Italian Adventures Part I: Florence
Friends, welcome to Part I of our Italian Adventures: Florence!
I’m so excited to share this travel guide with you! It has been such a long time in the making and I’m dying to tell you about all of our favourite places in the Tuscan capital.
Let me just start with this statement: we adore Italy. If Italophile is a word – which google has led me to believe it could be – then Boyfriend & I would definitely be described as such. We love the vibe, the food, the wine, the museums, the language, the atmosphere, the gelato, everything. This is the case for Italy as a whole, yes – but Florence in particular has something that other Italian cities just can’t compare with.. and I’m not just talking about the world’s best cheesecake – but there’s more on that below.
There’s a huge amount of recommendations in this post. I’ve streamlined the recs into six sections: Stay / Coffee / Eat / Drink / Museums + Attractions / Places to See. The first four are self-explanatory, but the difference between the last two sections is an entry fee; Museums + Attractions are all paid entrance, while the Places to See are free. If you have any doubts about any of the places listed below, just know that we’ve been to each & every single place a whole bunch of times (some an embarrassingly large amount of times), so you know you can actually trust us when we say they’re reliable.
Happy travelling, friends!
where to STAY in florence
Leonardo House // we’ve stayed at Leonardo House on our last two visits to the city, and – unless we win the lottery and splurge on a fancy hotel – we’ll definitely be returning again! It has an amazing location, it’s extremely budget friendly, and the manager is so so lovely. It’s more of a hostel than anything else, so it’s more pared back than what you might be looking for, but the private rooms are clean and quiet. Honestly, it’s the location that has us returning time after time – it is literally less than a three minute walk straight into the centre of the Duomo complex – what more could you ask for?
where to get COFFEE in florence
Caffe Gilli // we have a copy of Ruth Orkin’s fabulous American Girl in Italy photograph & I’d wanted to visit the spot it was taken in since the first moment I saw it. That place is Caffe Gilli. We were so far from disappointed upon walking in the doors that we went back for our morning hit every. single. day. and then some. Pro tip: drink your coffee & eat your pastry at the bar, it costs much less! .. and before you ask: yes, we tried to capture our own take of the iconic photo, and also: no, you cannot see it. A must-visit.
La Rinascente // to be honest, I can’t actually remember what the coffee is like in Rinascente – but that isn’t why you should go there anyway. The cafe boasts a rooftop terrace – La Terrazza – that has a breathtaking view over the Duomo complex. It is the ultimate place for a romantic coffee date. Shout-out to Boyfriend’s parents for recommending!
where to EAT in florence
4Leoni // we are obsessed with 4Leoni. It is hands down our favourite restaurant in Florence, and we have been back an embarrassing amount of times. The food is always impeccable, the location is stunning, the staff are extremely friendly, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and it’s home to the best baked cheesecake the world has ever seen. I’m not even exaggerating a little bit. A definite must-visit.
Il Santo Bevitore // okay fine, we are also mildly obsessed with IlSB, and have returned a few times now. The food is always exceptional, and there is a level of perfection & professionalism about the place that 4Leoni can’t quite compare with. The menu is inventive, unusual – on our last visit there was a strong Japanese influence to the meals – and leaves us wowed every time. Our most recent culinary highlights included: an n’duja pasta starter that left Boyfriend drooling, & a mouth-wateringly thick steak that was cooked to absolute perfection. Another must-visit.
Trattoria Giovanni // I can’t remember exactly what led us to this restaurant, but we had an unexpectedly fantastic meal. The atmosphere wasn’t as comfortable as either 4Leoni or Il Santo Bevitore, but the place can’t be faulted on the food. We shared a delicious cheese board to start, and had two absolutely perfect pasta dishes for mains – braised beef cheek for him, and wild boar for me. Overall, a surprisingly good find.
O’Munaciello // pizzeria in the Oltrarno. A large, quirky room decorated with fairy lights, candles, and puppets. A real no frills place, but the pizza is reliably good and not too expensive.
La Carraia Gelato // our favourite gelato in city, and arguably the best of the bunch. We are repeat visitors and are forever opting for our fave flavours: nocciola & pistacchio – so. good.
where to DRINK in florence
wine & spritzes
Il Santino // extra chic wine bar connected to Il Santo Bevitore. An amazingly tiny space with a small handful of tables clustered together. The room is dark & moody, the vibe casual & hipster. The menu is minuscule and sans prices, but the staff are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. After a brief chat with our waitress, we were brought the custom-made charcuterie & cheese board of our dreams. We lingered over our tiny table with our various glasses of wine for as long as was socially acceptable. We loved every single second, a definite must-visit.
