city we tried not to plan anything too specific, as we really just wanted to explore and get oriented in our new city. Since we were staying so close to the Duomo, this was first on our list of sights to see. The Duomo in Florence is one of the most famouse churches in the world, and the architecture truly is incredible. We spent a good half hour walking around the Duomo to see it from all angles, and really taking in all the details
Next, we made our way to the Arno River. There are a few bridges you can walk over to cross the river, the most famous being the Ponte Vecchio (meaning old bridge). This bridge is famous for once being the only bridge over the Arno River, and is also notable for having merchants selling goods along the length of the bridge where you can stop and shop for jewelry, accessories, and leather goods. Because the bridge is so famous, it can get extremely crowded, so rather than crossing over this bridge we opted for the next one down, where we were able to get a nice view of the Ponte Vecchio and we had plenty of room to stop and take pictures.
Across the river, we found ourselves in Piazza Santo Spirito, and after browsing a few menus we decided to stop for lunch at Tamerò Pastabar. In the window we could see the staff preparing fresh tortellini, and as delicious as this looked, we were both in the mood for pizza so we ordered two kinds and split them between both of us. The pizza was delicious and was a perfect first meal in Florence. After lunch, we stopped for gelato next door at Caffè Ricchi. We were a little surprised because some of the flavors tasted more like a mousse than a gelato, but they were delicious nonetheless.
Next, we made our way to courtyard outside the Palazzo Vecchio. Here you can see the replica of Michelangelo’s David statue, as well as many other statues by notable Italian renaissance artists. This square is perfect for sitting and taking a break as you admire the statues, fountain, and medieval architecture.
After a full afternoon of exploring the city, we stopped at our place to change for dinner, and then headed to Osteria Santo Spirito. This restaurant had been recommended to us by a friend who studied in Florence and she told us they were known for their truffle gnocchi, so we were instantly sold. On the way, we witnessed a perfect sunset over the river and stopped to capture a few pictures.
Once we arrived at the restaurant, we saw this was a popular spot and there was a bit of a wait, so we put our names in and went next door to enjoy an aperol spritz. After our cocktail, our names were called and we were seated. We ordered the gnocchi to share as a starter and it did not disappoint. It came out sizzling hot and was so delicious I was almost tempted to order another plate! Then for the main course I got spaghetti with tomato sauce, and Jeff got bolognese lasagna. We would both highly recommend our dishes as the pasta tasted very fresh. After a full day in Florence and with bellies full of pasta and wine, we headed back to the AirBNB for some much-needed sleep.
On our second day in Florence, we woke up feeling refreshed and ready to see some more sights and – of course – eat some more food! Each of the mornings that we were in Italy we had the traditional breakfast of a cappuccino and a pastry. This morning, I strayed from my chocolate croissant and went for pistachio cream instead which was a GREAT decision. Pistachio seems to be a much more popular flavor in Italy, and it was absolutely delicious.
After breakfast, we went to Mercato Centrale to explore some of the leather goods and do a little shopping. Florence is known for leather goods, and this market had seemingly endless booths with wallets, bags, belts, journals, anything you could think of. Jeff bought a new wallet and I bought a small purse. With so much leather around and such great prices, it was impossible not to pick something up! We also stopped in the indoor food hall. The downstairs has booths with fresh produce, meats, and cheese, and upstairs there were different food booths in a food-court style, so there was lots to see. We already had a different place in mind for lunch, though, so we resisted buying anything at the market and decided to head to our lunch spot.
I knew I wanted to try All’Antico Venaio while I Was in Florence as almost everyone I talked to who had been to the city recommended it to me as the best sandwich spot in town. When we arrived, we quickly saw how popular it was by the line wrapped down the street and around the block. We were willing to wait, though, and found that the line moved quickly. Once we got close enough to see the menu, we saw you could either choose one of the sandwiches off the menu or create your own. Once I saw the ingredients list, I knew I wanted to create my own: pecorino cheese, truffle spread, spicy eggplant, fresh tomatoes, and arugula on focaccia bread. I know what you’re thinking and yes it was even better than it sounds. And the best part? It was only € 5! I’m pretty sure if they had a location in NYC I would eat there every single day. This spot would definitely be on my must-do list for anyone visiting Florence.
