Florence had always been top of our travel list but it was only after my brother visited the city and couldn’t stop raving about it, did we finally book a trip. Any chance we get to visit Italy we take so when it came to making plans for an Easter break, Florence was the obvious choice.
We arrived midday on a Friday at Pisa airport. We flew into Pisa as direct flights to Florence were very expensive for our dates. From the airport you can either get the PisaMover to the train station and then the train to Florence which travels every 30 minutes, or you can catch a direct bus straight from the airport to the SM train station in Florence. If the timings work out this saves a lot of hassle/dragging luggage around. Both options are easily signposted in the arrivals hall. From the SM train station you can easily grab a taxi or walk to your hotel depending on the distance.
We stayed at Dedo Boutique hotel and this was a great find – a block away from the river, with clean, modern and spacious rooms and within walking distance to all the major sites and restaurants. Breakfast was continental style but very generous and the view from our room was gorgeous, you could see the Duomo over the rooftops of Florence.
Arriving at lunchtime, we set off in search of some pasta. I’d read about the central food market or Mercato Centrale and this would probably be one of my top recommendations for Florence particularly for foodies. The ground floor is a working market selling fresh vegetables, fish and Italian produce and then the first floor is an upmarket take on street food. I had an unbeatable truffle pasta and Phil had a delicious pizza which he stills talks about to this day. Stalls included a Chianti wine tasting corner, artisan gelato, fresh pasta and many more of Italy’s favourites. Our time in Florence was off to a great start sipping on Prosecco and soaking in the atmosphere. They also offer cooking courses which you can book ahead of your trip, take a look.
From here we walked through the Lorenzo market area filled with stalls selling leather, clothing and souvenirs and by chance came across Massimo leathers. Little did we know Massimos is somewhat of a Florence institution and Phil and I both walked off with amazing and authentic leather jackets in hand from Massimo himself. Mine was actually customised slightly and couriered to my door a few weeks later so overall a really great experience.
We then made our way to Florence’s cathedral , the Duomo which stands tall over the city. It took two centuries to complete the Gothic style cathedral and the exterior is covered in a mix of pink, white and blue marble. Entrance to the Duomo is free and you can climb to the very top of the cupola but lines can be very long so if you can try get there as early as possible during the day you’ll probably find the queue moves quickly.
From the Duomo it’s a quick walk to Ponte Vecchio bridge. Previously the bridge housed different shops but now only goldsmiths and jewellers remain. We found the bridge inundated with tourists so sometimes it’s nicer to view the bridge and appreciate it’s history from the banks of the river. The Ponte Vecchio bridge is the only bridge in Florence that wasn’t destroyed in WWII and has been around since 1218.
That night we dined at Osteria Personale after doing some research. We opted for the tasting menu and while the menu had some interesting combinations, we found the ambience lacking a bit. Nonetheless it was a beautiful to see Florence by night and a great choice to celebrate a special occasion.
The next day we had pre-booked a vintage fiat 500 tour with the 500 touring club. The excursion included wine tasting and deli style food directly from the farm where the fiats are housed. Nicko our guide was superb and Phil and him left the best of friends. We could have stayed chatting and drinking wine all day at Villa Le Piaxxole. This is probably one of the best ‘tours’ I’ve done, anywhere and it was such an experience to be able to get out into the hills of Tuscany (or at least the start of them) surrounding Florence. The cars are easy to drive and each has their own personality, you pick up the gear shift stick very quickly and are definitely in for a lot of laughs.
On a complete Florence high, we headed up to Sesto rooftop bar to cap off one of my best days for superb panoramic views of the Arno river and the city. The sesto terrace sits on the 6th floor of the Westin hotel and is worth a visit. We ate at Trattoria 13 Gobbi that night for a truly Floretian experience, the steak Florentine. Although I think there might be better places for this dish, the overall atmosphere was wonderful.
Sunday being Easter Sunday, it was rather special to be in Florence. We attended the explosion of the cart or ‘esplisione del carro’ which takes place in Piazza Del Duomo. It is a tradition from 300 years ago and is rather impressive drawing a big crowd of local families and tourists alike. From here we crossed the Ponte Vecchio bridge to Baboli gardens. Entrance to the park is 8 Euros and once inside you can tour the garden at your leisure. We didn’t have a problem with queues as most people were still making their way from the display but I have heard they can get bad so I would recommend booking in advance online or through your hotel. Home to a collection of ancient trees, an amphitheatre, sculptures and pathways, this is a lovely place to spend a few hours.
A short walk from the gardens, we stopped at Borgantico for lunch, overlooking Piazza Santo Spirito in the heart of the historic centre of Florence next to the 15th C basilica. With lovely fresh pasta and a warm ambience, I would highly recommend this eatery and a visit to this area.
After a quick gelato to end off lunch, we went in search of the Michelangelo monument for breaktaking views over Florence. We were advised to go at sunset but I think no matter what time of day it is, you will find the Piazzale Michelangelo offers great photo opportunities and views of the Florence skyline. You can either opt for the uphill walk climbing up from Piazza Poggi at the base of the hill or you can take a bus or drive if you have a car.
To end off another perfect day in this magical city, we had drinks at the Hotel Continentale rooftop bar. This beautiful spot is open to non guests and remains relatively unknown and really is quite perfect.
For a final stop, we visited Volume bar which is a great place for live music. We walked home along Borgo S Frediano street – a haven of trendy bars and restaurants.
Florence is definitely up there with the best of the best in terms of city breaks – a beautiful and understated city with the perfect mix of culture and trend. Despite it being Easter weekend, we never felt like it was overrun with tourists or too crowded. We ate hands down some of the best food I’ve ever eaten with the highlight being our very first lunch at the market. With rooftop bars, panoramic views, beautiful architecture and art, soft hues of light, green tranquil spaces, rolling hills, wine, romance, adventure – Florence definitely stole a slice of my heart.
“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo”, Mark Twain