Florence is not an easy place for a backpacking trip. Capital of Tuscany, ancient capital of Italy and one of the 3 most famous art cities of the country, together with Rome and Venice, it is what you would easily consider a big “tourist trap”.
But I’m Italian, I’ve been to Florence several times and I’m a travel addict. So I’m happy to share with you some tricks, as I do on my blog and on Gadders, the travel platform I created to help foreign tourists who wish to come to visit Italy.
Hotels are quite expensive in Florence and hostels are very few, but the good news is those few are good quality and at a good price! The city itself is actually small and you can walk around everywhere. Therefore, you just must need to make sure that your accommodation is not in the outskirts and you’re done. You won’t need information about public transports (big issue avoided!)
I recommend you not to plan a 3 day trip through the whole Tuscany just because in 1 hour you could reach amazing destinations like Siena and Pisa. You wouldn’t really like to leave Florence after one day of marathon sightseeing with the sensation of having missed some of the best bits. To enjoy the city 3 days are necessary and even more for art and museum lovers.
My favourite attractions are:
1.Ponte Vecchio, literally “old bridge”, the most famous upon the Arno river, with its characteristic shops along the 2 sides (but don’t go in if you don’t want to suffer a heart attack for prices!) and the central balcony where to take the classic postcard-alike picture of Florence.
2.The impressive Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore, gorgeous inside and outside. But in my opinion above all from the upside. I’m passionate about breath-taking views and a very beautiful one is from the cathedral’s Dome, with artwork of Brunelleschi. Also amazing is Giotto’s Campanile (a little lower but also less hard climbing).
3.The L shaped Piazza della Signoria, a real open-air museum, decorated by many sculptural artworks, of which the most famous is the David of Michelangelo. You may ask yourself why such a masterpiece is left in the middle of the square instead of being overprotected in a museum? The answer is that it’s only a copy of the original work. All the statues have a meaning and it is worth taking a guidebook along with you so that you can read more and discover the stories and history.
4.Boboli garden. This one is not a symbol of the city like the first 3, which are suggested in every travel guide, but it is a really lovely park. It was projected in the past as garden of the Pitti Palace, but today, while the building is a huge museum packed with paintings (i’d say a boring place where, if you only want to walk through all the rooms without stopping, it would take an hour! Art lovers don’t curse me) the park is a relaxing and fresh area where to walk in hot summer days, while admiring the various ancient and contemporary sculptures that enrich its architecture.
What to eat and what to do
The typical dish here is the Florentine steak, a bloody 8cm high and 1kg heavy steak, usually to be shared at least between 2 persons. To find a restaurant I went to Piazza della Signoria, took the narrowest alley, walked about 10 minutes and stopped in a place before getting again to a touristy point. It worked: the meat was very good and not expensive! I tried the experiment again and it was proved. As result I can say that doesn’t matter which restaurant you are in because the quality is generally good, you just need to pay attention with prices!
To end, I think a bit of local-style life must be done. In Florence there are many bars and pubs to chill out at night; the most peculiar thing I tried is a honey-beer in a pub close to train station! But what surprised me the most was the cultural atmosphere you can breathe in the cafès, once meeting points of artists and writers. Like the Giubbe Rosse in Piazza della Repubblica or the hidden Caffetteria delle Oblate where you can enjoy an amazing view of the Cathedral’s Dome.
About the Author
This post was written by Francesco Visconti who has his a travel blog about Italy, gadders blog.