City Guide: Florence

From the Piazzale Michelangelo to a musical food theater, here are the best things to experience when in Florence!
The Florence City Guide gives you an insider’s look at the birthplace of the Renaissance.

Florence was the home to the likes of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Donatello, Dante Alighieri, and the Medicis. It was also the site of my four-month long study abroad in 2011. While people go about Florence on a sightseeing spree, this city guide presents Florence from the viewpoint of a student who did her fair share of exploring the city, usually by foot and by word-of-mouth. Take your time to enjoy ‘la dolce vita‘ (the sweet life) here in Italy’s beloved Firenze.

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  • Enjoy a panoramic vista of the Florentine skyline at sunset from atop PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO with a bottle of wine and your closest friends
  • Organize a picnic in the BOBOLI GARDENS while the weather is warm and afterwards, get lost in the enchanting topiary labryinth that leads you to a number of fountains and grotto
  • An early morning museum venture to the UFFIZI GALLERY to see some of the most beloved Renaissance masterpieces including Botticelli’s La Primavera and Birth of Venus, and the GALLERIA DELL’ACCADEMIA, which houses the original David statue, is the best way to avoid crowds and long wait lines for these tourist hotspots
  • Take a stroll across the iconic PONTE VECCHIO, the only bridge of six in Florence that survived the destruction of World War II, and catch a glimpse of the past with all the unaltered store facades
  • Go people watching at the PALAZZO DELLA SIGNORIA from the best seat in the house, the LOGGIA DEI LANZI, an open-air museum where you share space with a number of exquisite sculptures
  • In a city where the smell of leather lingers in the air, you’d be missing out on the investment of a lifetime if you didn’t purchase some genuine leather goods at the PIAZZA DEL MERCATO NUOVO and don’t forget to rub the nose of the famous BRONZE BOAR for good luck while you’re there
  • While THE DUOMO’S massive dome is an inescapable fixture in the sky, if you aren’t deterred by a 463-step climb to the top of the cupola, you’ll get a 360° aerial view that relieves you temporarily from the constant neck pain one endures when savoring the city sights
  • During the day, visit the BASILICA DI SANTA CROCE to pay your respects to some of the most prominent names in human history such as Galileo, Machiavelli, Rossini, Ghiberti, and Michelangelo himself, and at night, the giant piazza (square) outside transforms into the hangout spot for study abroad students and locals alike
  • Cross the Arno River into the SANTO SPIRITO neighborhood, hailed as the most authentic of all the piazzas in Florence, where one can find the spirit of bohemia is well and alive
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Bronze Pig Grom City Guide Florence

IF YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR MONTHLY ALLOWANCE IN ONE MEAL

  • PERCHE NO! (Via Tavolini 19r) My friends and I splurged on a Thanksgiving dinner consisting of turkey, mindblowingly creamy mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and sauteed asparagus for €60 per person. The pricetag for the meal was quite steep given the fact it was only one plate but for anyone feeling a bit homesick, this is one of those justifiable splurges.

  • ACQUA AL 2 (Via della Vigna Vecchia 40/R, 50122) While I haven’t been here personally, its been recommended as a favorite dining spot and judging by reviews on TripAdvisor, its worth a mention.

IF YOU’RE A POOR, HUNGRY STUDY ABROAD STUDENT

  • OSTERIA IL GATTO E LA VOLPE (Via Ghibellina nr. 151/R, 50122) The osteria is always packed with groups of study abroad students getting together for family-style dinners and with a huge menu at very affordable prices plus cheap, cheap wine, it completely makes sense to eat here when the funds are low and the hunger is real.

IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO MAKE MARGARITA MONDAY A WEEKLY THING

  • TIJUANA (Via Ghibellina 156r, 50122) With wooden walls covered in Mexican-style religious iconography, such as Spanish crucifixes and Our Lady of Guadalupe paintings, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the other side of the border. Monster-sized margaritas in a plethora of flavors, an unlimited serving of chips and salsa and satisfying plates of Mexican food make everyone happy!

