Ciao! As a student studying abroad in London (home to five major airports), I knew that I had many international weekend trips in my future. One of those trips was Florence, Italy. Here I’ve shared my guide to Florence for anyone planning on making the trip for a few days (or a few months):
Before you go:
Call Me By Your Name
If you haven’t watched this Timothée Chalamet movie yet, it is certainly a must-see before heading to Italy. Although the movie is based “somewhere in Northern Italy” and not Florence, there are scenes which will make you long for Italian squares (aka “piazzas”) and will help you appreciate the simple beauty that Italy has to offer.
Book a Wine Tour-
Doing a wine tour is a must-do if you are spending a few days in Florence. Find one that will pick you up from Florence (most of them include this) and then choose your preferred length (most of them are at least 5 hours). I did this tour (1). If you have a little more time, I would recommend the Vespa Wine Tour (2) (my friends did this and loved it). Whichever tour you choose, make sure to book in advance because they do book up and sell out.
Reserve a ticket for the Uffizi
You won’t want to miss one of the most famous museums in the world, and the best way to prepare for the Ufizzi is by reserving a time at least a day or two before you want to go. If you don’t, you risk the chance of standing in a long line just to make a reservation/ buy a ticket or potentially not even getting a ticket for that day.
My cousin and I did the Rick Steve audio tour (free and recommended to us by our relatives) and it actually made the museum visit a lot more informative and direct than if we were just wandering around. I’d recommend you download this ahead of time too due to the terrible service around the Ufizzi.
You’re there, now what?
To-Do’s in Florence:
To get the full Florence experience you do need to walk up the Duomo. After the steps have physically taken your breath away, allow the unbelievable view to do the same.
Palazzo Pitti Fashion Exhibit
Run- don’t walk- to catch the fashion exhibit before it’s gone. I’ve never experienced a museum setup quite like it and the mix of more historic to modern haute couture gowns is something special.
Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
Give yourself about 15-20 minutes to get here from the center of town north of the river (more if you want to wander and enjoy the trip over the Ponte Veccio) and prepare for a walk up a few flights up stairs, but I promise the view on top is more than worth it. My cousin and I brought up cheeses, bread, and wine to enjoy the sunset with “the best view of Florence”. Breathtaking and a memory I’ll hold close to me forever.
If you’re studying in Florence, you’re in luck. All of the bars we went to were crawling with abroad students. Although I prefer more local nightlife scenes, there is definitely some comfort in having options with English-speaking students. The handful of nights I went out I saw kids I haven’t seen since middle school- Florence is essentially a big reunion.
I didn’t go end up going here but this was the favorite club among my friends who are studying here. To get the best experience, they suggest you get a table which ends up being around $35 a person through a promoter.
My personal favorite place we went, this was a more relaxed sit-down spot to enjoy a few drinks with friends. Good spot to start your night.
Right across the street from Kikuya is Red Garter, a bar which holds a lights-on conversational side, a dance floor, and karaoke bar all in one. A good “second stop” for your night.
There are so many more spots I could suggest but I’d recommend going wherever the masses are going. You’ll run into old friends and meet new friends. Godere!
Food you can’t miss:
Gelato Di Neri
The most incredible gelato you can get here (rated both online and through word-of-mouth). I treated myself to three flavors on a cone (the only way to do it)…
If When you go, make sure to get a scoop of the hazelnut-covered-in-Nutella flavor and don’t be shy about asking the employees which flavors they think would work together in harmony.
Make sure to ask for their 20 euro (each) special to make the most out of this restaurant. This family style meal comes with unlimited bottled water (WATER. IS. NOT. FREE), unlimited wine (“How much wine does it come with?” “Enough”), bread and olive oil, very impressive antipasto platter, three types of pasta– chef’s choice but free to request all vegetarian pastas– and a dessert tray. Yes. Please.
Mercado Centrale Florence
Mercado Centrale is an indoor market with a huge assortment of foods you won’t want to miss out on. I went to La Pizzeria Sud to claim my (own “personal”) pizza that is ranked #14 in the entire world (according to one of my friend’s professors. But you can take my word for it- this goes down as one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.
Osteria All’antico Vinaio
€5. ‘Nuff said.
A very highly rated restaurant in Florence (for good reason), this one is a bit pricier but the food and house red wine is to die for. Definitely get the pumpkin pasta and capresé (mozzarella, tomato, basil) salad– my friends studying here said it was the best capresé they have had in Florence.
My cousin and I decided to reserve a day for a “day trip” outside of Florence and ended up deciding on Bologna due to its proximity. It was an amazing day I would definitely recommend, but here is a list of other spots if you are interested in having a day trip of your own:
- Elba, Island far
- Cinque Terre (went here when I was 10 and still one of the most memorable places I have ever traveled)
To enjoy Italy correctly, you really should be listening to the right music while you are there. Here are some words I would use to describe music to match the spirit of Italy: golden, rich, masterful, and authentic. May I present some unapologetically Italian playlists that I think do Florence justice:
“Italian Cooking Music”– not entirely Italian songs but this playlist sprinkled with Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett will get you in the Italian mindset. Might be my new go-to playlist…
“Call Me By Your Name” Playlist– see “Before You Go” above.
Italy Cafe Vibes Same idea as the Italian Cooking playlist, just on a different wavelength. A good listen that would be perfect for exploring different Italian piazzas or gardens.
Italian Classic Hits This one speaks for itself.
Florence is such an easy city to get around. Don’t be afraid to put Maps in your back pocket and wander- kudos if you can get lost. Enjoy the carbs and the wine- there’s nothing quite like it.