FLORENCE

 

It has probably been said on this blog {one too many times} how much I love the city of Florence. For a long time, it was a city that captured my heartand had me constantly dreaming of return.

I studied there in college, returned for summers to visit my college boyfriend, and eventually, all of that time spent during my young adulthood, endeared me to Florence in a way that is still difficult to articulate. I didn't know I could feel that way about another place until we moved to Oxford.

While there are some smaller, more local places that I never miss when I'm in Florence, (or in the surrounding suburb of Scandicci where I escape to spend quieter time with local friends), the places I want to share with you now are spots in downtown Florence that are guaranteed to make your first or second visit really special.

 


DO

SAN LORENZO MARKET: In between the train station (Santa Maria Novella) and the famous Duomo of Florence, this sprawling market is a must for visitors. Pick up your leather goods,your souvenir t-shirts, any type of scarf imaginable, or a slew of (completely decent) silk ties for a couple of euro a piece. It's more than okay to haggle here... in fact, it's expected when you buy multiples of anything or higher ticket items like leather bags.
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123 Firenze FI | +39 055 210214

THE CENTRAL MARKET: In a large piazza in the market, is a large building, the Central Market, which is a really good food market that can quickly endanger your limited suitcase space. Gorgeous olive oils, spices, pasta mixes, truffle spreads, chianti wines are all there waiting for you. There are small stalls in here that give locals & tourist alike an affordable- and delicious- option for lunch. If you go for lunch, don't miss the upstairs area that is the chicest food court you have ever seen. With each stall focusing on various parts of Italian cuisine (pasta, truffles, paninis, grilled meats, fried anythings, pastries, gelato, etc.), you'll not only be able to find something for everyone... but several things.
Piazza del Mercato Centrale – Via dell’Ariento, 50123 Firenze FI | +39 055 239 9798

PIAZZALE MICHAELANGELOGo here for sunset for the most stunning view of Florence as the sun illuminates the valley of the Arno. Either hike the walk, & take a bus (which can be a bit complicated), or splurge for the taxi up to this famous look out. Regardless of how you arrive there, when you see the amazing view before you... you'll be glad you did.
Piazzale Michelangelo, 50125 Firenze FI

THE ACCADEMIA: Going to see Michaelangelo's masterpiece (well one of them) is well worth the time & money spent. Seeing the sculpted David come to life out of marble is nothing less than an ethereal experience, but you need to book in advance. Do it on the Accademia's site and save yourself the hassle and time waiting in long-lines in the Italian heat.
Via Ricasoli, 58/60, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 238 8609

CLIMB THE DUOMO: Yes, it's a haul to climb all the 463 steps up to the "cupola" of Florence's landmark church... but when you see the city of Florence sitting in the gorgeous Tuscan valley in the glow of the late afternoon sun {yes, you should go in the late afternoon}... you'll know why this lethargic lump of a woman would ever recommend such an outing for you. {FYI: The last time I climbed, it was €8.00. More info here.}
Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 230 2885

SUN CITY TOYS: If you’re with kids near the Duomo, take a couple minutes of a detour off the beaten path and head to Sun City Toys. It’s an incredible toy shop that has really amazingly curated toys for kids of all ages. (And, convienently, the store is sorted by those age brackets.) You’ll find some neat things that don’t involve plastic and obnoxious knows- but things that will help kids explore and engage in something fun and new. And they’ve got some really fun floor models of cars and scooters they are happy for kids to cruise around on. We had to drag our family away from here at closing time!
Via dello Studio, 23r, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 277 6372

 

EAT

Breakfast & Brunch

VILLA LA MASSA: If you’re looking to get out of the city (and have access to a car), this sister property to the famous Villa d’Este in Como, is a short drive away. In half an hour, you’ll find yourself steeped in the countryside of Tuscany at this charming villa. Go for breakfast for a luxe spread of every gorgeous breakfast food you might imagine in Italy: fresh meats, bowls of berries, homemade apple cakes and chilled juices and champagne. 
Via della Massa, 24, 50012 Candeli FI | +39 055 62611

