The Saturday City: Florence

By Nomadic Matt | Published September 4th, 2010

a view of florence of the duomoI’ve been to Florence twice. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. My first trip there was in 2006 and I was blown away by the small streets, the beautiful buildings, the food, and, of course, the gelato. I returned this year and found Florence just as beautiful. I wandered around parts I missed the first time and seriously pondered whether or not Florence might just be the most beautiful city on Earth. For me, Florence is like stepping back in time. I feel like I’m in the 1500s every time I walk through the streets. I’ll like I’ll bump into Da Vinci as I turn the next corner. Moreover, if you love art, which I do, the amount of galleries here will keep you busy for weeks, though the biggest draws are the David and the Uffizi.

One of my favorite aspects of Florence is the food. While in Florence, I got to go on a market tour and learn about the food. One of my twitter followers, Judy, runs a market tour in Florence and invited me along on her tour. As a foodie, I couldn’t resist. Wandering around the markets and learning about local vegetables, meats, and wines gave me an even bigger appreciation for Florence. I always new this area of Italy was foodie but actually learning the details and the history of the food was amazing. If you are in Florence, I would recommend her market tour.

Additionally, I love all the good gelato in Florence. I must snack three or four times a day on gelato. My favorite gelato place is near the Duomo. It’s called il grandica gelatrio. Try the apple gelato. It’s delicious. Yet there is more to Florence than just food (though that can be a lot of Florence). After you filled your stomach to capacity, here are some other things to do:

the david

  • The David: The David is one of the most impressive sculptures in the world. It is a lot bigger and more detailed than you think it would be. There aren’t many must sees in the world but this is one. I saw it twice. It’s located in the Galleria Dell Academia, where you can see many other sculptures by Michelangelo.
  • Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio: This is Florence’s most famous square in the heart of the historic center with an open air sculpture exhibit. It’s right near the Uffizi.
  • Il Duomo: One of Florence’s most popular site’s is the Duomo (cathedral). This huge Gothic duomo was begun in 1296. It;s one of the most popular churches in Italy. The inside is massive and very ornate. However, the real highlight is walking up to the roof (463 steps to the top). From the top, you get the most panoramic view of Florence and the iconic red roofs that cover the buildings.
  • The Baptistery: The Baptistery of John the Baptist is one of Florence’s oldest buildings. It’s a real treat for architecture lovers and those who like religious history.
  • Ponte Vecchio: The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, is Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days. The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry.
  • Santa Croce: Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tombs of Michelangelo and Dante. It’s an interesting thing to see if you have seen everything else.
  • Galleria de Uffizi: The Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art. The most famous painting here is the Birth of Venus and it draws the biggest crowd. Most of the art here is early Renaissance religious art but towards the end of the gallery there are some portraits and Dutch work. Buy tickets ahead of time to avoid long lines.
  • Visit the Piazzale Michelangelo: Head to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a great view of the city. It’s a good hike up a hill but the view is absolutely stunning and you don’t need to pay for it like you do by going up the Duomo.
  • Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace: Across the Ponte Vecchio is the Giardino di Boboli, a huge park on a hillside in the middle of Florence behind the Pitti Palace. Here you’ll find beautiful gardens and fountains and a great view of Florence. If you are looking to avoid the lines at the Doumo, this is a good alternative. There is also Pitti Palace, Florence’s largest palazzo, and once belonged to the Medici family.

purple sunset in florence

Florence is one of the most popular destinations in Italy. The name sells itself. Most people have no idea what to do in Florence but when they tell you about Italy, they always tell you about Florence. Florence brings to mind art, food, and wine. And I can tell you that it is a city worth spending a Saturday in. In fact, it’s a city worth spending a few Saturdays in. Even if people don’t love Florence as much as I do, no one ever walks away disappointed.

comments 18 Comments

Helpful summary Matt – everyone should visit Florence at least once in their lives… I have that pleasure yet come!
Zoë

I lived here for over a year, this city is amazing! A couple tips:

Best Gelato – in the city center, gelateria dei neri (via dei neri) or grom (near duomo)
Best gelato anywhere in the city – Gelateria dei medici, on via nazionale north of the city, near statuto

Best panino- There’s one named after me! Order ‘il maneesh’ from Salumeria Verdi, on Ghibbellina and Via Verdi (right next to Santa Croce). Delicious, I promise.

I studied abroad in Florence and have returned a few times since. It’s a lovely place.

I always tell people who visit Italy to wait until they get to Florence to go shopping. You’ll find the best gold in Italy on the Ponte Vecchio and the best leather in Italy in the boutiques near Santa Croce (NOT the markets. NEVER buy leather at a market; it’s Chinese and low-quality!).

And eat a bistecca fiorentina! Preferably one the size of your head!

It is definitely a beautiful city! Umm, now I’m craving gelato.

NomadicMatt

Apple and lemon are my favorites.

Florence sounds like such an amazing city. You describe it well from what I have seen in photographs of it being like you are walking in the 1500s. I can’t wait to get there and see it for myself.

I’ve always wanted to go to Florence after going to Rome, the history is so well tied up and linked they should be part of the same tour for anyone going to Italy.

NomadicMatt

I do both when I go if I have the time. They are only a few hours apart.

Jen

Matt you sum up the experience of visiting Firenze very well. I was there last fall and absolutely loved it. Thanks for reminding me about what makes it so special. Buena sera!

NomadicMatt

You’re welcome!

ahhh italy… there really is nothing like it. I have always wanted to make it to the North but never got the chance. There were so many things to see in Sicily that I was never able to make it to the north. Ever make it south of Naples?

All those places you mentioned seem like places I would love, but I think I’ll wait for my boys to grow a bit more until o go back to having these kind of adventures.

Gelato, Pasta, and Pesca

What more could a man want in life?

Oh yeah, culture and women that make you consider the notion of marriage

NomadicMatt

Consider the notion of marriage? I’m not sure I’m at that step yet! But Italian women are very marryable.

John

Wanna hear something sad? I was born in Florence and I have yet to travel there. I know. Tear drops

I still like Florence, and would return again someday, even though last time I was there I had my backpack stolen from me at 3am at the SMN (train station).

Oksana

Thank you for the summary. Going back to see Florence after 23 years and now everybody is talking about crouds. I’ll be there on Saturday in mid July. Would it be the worst croud ever?

Stefania

Hey! Dante’s tomb is in Ravenna, not in Santa Croce ;)

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