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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.

✱ PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO

Enjoy the best view in the whole city, offering a panoramic vista of the Florentine skyline at sunset from one of the highest points in the city with a replica of the famous David. The sunset is best enjoyed with a bottle of wine and your closest friends.

✱ BOBOLI GARDENS

Organize a picnic in the scenic gardens while the weather is warm and afterwards, get lost in the enchanting topiary labryinth that leads you to a number of fountains and grottoes.

✱ UFFIZI GALLERY

Get up early and venture out to the main art museum to see some of the most beloved Renaissance masterpieces in the world including Botticelli’s La Primavera and The Birth of Venus, and Caravaggio’s Medusa.

Did You Know? There is a secret corridor from the Uffizi Gallery to the Boboli Gardens that runs parallel the Ponte Vecchio, created for the Medici family to have direct access to their favorite works of art from their palace.

✱ GALLERIA DELL’ACCADEMIA

Europe’s very first establish drawing school, now museum, is home to the original David statue.

✱ PIAZZA DEL MERCATO NUOVO

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 this open-air market. Bartering is welcomed.

Tip: It is believed that rubbing the nose of the famous Bronze Boar statue in the marketplace guarantees your return to Florence.

✱ PONTE VECCHIO

Take a stroll across the iconic “old bridge,” 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. The stores on the bridge primarily sell gold and leather but you’re paying for the location, not the actual quality of goods when it comes to the price.

✱ PALAZZO DELLA SIGNORIA

A fan of people watching? Sit back 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

THE DUOMO

While the 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.

✱ BASILICA DI SANTA CROCE

During the day, pay your respects to some of the most prominent names in human history such as Galileo, Machiavelli, Rossini, Ghiberti, and Michelangelo himself, whose final resting place is at this sacred cathedral. And at night, the giant piazza (square) outside transforms into the hangout spot for study abroad students and locals alike.

✱ SANTO SPIRITO

Cross the Arno River into the serene neighborhood, hailed as the most authentic of all the piazzas in Florence, where one can find the spirit of bohemia is well and alive.

Bronze Pig Grom City Guide Florence

IF YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR MONTHLY ALLOWANCE IN ONE MEAL

  • PERCHE NO! 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. (Via Tavolini 19r)
  • ACQUA AL 2 – While I haven’t been here personally, its been recommended as a favorite dining spot and judging by its great reviews, its worth a mention. (Via della Vigna Vecchia 40/R, 50122)

IF YOU’RE A POOR, HUNGRY STUDY ABROAD STUDENT

  • OSTERIA IL GATTO E LA VOLPE 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. (Via Ghibellina nr. 151/R, 50122)

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

  • TIJUANA 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! (Via Ghibellina 156r, 50122)

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 – 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 drink. (Piazza Piattellina, 9, 50124)

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

  • BUCA MARIONot 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. (Piazza Ottaviani, 16r)

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

  • CORONAS CAFE 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. (Via del Corso)

IF YOU WANT TO PERFECT YOUR ITALIAN PRONUNCIATION

  • GROM GELATERIA 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. (Via del Campanile)

IF YOUR DREAMS OF ITALIAN PIZZA NEED TO BE REALIZED

  • GUSTA PIZZA – 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. (Via Maggio, 46R, 50125)
  • SPERA PIZZERIAAnother recommendation 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. (Via della Cernaia, 9)

Arno River City Guide Florence

IF A SANDWICH IS GONNA CUT IT FOR LUNCH

  • PANBRIACOThis 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. (Via Faenza 13r)

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

  • THE DINER – 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. (Via dell’Acqua, 2)

IF YOU NEED A BREAK FROM THAT PASTA GRIND

  • PINGUSTOFor 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. (Largo Annigoni, 11, 50122)

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A MOMENT TO YOURSELF

  • CAFFE’ LA TERRAZATo 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.* (Bar at the top of the Rinascente department store in the Piazza della Repubblica)

IF YOU’RE ALL ABOUT “D.I.Y”

  • MERCATO CENTRALEWhile 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. (Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123

City Guide Florence

✱ SIGNUM FIRENZEA purveyor of the most magical paper goods, this Florentine-based stationery is the place to acquire one-of-a-kind souvenirs, including maps, leather journals, traditional Bertini papers, quill pens, and old school lenticular postcards, with a built-in viewfinder that blends two vintage images into one to make it look 3D. (Via dei Benci, 29, 50122)

✱ THE “SECRET BAKERY”Rumor has it there’s a nameless bakery near Santa Croce with the city’s most delicious baked goods, open all hours of the night, that can only be found by sniffing around (looking up its exact location is cheating!)

✱ CIOMPI MARKET – For World War II fighter helmets, dusty records, retro postcards, and vintage stamps, one-of-a-kind jewelery and more, the pop-up antique market held on the last Sunday of the month in the Piazza del Ciompi is full of collector’s memorabilia.

✱ MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY –  One of the most impressive ethnological collections of cultural artifacts from around the world is hidden away in the storied streets of Florence. With 18 rooms filled with some of mankind’s most precious treasures, it is a celebration of diversity through time and space. (Via del Proconsolo 12)

✱ SALVATORE FERRAGAMO FLAGSHIP STORE – No fashionista should miss out on the exclusive tour led by an extended family member of the Ferragamo family ⁠—apparently, his grandmother occupies the second floor of the building. (Via de’ Tornabuoni, 4r/14r, 50123)

✱ SAN MINIATO AL MONTE –  For those needing a way to fight off the inevitable carb overload, a scenic run uphill to the small church is a sure way to keep you feeling motivated!

✱ MERCATO NUOVOFind the Porcellino Statue (The Bronze Pig) and place a coin inside its mouth. If (or when) the coin falls into the grating below, you are granted good luck. This coin tradition has been carried on for centuries.

✱ LEGATORIA DI LIBRI FIRENZE – A father and son’s studio, making handmade books and marbled paper using the Turkish marbling method, where paper is immersed in a dye-filled water. (Via Romana, 58, 50125)

 

LOOKING FOR THE PARTY?

  • Tenax (Via Pratese, 46, 50145)
  • Yab Glamour Club (Via dè Sassetti, 5-r, 50123)
  • Space Electronic (Via Palazzuolo, 37, 50123)
  • Club TwentyOne (Via dei Cimatori, 13)
  • 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:

8 Things You Need To Know Before You Study Abroad in Florence

13 Signs You Studied Abroad in Florence, Italy

13 Things You Learn Studying Abroad in Italy

👉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

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Millette Pulido is a Bay Area-based, Boston-bred Filipina who loves to vagabond. At 29, the former expat has traded in her nomadic ways for a semi-grounded life in San Jose, CA. Recently married, she's focusing on balancing travel with a full-time job and a destination wedding side hustle, all while planning her honeymoon in 2020. She lives for good times, good food, and good peeps. Find out her #wheretonext on Instagram @thenextsomewhere.

Comments:

  • Jenn

    February 12, 2016

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

    reply...
      • Jenn

        February 12, 2016

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

        reply...
  • Riz

    February 14, 2016

    Great Post! Stunning photos by the way. 🙂

    reply...
  • Adriana

    January 23, 2017

    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!

    reply...
  • January 23, 2017

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

    reply...
  • January 25, 2017

    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!

    reply...

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