After lunch, we headed to the Uffizi Gallery. This is arguably the most famous museum in Florence due to housing works from some of the most famous Renaissance artists including Da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Titian, and Raphael. Basically, if you have any interest in Italian renaissance art, you absolutely need to visit this museum. Since this museum is so famous, the lines can get long. We did not book in advance, but instead paid a few extra euros when we arrived to go in the faster line and get inside more quickly. With skipping the line, the tickets were each € 24 and we probably waited for about 15 minutes before we were inside. In addition to the incredible art we were able to see, the hallway of the gallery offers an amazing view of Florence. After a couple hours in the museum, we left and got some gelato because we were in Italy and how could we not
By this time it was late afternoon, so we made our way to Piazzo Michelangelo to catch the sunset over the city. After a slightly tiring journey up a hill and then some stairs, we arrived at the top and I can say the view is absolutely worth it. Not only can you see the entire city, but you also have an amazing view of the surrounding towns and the mountains on the horizon. We timed it perfectly to watch the sun go down, and it was truly a picture-perfect setting.
With the sun down, it was time to head to dinner. We did not have any dinner spot planned for this evening, so we decided to just happen upon a spot and take our chances. The great thing about Italy is you can usually walk into any restaurant and expect the food to be pretty good. So that’s exactly what we did.
The restaurant we ended up at was called Francesco Vini. We started with a salad, then I ordered pasta for my main dish, and Jeff got beef cooked in a chianti sauce with truffled mashed potatoes. We paired it with a nice chianti, of course. Then for dessert we split some tiramisu and ended the meal with shots of limencello. It was a truly perfect dining experience and another wonderful night in Firenze.
On our last full day in Florence, we decided to do a wine tour in Tuscany. I loved the idea of getting out of the city and seeing the Tuscan countryside, and of course I loved the idea of drinking some Italian wine! We researched a lot of different tours and ultimately booked this one because it seemed to be the best value – for under $100 we got transported to two different wineries (where we got to taste a generous amount of wine!), and we also had some time of our own to explore the town San Gimignano
We would absolutely 100% recommend this tour to anyone who is planning a trip to Tuscany. Our tour guide was funny and knowledgeable, and kept us entertained on the bus ride out of the city. At the first winery, we got to taste a few different types of wine, as well as truffle oil and balsamic vinegar, which were both INSANELY good. Then we went to the second winery, where we drank more wine and ate some bruschetta. The second winery offered incredible views of the Tuscan countryside and provided for some great photo opps. We also loved meeting travelers on this tour from all over the world – Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, and even Cuba.
After the wineries, we went to the medieval town of San Gimignano. We loved spending the afternoon here. We got a few slices of pizza and climbed the tower in the town center where we had even better views of rolling hills of Tuscany. This town also had a lot of great shops for picking up souvenirs to bring back home. After a full day of drinking, eating, and exploring, we had a nice nap on the bus ride back to Florence.
We rested for a couple hours after the trip, and then got changed for one last dinner in Florence. We did a quick Google search for recommended restaurants close to where we were staying, and decided on a place called Trattoria Za Za. We arrived around 9PM, so since it was such a late dinner (and the restaurant had plenty of indoor and outdoor seating) we didn’t have to wait more than 5 minutes for a table. The menu was extensive so it was overwhelming to decide what to order. In the end, I chose the gnocchi with tomato and basil, and Jeff ordered a steak with truffle sauce and roasted potatoes. After a few bites, we both agreed that this was hands-down the best meal we had in Italy. The food was absolutely delicious. The gnocchi was some of the best I had ever had, and I wish I could have taken the sauce home in a jar because it was so good I wanted to drink it! Our only regret was waiting until our last night to eat here, because if we had another night in Florence we probably would have gone again! I guess the only silver lining is it gives us an excuse to come back again someday.
Have you been to Florence and feel like I missed any of the highlights? Comment below with your favorite parts of the city!