IF YOU NEED TO PREGAME ITALIAN STYLE

  • ‘Aperitivo’ was my favorite Italian experience. One could compare it to the American tradition of “happy hour” where its all about value and quantity. In Italy, they serve small amounts of appetizers such as olives, cheese, salads, and cold cuts while you socialize with a glass of wine or spumante in hand. Regularly, the windown for aperitivo is between 6-9 pm, so if you’re looking for a light dinner, this is a great option. The best places for aperitivo are Oibò (Via dei Benci, 53, 50122), MOYO (Via dei Benci, 23/r, 50100), and Kitsch (Via S.Gallo 22).

IF THE WEATHER IS COLD OUTSIDE

  • HEMINGWAY’S (Piazza Piattellina, 9, 50124) In Oltrarno, this ‘cioccolateria’ has a tempting selection of chocolate beverages prepared the only way it should be (ie. spiked hot chocolates: think nutella blended with Bailey’s for an ultra rich, heartwarming drin

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE HYPE OVER ‘BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA’ IS ALL ABOUT

  • BUCA MARIO (Piazza Ottaviani, 16r) Not all bisteccas advertised in Florence are the real deal. Skip the tourist traps and the disappointment for a positive memory of a frequently botched dish.

IF YOU’RE RUNNING LATE TO CLASS AND NEED A QUICK CAFFEINE FIX

  • CORONAS CAFE (Via del Corso) Don’t come here for the gelato but for the best coffee in Florence. Everyday on my way to school, I would stop by for the usual breakfast fare in Italy, uno cappuccino and cornetto. It was comforting to have a place that I felt familiar with in a city I was just getting to know.

IF YOU WANT TO PERFECT YOUR ITALIAN PRONUNCIATION

  • GROM GELATERIA (Via del Campanile) The topic of gelato is a sensitive one for locals and tourists alike. Every shop offers gelato but if you’re looking for THE PLACE to have that ‘wow’ moment,  there is a chain shop in Italy that has the creamiest, most delightful servings of gelato you could ever imagine. Try the straciatella, which is a more impressive version of the basic chocolate chip order with big chunks of dark chocolate instead of those measly little milk chocolate bits.

IF YOUR DREAMS OF ITALIAN PIZZA NEED TO BE REALIZED

  • GUSTA PIZZA (Via Maggio, 46R, 50125) One of the misconceptions most newcomers have is that you can find pizza everywhere in Italy. Correction: you can find shitty pizza everywhere, the good stuff is usually in Southern Italy. That being said, if you want something as close to the real pizza napoletana (Neopolitan Pizza) as you would get down south, then Gusta Pizza is the only place to do it. And leave a note in their table so you can boast to your friends that you have left something besides your heart in Florence.
  • SPERA PIZZERIA (Via della Cernaia, 9) Another recommedation from a friend who argues that their pizza is better than Gusta’s. I hold her opinion in high regard so it’s on the list.

Arno River City Guide Florence

IF A SANDWICH IS GONNA CUT IT FOR LUNCH

  • PANBRIACO (Via Faenza 13r) This was my go-to dining place in Florence; I was here maybe here 3-4 times a week. Located at the intersection of Via Faenza and the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the inconscpiciousness of the eatery only adds to its appeal. It is simple food at its finest. Build your own sandwiches and salads or choose from their pre-made menu. You can never ever go wrong with their prosciutto, mozarella, and tomato panino.

IF YOU HAVE A CRAVING FOR CRAP COFFEE AFTER A LONG NIGHT OUT

  • THE DINER (Via dell’Acqua, 2) A stack of pancakes and watered down coffee in the country where coffee is not just a drink but a lifestyle may seem like a sin, but there’s a reason why diner food is so popular in the USA. For nights where there was really too much red wine, the only way to make the world right again is sometimes a side order of greasy bacon.

IF YOU NEED A BREAK FROM THAT PASTA GRIND

  • PINGUSTO (Largo Annigoni, 11, 50122) For people more concerned about quantity and not quality, this is the place to go! All you can eat buffets at €10 for lunch and €20 for dinner. It’s an Italian-Asian fusion restaurant but most go for the unlimited amount of sushi. Also, a fresh grill option is available during dinnertime.