VILLA CORA: This pristine five star hotel perched near Piazzale Michaelangelo is a lush spot to go for breakfast. Opt in to have breakfast on the pristinely intimate terrace overlooking the garden with the hotel guests for €34 per person. You’ll have your choice of the two rooms of breakfast food, any cooked items you want from the kitchen (fresh waffles, omelettes, eggs benedict) and endless fresh pressed juices, cappuccinos, bottled water, and prosecco you wish. The price tag comes complete with fabulous service and crispy white ironed napkins. 
Viale Machiavelli, 18, 50125 Firenze FI | +39 055 228790

Lunch

BOTTEGHINA SANDWICH E PANINI: While most places in Florence will have a glass case stuffed with pre-made sandwiches, Botteghina is a great place to trek for a handmade panini of dreams. The list of ingredients is simple: piadina flat bread or fresh focaccia filled with your choice of some select high-quality Tuscan meats and cheeses. Order yours to-go and walk across the street to the Pitti Palace for a casual (yet luxurious) picnic sprawled out on the entrance to theMedici's old home. (To help you find it easier, this small shop is adjacent to its parent restaurant, Caffe Pitti.)
Piazza de' Pitti, 10, 50125 Firenze FI | +39 055 214323

TRATTORIA ANITAIf you’re looking for a place that feels really Italian, gives giant portions of great food and is friendly to tourists, this is your place. The only thing is: you’ll need to google maps how to get here. Trattoria Anita is tucked back in an alley and has very little signage to alert you of your arrival, but once you’re there- you’ve arrived to a great place. The prices are beyond reasonable, the portions are generous and the two brothers that wait on the restaurant are kind… with a dash of sarcasm. No frills, but big thrills when you eat here. (Though be warned, their kindness to tourists comes from it being fairly well-known with in-the-know traveler. Most of the restaurant will be non-Italians.)
Via del Parlascio, 2, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 218698

SHAKE CAFE: Just a few quick twists away from the duomo, you’ll find yourself in front a very atypical Florentine store front. Shake Cafe is an easy option when you just can’t take any more pasta or pizza. Opt for the turkey wrap or the spicy kale salad generously topped with chickpeas and apples. The staff is friendly and the space is small.
Via del Corso, 28, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 215952

LA MENAGERE: This is a gorgeous concept restaurant that you'll want to to try for a pretty lunch or a great night out. The massive space just around the corner from San Lorenzo has two parts: a "casual" bistro and a restaurant. The bistro offers easier options- coffees, charcuterie, sandwiches while the restaurant offers sophisticated options in a larger dining room with table service. The staff is attentive, the setting looks like a Nancy Meyers set, and the food- though on the higher end- is pretty fabulous. Would be best without kids, but we brought ours and the staff was amazing. They had high chairs and even offered us off-the-menu options (spaghetti pomodoro, etc.) and brought them out early. My full review is here.
Via de' Ginori, 8/R, 50123 Firenze FI | +39 055 075 0600

Dinner

TRATTORIA ZAZA: Read more about this popular eatery specializing in Tuscan cuisine and perfectly situated in the San Lorenzo Market here. Recommended dishes: the bruschetta, the ribollita & anything with truffle that you see on their menu. Dinner reservations recommended.  Find my full post here.
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 26r, 50123 Firenze FI |  +39 055 215411

LOCALE: This transformed palazzo is definitely *the* night out you want to go to in Florence. With an sleek retractable roof and verticle garden in the bar, it is worth arriving a bit early to spend an hour here before you're seated. Expect high prices (€30-50 for entrees!), but lots of "extras" sent from the kitchen to accompany your meal. Reservations necessary, not-child friendly, definitely worth trying.
Via delle Seggiole, 12/red, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 906 7188

