Written by, Federico Morelli, Contributing Writer
If you are planning a visit to Tuscany, you will be mesmerized by the region’s alluring undulating landscapes, splendid vineyards views, comprehensive wine tasting, and exciting gastronomic adventures. But a few days in Florence will be the cherry on the cake of your Italian holiday. There’s hardly any other city in the world that simultaneously holds the title of a prestigious cultural hub, a remarkable dining mecca, and a renowned wine capital. So why not combine exploration of the artistic treasures with fine wining and dining? Here’s my pick of attractions in Florence that cannot be missed.
1) Discover the highlights of Florence with a skip-the-line combo ticket
I recommend making your close acquaintance with Florence by exploring its Renaissance heritage at the Uffizi Gallery, the Boboli Gardens, and the Pitti Palace. A 3-day single cumulative ticket allows you to skip the long lines to the top attractions featuring some of the world’s greatest pieces of art.
The absolute must-see’s at the Uffizi Gallery are the masterpieces created by Botticelli, Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo.
The Pitty Palace boasts Palatine Gallery with the Medici’s collection, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, and the Museum of Costume and Fashion.
The Boboli Gardens located just behind the Pitty Palace are the lungs of Florence where you can take a break from the tourists, enjoy monumental sculptures, and sumptuous trees and shrubs.
2) See the real Michelangelo’s David at Galleria dell’Accademia
Smaller in scope in comparison to the Uffizi Gallery, the Academia Gallery attracts millions of visitors from across the world with Michelangelo’s most famous statue of David. Be sure to book in advance (even two weeks ahead in high season) to avoid queuing at the entrance.
3) Enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the city
Florence is particularly breathtaking as it spreads out before you in full measure with its red tile roofs, the magnificent dome, the towers, and narrow crooked streets hiding between the buildings.
The Giotto Bell Tower is a perfect spot for enjoying the breathtaking views. As you make an effort and get to the top of the tower, you can try to fit into the picture the Duomo.
Alternatively, you can buy a cumulative ticket to the Bell Tower, the Dome, the Cathedral, and the Baptistery. It will allow you to access both the Dome (463 steps) and the Bell Tower (414 steps) as long as you are ready to tackle the physical challenge of climbing steep narrow stairs. It’s a great way to work-off all the delicacies you might be indulging on.
4) Relish authentic local specialties
Bistecca Alla Fiorentina is a Florentine steak made of a loin cut. It is between 3 and 4 fingers thick and is high-fried on the outside and very rare inside. The tender and juicy dish is best enjoyed with a glass of Chianti and in a company of friends who will help you share the mighty portion (between 800 g and 1.2 kg).
Dare to try “panino co i’ lampredotto” – the best street food in Florence! It is a sandwich willed with a slow-cooked cow’s stomach with tomato, onion, parsley, and celery. The description might not sound very appetizing, but you won’t regret trying this street food that is dirt cheap (3 euros).
If you have a sweet tooth, you can’t say no to a local gelato. The history of this creamy flavorful dessert goes back to the 16th century when a man of Florence introduced it to the local royalty. Make a stop at Gelateria La Carraia (Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r) and enjoy a moment of ecstasy as the gelato melts on your tongue!
And if you wish to get a great culinary experience and explore local eateries where food is served in an authentic rustic atmosphere, consider visiting the best trattorias in town:
“Trattoria Mario”, via Rosina 2/r
“Sabatino”, via Pisana 2/r.
“La cucina del Ghianda”, via dell’Agnolo 85/r-91/
5) Discover local delicacies at Mercato Centrale
This place well deserves being called a gastronomy museum of Florence. There you can find a rich variety of fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, bread, and wine, to name a few.
You can enjoy freshly made food upstairs. Be prepared for your senses to overload!
6) Don’t miss the Piazza della Signoria – the heart of Florence
Once the political center of Florence, Piazza della Signoria remains the heart of the city.
Every single detail of the square holds value. You can enjoy the numerous statues (among which there is a replica of Michelangelo’s David), the splendid architecture that represents the magnificent past of Florence, and the congenial atmosphere of the place.
7) Smell the leather at Mercato San Lorenzo
And your experience does not have to be limited to smelling only. No matter whether you are a compulsive shopaholic or a responsible shopper, you can find some good quality leather products, souvenirs and presents at a reasonable price there.
8) Savor every moment at Piazza Michelangelo at sunset
This is a perfect spot to end your day in Florence. It’s the best place for observing the panorama of the city and the Arno river that absorbs the warm hues of the setting sun.
It is for a reason why the square is Florence’s No 1 attraction based on over 31 thousand reviews on TripAdvisor. No words can describe the beauty of the place. So grab a snack, a bottle of Chianti and enjoy Florence at its best while the sun is hiding behind the Dome and the tiled roofs.
9) Go on a spectacular wine tour or savor Chianti in town
Embark on an organized tour of numerous wineries around picturesque Toscana and learn everything about wine-making: from vine cultivation to bottling. Relish different types of wine and find aesthetic and gastronomic pleasure.
You can also discover Florence by the glass by visiting one of the numerous “enotecas” or “vinotecas”. Noteworthy are “Signorvino” (via de’ Bardi, 46/r) with a view of the Arno river and Ponte Vecchio or “Alessi” (via delle Oche, 27/r) whose 300mq wine cellar hosts more than 2,500 different labels of wines coming from all over Italy and an entire room dedicated Tuscan wines.
INSIDER TIP: Drinking in public areas is permitted in Florence. A glass of Chianti on Ponte Vecchio at sunset is particularly joyful.
10) Make an outing to Toscana’s medieval villages
San Gimignano, Certaldo, and Loro Ciuffenna are some of the places worth a visit. You will be mesmerized by the picturesque rustic beauty of Tuscany and its ancient farmhouses with vineyards and olive groves around.
Trying organic cheese from the farms and wine-tasting will add to the enjoyable experience.
Looking for more ideas on things to do in Florence and Italy in general? See Carpe Travel’s Italian Wine Travel Guide.
About the Writer: Federico is a “serial expat” with a decade worth of adventures in his backpack. Originally from the picturesque Florence, he’s lived in Den Haag, Madrid, London, Amsterdam, Warsaw, and Krakow. He is the main photographer, videographer, and copywriter at OddUrbanThings.