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A MOMENT TO YOURSELF

  • CAFFE’ LA TERRAZA (Bar at the top of the Rinascente department store in the Piazza della Repubblica) To escape the tourist traffic on the ground, take an escalator all the way to the top of the department store to have a surprisingly inexpensive lunch given the view and privacy*warning: there will be pigeons*

IF YOU’RE ALL ABOUT “D.I.Y”

  • MERCATO CENTRALE (Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123 While the city’s central marketplace may have limited working hours (it’s closed on Sundays and after 2 pm), its hihgly recommended that you go buy some fresh, premium products from local farmers and butchers and make your own lunch.

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City Guide Florence

  • Rumor has it there’s a secret bakery near the Santa Croce area that can only be found by sniffing around (looking up its exact location is cheating!)

  • For World War II fighter helmets, dusty records, and vintage stamps, one-of-a-kind jewelery and more,  the Ciompi market in Piazza del Ciompi is full of old antique treasures

  • No fashionista should miss out on exclusive tour led by an extended family member of the Ferragamo family at the Salvatore Ferragamo flagship store — apparently, his grandmother occupies the second floor of the building

  • For those needing a way to fight off the inevitable carb overload, a scenic run to San Miniato al Monte is a sure way to keep you feeling motivated

  • Want to ensure your return to Florence and get some good luck? Find the Porcellino Statue (The Bronze Pig) in Mercato Nuovo and rub his snout!

cg-tidbits-01LOOKING FOR THE PARTY?

  • Tenax (Via Pratese, 46, 50145)
  • Yab Glamour Glub (Via dè Sassetti, 5-r, 50123)
  • Space Electronic (Via Palazzuolo, 37, 50123)
  • Club TwentyOne (Via dei Cimatori, 13)
  • Twice Club (Via Giuseppe Verdi, 57r, 50122)
  • The Lion’s Fountain (Borgo degli Albizi, 34, 50123, 57r, 50122)
  • The Blob Club (Via Vinegia, 21/r, 50122)

INTERESTED IN STUDYING ABROAD IN FLORENCE? HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

👉Have you ever been to Florence? Share your tips for seeing the city in the comments below!

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A comprehensive guide to the best of Florence with @The Next Somewhere


Izzy Pulido is a Bostonian by way of the Philippines who loves to vagabond. At twenty-seven, she’s traded in gallivanting around Europe for the 9-to-5 grind… but don’t count out the vagabonding! With a new long distance relationship, she’s bringing American travel to the forefront. She lives for good times, good food, and good peeps.

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  1. Jenn

    12 February

    Awesome blog! Your blog graphics are amazing. I especially love all the watercolors. What program do you use to design everything?

    • Izzy Pulido

      12 February

      Hey Jenn! Thank you so much for the compliments. I use Photoshop and Illustrator but I’ve been doing graphic design for a while now. I’m really happy you like the watercolor aesthetics — that’s my favorite design element at the moment.

      • Jenn

        12 February

        Agreed. Watercolors make everything so much better. Again, I am loving your posts about Vietnam/travel. Keep up the great work 🙂

        • Izzy Pulido

          12 February

          Awww, I’m glad that someone is enjoying the posts. You just made my day!

  2. Riz

    14 February

    Great Post! Stunning photos by the way. 🙂

    • Izzy Pulido

      14 February

      Thank you so much and glad you liked the read 😉

  3. Adriana

    23 January

    I love Florence! I really want to retire there because of the romantic atmosphere, the food, the people, and the fact that I’ll be in Italy. Your post just reminds me of the good time I had there. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Maria

    23 January

    Great Guide for Florence! Fun and detailed, filled with sound tips. You make me want to return there and follow your guide 🙂

  5. Samantha Sparrow

    25 January

    Florence is one of my favourite cities. I first visited last year, but dying to go again. Instead it has inspired me to see Rome + Naples this year! Thanks for sharing!

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