GOLDEN VIEW OPEN BAR: This place is special to me. I've spent many epic nights here... along with way too much of my money. The four cheese ravioli introduced me to the truffle long before I even knew of it's existence. I didn't know what the flavor was, but could only explain it as "an explosion of magic in my mouth." {Editor's Note: Maybe I wasn't the most articulate 19 year old.} I've been back countless times since and seen the restaurant evolve into a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Call ahead to make a reservation on the window for the best view of the Ponte Vecchio in town.
Via de' Bardi, 58/r, 50125 Firenze FI | +39 055 214502

TRATTORIA SOSTANZAThis in-the-know restaurant has two seating each night- 07:30 & 09:00. While the decor is unassuming and simple, the kitchen turns out a straightforward menu of cult-favourites including the butter-friend chicken and the artichoke pie. Don't miss the simple white beans in olive oil & salt... and whatever you do, do not miss the meringue pie (layered meringue, cream, ice cream& chocolate!) with a littering of wild strawberries around it. Reservations are a must!
Via del Porcellana, 25/R, 50123 Firenze FI | +39 055 212691

TRATTORIA GARGANIIf you're looking for exceptionally good Tuscan food and friendly service (never a. Bad combination, right?), Trattoria Gargani is a great option in Central Florence. With brightly painted walls and funky decor, the ambiance is relaxed but the food is seriously good. Expect basic dishes with simple twists- like homemade pear-stuffed ravioli drowned in a Parmesan sauce and sprinkled with walnuts. Or opt for one of the restaurants various dishes featuring artichokes. Be warned: this is a favourite recommendation of many local concierges, so the place is full of tourists... but I still think it's worth trying because of the quality and service. Reservations needed.
Via del Moro, 48-red, 50123 Firenze FI | +39 055 239 8898

LUNGARNO SUITES: Owned by the famous Ferragamo family (yes, that Ferragamo) this swanky boutique hotel sits pristinely adjacent to the Ponte Vecchio. If you can't splurge on staying in their apartment style hotel, go for a pre-dinner aperitivo and pretend you are living the fabulous life. (Which, if you've found yourself in Florence, is not really pretending.) For 12 euro, you'll get a fancy cocktail followed by well-manicured antipasti, such as crab cakes and bite-sized cured meats.
Borgo S. Jacopo, 12, 50125 Firenze FI | +39 055 27261

L’BRINDELLONE: If you’re up for eating real Tuscan food amongst real Tuscans, go here. You’ll take a scenic walk across the Ponte Vecchio from the city Center, pass the Pitti Palace and hit l’Brindellone. You definitely need to make a reservation about a day in advance- have a local call or do your best at Italian. The menu is basic and fuss-free. The truffle pasta is one of two pastas in the menu- and is fabulous. They’re known by locals for the rare cooked “bistecca” steak- but only get it if you’re up for bloody meat. It’s delicious, if so. The slow cooked Tuscan pot roast with tomato sauce is great. Add it with a side of the fagioli and you’re in for a treat. Prices are very reasonable and the experience is one that will make you feel a Florentine as the Duomo.
Piazza Piattellina, 10, 50124 Firenze FI | +39 055 217879

Coffee & Other Treats

GROM: Some people love it. Some people think it's overrated. Regardless, you can't argue that gelato is delicious. I happen to fall in the camp that loves GROM. Their monthly rotation of seasonal flavors like peach, raspberry & sicilian orange win me over. Though to be fair, it's now a rapidly growing chain that even has locations in Manhattan.
Via del Campanile, 2, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 216158

DITTA ARTIGIANALE: This is a hip coffee "chain" that is local to Florence. While all coffee in Italy is, as rumour states, "better than average"- Ditta Artiginale also ticks the box for "hip." With three central locations, I think it's best to cross the Ponte Vecchio for their largest location on Via hello Sprone 5r, located a short walk from the Pitti Palace. Find my full post here.
Via dello Sprone, 5/R, 50121 Firenze FI | +39 055 045 7163

VIVOLI GELATO: While locating this legendary gelateria was the catalyst for a near-divorce between Tyler & I, it's hard to say that it wasn't worth the trouble. The gelato really is fantastic, and if you can put up with crowds of people, a great place to try Florence's "best gelato."
Via dell’Isola delle Stinche, 7r, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 292334