La Ménagere // I’ll be honest, I only wanted to visit LM because of the powers of Instagram. I saw it on my feed, I loved the style, & I had to see it for myself. The space itself is beautiful, and it melted my insta-eyes as soon as we reached the door. Initially, I had to drag Boyfriend inside – he isn’t as easily influenced as I – but once we spied the cocktail list, peace was restored. An ice cold margarita served in a silver chalice for me, an old fashioned garnished with shavings of chocolate for him. They were, honestly, the best cocktails of our entire lives. Win-win!
5 e Cinque // one night, after dinner in 4Leoni – which is literally a stone’s throw away – we wandered in here for a glass of wine. We enjoyed two glasses of the most delicious Sangiovese ever, for an incredibly reasonable price. Although we had just eaten, everything on the dinner menu sounded so enticing that we vowed to return.
Bulli & Balene // the perfect spot for an Aperol Spritz. I think we went to B&B every single day we were in Florence. Both as a pre- & post-dinner at 4Leoni drink, as an afternoon pick-me-up, as a “hey, that place was nice!” stop-off on a wander around town, as a perfect spot to people-watch over a glass or two, you name it. Added bonus: drinks are excellent value!
Archea Brewery // we love wine & all – don’t get us wrong – but sometimes you just need a good beer, and this is the place for that. We visit every time we’re in the city & have yet to leave disappointed. Think dark cavernous room with a cozy atmosphere and a relaxed vibe. Pro tip: go for the own brand lager, it’s delicious! A beer lover’s must-visit.
MUSEUMS + ATTRACTIONS
Santa Maria del Fiore Complex // obviously, everyone visits the complex for one reason: the Duomo. The Cathedral itself is breathtakingly beautiful & probably worth some of your precious time, but definitely don’t miss the chance to climb the Duomo. If you’re an art history nerd like me, be sure to check out the Duomo Museum at the back of the complex – amongst other things, they have Michelangelo’s Florentine Pieta (!), and an exact replica of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise that you can actually look at without being hassled by hundreds of tourists. Pro tip: buy your ticket for the complex (you have to by an all-in-one ticket) the day before you plan to climb the Duomo; that way you can beat the majority of the queues by getting there before the ticket office opens for the day. For sure, a must-visit.
Uffizi // like the Louvre, this is one of those museums that you just can’t miss. It’s home to some wonderful pieces of art by the greats: Botticelli, Da Vinci, Caravaggio etc, the list is endless. It always takes longer to work through the circuitous layout than expected, so be sure to allow extra time.
Accademia // obviously, when in Florence, you have to visit Michelangelo’s masterpiece: David… or more specifically speaking, you have to go marvel at that perfectly sculpted specimen of man. I made several return trips around the pedestal just to fully appreciate how beautiful he is. And to check out his butt, of course. Wowza.
Boboli Gardens // although undeniably beautiful in their own right, we only bought tickets into the gardens for one reason: the Buontalenti Grotto. The grotto is at the end of the Vasari Corridor – which I’ve never had the opportunity to visit but would absolutely love to – & is honestly like something straight out of my imagination. We stood outside the gates staring in for an embarrassing amount of time – the sculptures inside are beyond amazing.
PLACES TO SEE
Loggia dei Lanzi // my favourite sculpture in the entire world – The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna – is located in the Loggia, not a stone’s throw from the Uffizi. Basically, the Loggia is a free, open-air sculpture gallery filled with unmissable pieces of art. Whenever we visit, I stand mesmerized under Giambologna’s masterpiece before moving on to gawp at Cellini’s selfie in the back of Perseus’s helmet. For me, this is a total must-visit.
Palazzo Michelangelo // everyone recommends walking up here and it is easy to see why: you get to see beautiful Firenze from on high! The bridges spanning the width of the winding Arno, the red rooftops capping the city, the Duomo. Pro tip: head up there super early to avoid the crowds… or brave the crowds & go for that magical time right before the sun sets.
Fiesole // we actually have Boyfriend’s mom to thank for telling us all about the small hilltop village of Fiesole, about a 20-minute bus ride out of the city. The bus ticket was super cheap (like, €1.50), and the journey alone was worth it – it takes these winding roads out of the city going up, up, up, leaving you gaping out the window at the views of Florence below. The village is adorable, and very quiet in comparison to the busy streets of Firenze. We hiked up towards the Monastery of San Francesco to get that view over Florence. Perfection!
Palazzo Stozzi // a breathtakingly beautiful space in the heart of the city. Used largely as an exhibition space – when we visited they were just about to start a Marina Ambrovic show – but open to the public to walk around.