Florence, Italy City Guide

Terra cotta roofs, cobblestone streets, charming hidden alleys, street artists, towering cypress trees, pale yellow building fronts, loud Italian vendors,the lingering aroma of la cucina toscana…

Florence is all things Tuscan and it is impossible not to fall in love with its undeniable charm. Although considered a tourist’s city, there is much more to Florence than what quickly passing visitors see. I had the opportunity and the pleasure to dig deeper, roam further, and discover things about Firenze that many tourists never experience.

What to See

Piazzale Michelangelo- for the best view of Florence’s city center, take the short hike up to this piazza which also has a gelateria, restaurant, and a replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David

Fiesole- a town just on the outskirts of Florence which is situated on top of a hill, allowing you to view Florence from an entirely different perspective; take some time to walk around and admire breathtaking views

Piazza Della Repubblica- a vast, open piazza in the heart of one of Florence’s most frequented shopping streets, Via Roma. Take a ride on the merry-go-round, buy tacky toys from street vendors, or simply take a few moments to people-watch.

Ponte Vecchio- a bridge crossing the Arno River  which hosts several gold shops

Boboli Gardens- beautiful gardens, fountains, and cypress-lined pathways allow to you to take a break from the business of the city

Duomo- that huge dome-shaped building that you see on every postcard of Florence; for 8 euro you can climb to the top (to work off some of that gelato that I know you just ate) and see the city from about 300 feet up

{view from Piazzale Michelangelo}

Where to Shop

Let me begin just by saying that no matter what street you turn on and what direction you head towards, you will find noteworthy shops of just about any category. It’s really hard to come up with a solid shopping guide because good shopping is everywhere. If you’re looking for more high-end shopping, Via Tornabuoni and its surrounding areas is your best bet. Via Roma is home to fast-fashion stores like H&M and Zara. You may also want to head down Via Dei Cerratani and Via Panzani(the streets leading to the train station) for more affordable shops such as Dixie and Sisley, as well as endless leather shoe stores.

San Lorenzo Market- a trip to the market is a true experience and has anything Italian you could ever dream of- leather goods galore (bags, wallets, briefcases, notebooks, shoes, you name it), glassware, and all types of souvenirs are the market’s most highly sought out items; you may even pick up a dozen or so new pick-up lines from the vendors

Massimo Leather- Massimo is not only one of the friendliest people I met in Florence, his leather goods are of the best quality. Next door is his shop selling leather purses.

Valentino- high-quality leather shoes

Dixie- a great selection of both trendy and casual apparel, shoes, and accessories; there are several of these stores located throughout Florence as well as Italy’s other main cities

Where to Eat

Da Mario- open only for lunch, Mario’s a huge hit with both locals and students and is always busy

Mama Gina- extremely welcoming and accommodating staff and excellent food; try the pappa al pomodoro (bread-based tomato soup) and the melanzane alla parmigianna (eggplant parmesan)

Trattoria Zaza- the truffle pasta dishes are to die for

La Pentola Del’Ora- this hidden treasure was located on the same block as my apartment; the staff is extremely helpful and will translate and explain the entire menu for you

The Oil Shoppe- the perfect lunch stop offering any type of sandwich you could possibly dream up; they also offer generously sized salads, flavored coffees, and yogurt parfaits

Gusta Pizza- possibly Florence’s most popular pizzeria with the students, and if you get lucky they may even make your pizza in the shape of a heart

Gelaterias

Grom- my personal favorite gelateria in Florence; the gelato is smoother and creamier than most and is served at a slightly lower temperature than usual

Gelateria Dei Neri- tons of unique flavors to choose from (such as gorgonzola which sounds weird but is amazing!)

Gelateria Carraia- king of the 1 euro gelato cone; any flavor you could imagine and for a very reasonable price