LA TERRAZZA: This cafe is a gem. It's discreetly tucked at the top of the busy department store, La Rinascente, located in Piazza Repubblica. Up, up, up you go in the store all the way to the home section at the top. When you get there, go up the stairs into the cafe... then up the small set of stairs onto the balcony. Pay too much for a cup of coffee and enjoy a magnificent view of the cupola of il duomo.
Piazza della Repubblica, 4, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 283612

VENCHI GELATO: If you’re looking from a slick step-up from the traditional gelateria, these two locations in Florence offer a gourmet approach to the classics. They excel in chocolates and creams, where as you’re better off going to GROM for fresh seasonal options of fruit varieties.
Piazza della Stazione, 50123 Firenze FI | +39 055 260 8879

EDOARDO, IL GELATO BIOLOGICO: Edoardo adds to the list of “posh gelaterias” that have sprung up in recent years around Florence. With organic ingredients and different flavors (think Chianti Wine or Peaches & Amoretti Cookies), you’ll definitely find options that aren’t available at average gelateria.(Plus, it’s location next to the duomo make it a scenic place to stand in the (ever-growing) line.
Piazza del Duomo, 45/R, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 281055

PEGNA DROGHERIA: If you’ve opted for the B&B route while staying in Florence, let me offer up a selection for stocking the kitchen outside of the various chain grocers. Head to this lush grocer that has been selling to Florentines for near two centuries. Wander the tiny aisles and recognise that they have been more curated than stocked. Toss some fabulously artisan biscuits in your basket, select some Florentine chocolates to take back with you from the chocolate counter and saunter out of there like the fabulous person you became since first walking inside.
Via dello Studio, 8, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 282701

 

STAY

LUNGARNO SUITES (splurge): Sitting beside the Ponte Vecchio, this hotel boasts one of the prime spots of Florence's "centro storico." Having an interior decorated with Ferragamo flair, well, that gives it another right to boast all of it's own. Gorgeous views, fabulous amenities, hard to beat if you have the cash to spend.
Via del Moro, 48-red, 50123 Firenze FI | +39 055 239 8898

HOTEL FIRENZE NUMBER 9: Located in the heart of San Lorenzo, this tiny boutique hotel is a real treasure. With amazing room rates and gorgeous details (like painted ceilings and giant windows), you'll think you've found the best kept secret in town. The breakfast buffet is great- but go early, as it gets crazy after 9am. Also, pack your gym clothes and swimsuit. As a guest, you'll get access to a truly magnificent health club and spa/sauna. I was actually really disappointed I didn't have the right clothes to enjoy the great guest perk.
Via dei Conti, 9, 50123 Firenze FI | +39 055 293777

VILLA LA MASSA (splurge): This gorgeous villa sits on the outside of Florence. It's reached via taxi, so it's more of a retreat than a base for heavy site-seeing. However, as it's a sister to Como's famous Villa D'Este, it doesn't lack much other than proximity to the Duomo. A gorgeous pool, luxurious rooms, and a breakfast by the pool that will haunt you for years to come. You'll feel like you're in a dream.
Via della Massa, 24, 50012 Candeli FI | +39 055 62611

ALBERGO FIRENZE: This is a 2 Star winner in the hotel scene for Florence. Rooms are basic, but you can not beat the location. Quiet but central. It’s a budget-conscious trips dream scenario.
Piazza Donati, 4, 50122 Firenze FI | +39 055 268301

 AirBNB apartment rentals. {Seriously, I'm a fan.}

AVANTI ITALIA (budget): Ok, so this is an out of the normal option, but it's so affordable and helps out an awesome ministry. At only $15 per person per night, it's a pretty decent option. It's about a 20 minute bus ride out of the center of town, but it's actually really simple to get in & out of the downtown to Avanti. I've stayed there countless times when visiting Florence with a small budget.


***

Florence is an amazing city that captures my heart every time I visit... and I know that I'm not alone.


 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy by Grant Schol