If you know me or have read my blog, then you know that I'm obsessed with Florence. While I've been to many amazing cities, I have yet to find a place where I've felt more at home than I do in Florence. Every year, millions of people flock to the capital of Italy's Tuscany region to experience the heart of Renaissance, culture, and la dolce vita (the sweet life) for themselves. So whether you're here for an Italian vacation or studying abroad, here are 15 things to do in Florence that will make you fall in love with this city even more!
1. Go on a scavenger hunt for street art
Florence may be the birthplace of Renaissance art, but there is plenty of art to be found around the streets (or on the side of buildings, street signs, etc.). Some of my favorites include the simple drawings from the artist of Exit/Enter and underwater series entitled "L'arte sa nuotare" by the artist known as 'Blub'. Keeps your eyes peeled for these unique little drawings!
2. Try every flavor of gelato
Pistachio, rose, mango, sesame, nutella, raspberry...the possibilities are endless! And it's your mission to try them all. I recommend three scoops of gelato daily for a healthy Italian vacation (you'll walk it off later).
3. Admire the Duomo
I walked by this cathedral almost every day and seeing it never got old. Eventually, I had to force myself to just take it in with my eyes and stop taking the same photos (I'm still deleting pictures of the duomo off my camera roll...).
4. Visit the outdoor markets
The two major markets in the historic center of Florence is the San Lorenzo market and the Porcellino market. You can find leather goods, souvenirs, and clothing at both, but don't forget to rub the snout of the bronze pig by the Porcellino market. It will ensure your return to Florence and bring you good luck.
5. Have a picnic in the Giardino delle Rose
Make sure to stop by the rose garden if you're making your way towards Piazzale Michelangelo. Bring a panino from All'antico Vinaio (Via dei Neri, 74/R, 50100 Firenze, Italy), a bottle of prosecco, and you're all set for a lovely picnic.
6. Watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo
One of the best sunsets you'll ever see, I promise.
7. Have a drink in Piazza Santo Spirito
Located right by Basilica di Santo Spirito, this is a great little square to hang out in for a midday drink or to have lunch. Not far from the square is Gusta Pizza (Via Maggio, 46, 50125 Firenze, Italy), a cheap but tasty pizza joint and their sister panini shop is right next door. There are also many great bars in the square, like Volume and Cabiria, where you can stop in for a quick drink or aperitivo time.
On the second and third Sunday of every month, the Piazza holds a flea market that's worth checking out!
8. Grocery shop like a local
A must-see in Florence is the Mercato Centrale (Via dell'Ariento, 50123 Firenze, Italy). Located right by the San Lorenzo Market, the first floor is where you will find various vendors selling a variety of fresh fruit, meat, and vegetables. This is also a good place to pick up little bottles of olive oil/limoncello, spices, and fun-shaped pasta to bring back to friends. The second floor, is a gourmet food court - think wine tasting corner, artisanal gelato, fresh pasta, seafood, cheese, and so much more. Great place to have lunch after shopping for leather!
For a lesser known market amongst tourists but more frequented by locals, go off the beaten path to Sant'Ambrogio Market. There is both an outdoor and indoor market with a diverse offering of produce, clothing, and other various supplies.
In the spring and summer time, visit the flower market by the archway of Piazza Repubblica. For a couple euros, you can buy a fresh bouquet of beautiful flowers!
9. Try the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina
The Florentine's version of a grilled T-bone steak is a meat-lovers dream. This massive piece of meat is cut 3 inches thick, cooked super rare, and with minimal seasoning. You would think it would be bland, but if it's done right, it's melt-in-your-mouth tender. There will be plenty of restaurants who claim to have "The Best Bistecca in Florence!", but for a true authentic, Italian meal, try Trattoria Anna (Via Pisana, 138, 50143 Firenze, Italy). I'm not a huge meat eater, but I'm drooling just thinking about that piece of steak.
10. See all the iconic art pieces
You can't go to Florence and not see the Michelangelo's "David", Botticelli's "Birth of Venus", and all the other magnificent works of art from the finest Renaissance painters and sculptors. While the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia are the two most popular to visit, don't forget about all the other museums like Pitti Palace, Bargello, Villa Bardini, and many, many more. Also, look into getting a museum card if you're short on time and want to see multiple museums.
12. Do happy hour like a local
Aperitivo is the Italian version of happy hour time and typically takes place between 6-9 pm. For a 7-15 € drink, you get access to a full buffet spread. Some places will offer finger foods and small bites while other places offer a whole feast. Technically, this is suppose to be a pre-dinner event, but some places serve so much food, you won't have room for dinner. This is a godsend for study abroad students who have gone waaaay over budget and want a cheap meal and drink. You can find plenty of places offering aperitivo ranging from fancy to more casual. If you're looking for the latter, try Kitsch Deux (Via S. Gallo, 22r, 50129 Firenze, Italy). Grab a spritz with some friends and eat your way through their buffet!
11. People watch at Piazza della Repubblica
Something about this piazza completely enchants me. Maybe its the carousel that lights up the square at night. Or maybe its the sweet sound of violin played by a street performer floating through the air. Whatever it is, I love sitting in this square to watch the bustling crowd, a mixture of visitors taking in the sights and locals going about their day.
There are plenty of cafes along the outer rim providing a great view of the piazza, but be prepared to pay exorbitant prices for a simple cup of expresso. An alternative would be to find a spot on one of the benches in the square and be in the center of the action.
13. Watch a movie at the Odeon Theatre
If you have time, definitely see a movie at the Odeon Theatre (Piazza Strozzi, 50123 Firenze, Italy). It's always interesting to watch a movie in a foreign country, but it's made even better when the theatre itself is a beautiful historic building. The interior of this theatre is amazing and totally worth seeing. The theatre offers movies in their original language and often holds film festivals.
14. Take a stroll along the Arno River
Walk off all that pizza, pasta, and gelato by taking a little stroll along the Arno River.
15. Find an Italian lover
I love all things Italian...leather, wine, gelato, and especially Italian men. The looks, the charm, the accent...how can anyone resist?
One of the best parts of walking around Florence was all the "Ciao bella!" thrown my way. It's a good little self-esteem bump *wink wink*. So find yourself an Italian man and experience a little amore in Firenze!