Florence is the birthplace of renaissance, so unsurprisingly, the city is bursting with art at every corner. This is one of the most popular cities in Italy to visit, and for good reason. There is so much more to Florence than meets the eye. Since it is so well-visited, it can be hard to find real authentic experiences that haven’t been tailored for tourists. This is a guide to Florence for beginners.
Many people are unaware that Florence is the capitol of Italy’s Tuscany region. This makes it a great spot to explore Tuscany from. By car or by train, you can easily access much of Tuscany from Florence. What’s more, is that Florence is a less expensive to stay in than Italy’s more popular cities of Rome and Venice.
Guide to Eating in Florence
- “Il Santo Bevitore”: They have excellent service and excellent food. Some famous things there are the almond soup, the stuffed calamari, and “pappa al pomodoro”.This is a very popular “poor mans dish” from this region made with bread, tomato, and in the old days, whatever is left in the fridge.
Every time I hear Pappa al Pomodoro, this song pops into my head and then haunts me for days.
- Coquinarius, a restaurant that has some dishes with interesting combinations of ingredients. Make sure to order the charcuterie, the “crostini misti” and the creme brulee.
- For the best Bisteca Fiorentina go to Sostanza. The steak is hugely famous here in Florence. The cows, the chianina cows, that the steak is made from are found in this region. The steak is usually HUGE and comes rare to medium rare, don’t even try to ask for it cooked more, they will be offended and serve it to you how it is supposed to be. Not just this restaurant, all Tuscans. Italian people are very particular about how food should be eaten.
Wine bars Guide to Florence
- Casa del Vino. This is a small original wine bar just behind the central market. There are plenty of places to get wine in the market, but it is filled with noisy tourists. Sit down, eat some food, and drink some wines from the extensive wine by the glass menu.
- Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina: Across the river, this tiny wine bar focuses on small production, high end wines that are difficult to find anywhere else. Their goal is to inform guests of the wines and the wine making process in Italy. They have a small, but very special selection of traditional Tuscan foods to enjoy with your wines.
I would be disappointed if you didn’t eat your weight in gelato during your trip to Italy. But not just any gelato shop will do. Unfortunately, with the floods of tourists, have come many gelato shops that are a disgrace to the name of gelato, more concerned with profits than authenticity.
Perche no?… This is probably my favorite gelateria in the center of Florence. The gelato is made daily, with quality ingredients, and boast really creative flavors like Tuscan rose and sesame honey as well as classics like chocolate and hazelnut.
Aperitivo- Italian Happy Hour
- There are many bars that have great happy hours across the Pontevecchio to the left. These are a lot of fun and a great way to spend the evening. Bars will put out free food and snacks as a way to entice you to sit down and buy some alcohol. Each bar sets out different foods, so do some exploring before settling down for an aperitivo.
- Il Mercato Centrale is the most popular food market in the city, it is a wonderful indoor food market with a ton of prepared food, meats, cheeses, wines, and produce.
- Mercato Sant’Ambrogio is a little more low key. This small fruit and produce market is the perfect place to get a fresh taste of Tuscan gastronomy. Besides food, nyou can find bargain clothes, household items, and people-watching opportunities.
In this guide to Florence, I recommend looking into purchasing a Firenze Card as it will get you into most of the major attractions — but most importantly it lets you skip the lines (which can easily reach 3-4 hours).
Il Duomo di Firenze: This is literally impossible to miss, you can see this building from almost any spot in the city. This is the kind of building that you can (and probably will) just stand in front of dumbfounded. The beauty is indescribable and you must see it for yourself. Entering the church is free, but there is usually a long line, so get there early. You can also climb up to the top, its something like 500 steps (A good way to burn off all that gelato) and enjoy a really stunning view of the city.
Uffizi Gallery: this is one of the if not the most visited museum in Italy. This is an absolute must see in Florence, however, everyone wants to see The Uffizi Gallery, so the line to get in can be as long as 3 hours. You can book your tickets online and bypass this line. Please don’t waste your precious time in Italy standing in this long line.
Accademia Gallery: This is the spot for sculptures, most notably, the Statue of David by Michelangelo. There are TONS of replicas of the David scattered around Florence, this is the original. There is a LONG line to get in, I have been stuck in this line for hours. Do not make this mistake, you can get your tickets online in advance and skip all that.
We work closely with Taste Florence. They do amazing and personal foodie tours of Florence: http://tasteflorence.com (I highly recommend this, tell them Alyssa from CDV sent you and you might even get a discount)
Guide to Florence
The Firenze Card is a 72-hour pass that gives you access to about 30 museums and public transport in Florence. You can also reserve tickets and skip the line to most of the popular museums — this is highly recommended
Explore The Rest of Tuscany. Florence is the Capitol of the Tuscany region of Italy. Situated so close to popular places like Pisa, Lucca, San Gimignano, Arezzo, Siena, and Chianti. Our Tour of Chianti starts out of Florence and includes a day trip to this magical city with a food tour of some of Florence’s best spots.