No first time visit to Italy would be considered complete without adding checkmarks next to Italy’s big 3, Roma, Venezia & Firenze. Rome’s awe-inspiring beauty is built around ancient history and buildings that you have known to exist since childhood. Venice’s magic essence is that it can even survive partially submerged in a murky lagoon. Florence, ah Florence, is much more subtle of all yet also equally mind blowing. It is the birthplace of the Renaissance era which took place between the 14th & 17th centuries and led the world from medieval times to the beginning of what is now known as the modern age. It was a profound period in the world’s development where great thinkers and artists led to a rebirth of the young earth.
What can I tell you about Florence that you haven’t read or heard about that will make your trip better? Perhaps not much but perhaps just enough to make your stop in Florence more enjoyable. 10,000,000 people visited Florence in 2018. Let that sink in - 10 million to a city of 400 thousand. If you don’t plan accordingly, you will be overrun by exuberant tourists. This can be your game plan:
Walk everywhere if at all possible. When we were there 4 weeks ago, Christine and I walked 6.6 miles in 105 degree temperatures - not advisable to be sure. The next day, though, we hired an electric golf cart and guide that was the highlight of our trip. Our guide was as knowledgeable as he was friendly and he took us everywhere. What we learned from him is that there are so many places that tourists don’t visit that are equally magnificent. For example, he took us to see a fresco painted by Ghirlandaio of the Last Supper in the Convent of the Ognissanti. It was incredible and there were perhaps 3 visitors there. You want to hire Eco Tour Italy and ask for Ben as your guide.
Cross the Arno River. Don’t get caught up in the Bermuda Triangle that the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, and the Palazzo Vecchio can become. The San Frediano, Santo Spirito, and San Niccolo neighborhoods are vibrant, interesting, and provide great ways to get away from crowds. The view from Piazzale Michelangelo across the Arno to Florence’s architectural skyline is as good as it gets.
Only visit one museum. This sounds like bad advice because you will clearly miss things on your first trip but trust me, your sanity is vitally important too. If you want to see Michelangelo’s 17ft tall statue of David, visit The Galleria dell'Accademia. It’s amazing but somewhat anti-climactic. Your better bet is to visit the Uffizi Gallery where you can see a much richer variety of artwork including works by Da Vinci and Botticelli. But don't overdo it. Give yourself a couple of hours and vow to return because you cannot cover it all in a day.
Take a break and have lunch at Trattoria Tredici Gobbi. And have a drink or two. You’re on holiday, see where Florentines like to dine. This place is as genuine as it gets and somehow it will all feel somewhat familiar to you. Now, that is quite a trick.
Splurge. Stay at JK Place Florence. It's expensive but worth every euro cent. Recently, the hotel was voted best hotel in Europe by readers of Travel and Leisure Magazine. It's a five star gem in a 5 star location. You may not want to leave your room!
I couldn’t possibly add much more because one of the great things about being away on holiday is the joy of discovery. Florence has many hidden away places that require you to fall off the high road and get lost. That is its beauty and I hope that I have given you enough ways to circumvent the craziness that you can sometimes find yourself in when you visit Florence.