Choose Your Own Adventure in... Florence, Italy
Updated: 7 days ago
Florence is not just a city; it’s an experience – a love affair that captures your heart and refuses to let go.
What makes Florence irresistible? Perhaps it’s the city’s rich history, where every corner seems to whisper stories of the past. Walking through its streets feels like stepping back in time, surrounded by architectural marvels and grand palaces that once housed powerful families like the Medici and renaissance masters like Michelangelo and Da Vinci.
But Florence isn’t just a city frozen in the past; it’s a vibrant and lively place that pulsates with energy. The narrow alleys are a discovery for boutiques, cafes, and markets where artisans display their craft. The aromas of a crispy panino, frothy espresso, and mouthwatering gelato fill the air, tempting your senses at every turn.
Florence is a magical city to visit; whether you are planning a trip with your girlfriends, celebrating a romantic anniversary, looking for adventure, or if you have kids in tow, Florence is for everyone. Here are my recommendations based on your travel style.
Adventurous and Active
Surrounded by the rolling hills of Tuscany and a city layered in history, Florence is a great place to visit for the adventure minded.
Rent a Vespa at Florence Station Rental and scoot across the Tuscan countryside. With little opportunity to brush up on motor biking skills, you’ll jump right into the action as you zip through the city and leave the chaos behind as the road leads to the sleepy Chianti town of Impruneta, a great stop for gelato or aperitivo. I recommend timing your vespa trip around sunset and watch the magic hour dance it’s golden spotlight on the rows of Chianti vineyards blanketing the rolling hills.
Grab an iced cappuccino and pastry before a short panoramic hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo for spectacular views of the city. Then, keep going towards the direction, up, and find the basilica, Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte standing atop the highest point in the city. You’ll be greeted by demanding stairs that lead you to the basilica dating back to 1013 and a marble scroll with the words “This is the Gate of Heaven.” Inside, the floor is a delicate lace inlay of worn marble. Don’t forget to look up at the colorful ceiling of hand painted wooden beams. Work your way outside in the back, the whole complex is a fortress created by Michelangelo himself. Save time to wander through the ornate cemetery of mausoleums and noble chapels ornate and as sizeable as a palace. As you walk down the cobbled streets, you can’t help but compare it to what could be the posh Mayfair Street of the afterlife.
Climb the 463 stairs to Brunelleschi's Dome, a masterpiece in art and ingenuity. The dome remained unfinished for over a century because of a building that was too massive for its time. Ascending the dome is an adventure in itself. As you climb the narrow staircase, you’ll catch glimpses of the intricate frescoes that adorn the inner surface, depicting scenes for the Last Judgment and the Paradise. The panoramic views from the top are breathtaking, offering a sweeping vista of Florence’s historic center and the picturesque Tuscan landscape beyond.
Tip: I recommend making a reservation in advance as lines form around the duomo early which takes precious time from your trip to wait.
Art and Culture:
Discover your appreciation for Michelangelo’s craft as you contemplate and feel the emotion of his Prisoners at the Galleria dell'Accademia. If you don’t blink, perhaps you can see a muscle twitch as the powerful postures of these great statues attempt to free themselves from the bonds and weight of the marble.
Tour the Medici and Inferno at the Palazzo Vecchio and maybe you’ll unlock a Da Vinci Code mystery. This medieval fortress, now a museum, was built on top of an ancient theatre dating back to the first century AD. Then, later was the residence to Cosimo l de’ Medici, a governing body of Florence, and a prison. Visiting the hall of maps, which were painted on leather, is a glimpse of the world as it was known in the 1500s. The Hall of the Five Hundred, built in 1494 with breathtaking murals and ceiling panels, was appointed by both Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Can you imagine the rivalry or camaraderie if they were co-workers? Unfortunately, Michelangelo never finished. You’ll find hidden paths in the chambers that lead to secret rooms and escape routes. If museums aren’t your thing, check out the beautiful courtyard with ornate frescos and detailed columns for free.
Food and Drink:
Eat an authentic Florentine steak, cut tableside at Regina Bistecca. Florentine Bistecca is a thick-cut T-bone steak, typically sourced from locally raised Chianina cattle. Don’t be surprised if the juicy, flavorful meat is served to you rare.
The Babae wine window was used to avoid paying taxes and used to sell wine during the epidemic of 1630. Now, it’s a fun novelty to order your glass of Brunello wine. The food here is homemade, fresh, and delicious.
If you're seeking a breathtaking coastal escape of unparalleled natural beauty, then a day trip to the Cinque Terre is an absolute must. Only a two and a half hour train ride from Florence, this collection of five picturesque fishing villages along the Italian Riviera will leave you spellbound with their colorful houses, rugged cliffs, and crystal-clear waters of the Ligurian Sea.
The Cinque Terre is a paradise for outdoor and hiking enthusiasts. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on the renowned Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail), a network of scenic trailsthat winds its way through the villages and offers awe-inspiring views at every turn. The trail connects each of the five villages, allowing you to explore the rugged coastal cliffs, hidden coves, and lush olive groves. For a shorter hike, consider the picturesque trail from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare, which rewards you with stunning panoramas and the chance to dip your toes in the refreshing Mediterranean waters. By the afternoon, the Sea will be calling you for a swim at the local beach club in Monterosso al Mare. Grab a seat outside for an informal lunch at Cantina di Miky, a stone’s throw from the beach.
I recommend staying in the Oltrarno, on the other side of the Arno. This area has a local vibe of proud artisans. A couple options are the ultra-luxury Hotel Lungarno location on the Arno River, or the high-end boutique hotel Oltrarno Splendid, tucked away for a more intimate escape.
Florence offers activities and sites that will entertain and educate kids of all ages. Whether they remember eating all the gelato or giggling at the plethora of nude sculptures, it will be a trip they will never forget.
Florence is a muse for creating and transforming your imagination into any form of art. Sign-up for a Florentine Paper Marbling workshop at Riccardo Luci. You can choose from a variety of vibrant colors and patterns and will make a one-of-a-kind masterpiece with the help of 3rd generation bookbinder, Riccardo himself. Turn your creation into a souvenir that you can take home like a journal, picture frame, or stationery.
The Boboli Garden is a playground of wonders that captivates the imaginations of children with its sprawling green spaces, hidden corners, and fascinating sculptures. Let their imaginations run wild as they roam through the 11 acres of lawns and tree-lined paths. The vast open spaces provide the perfect canvas for children to play games and unleash their energy, the freedom of being outdoors surrounded by nature.
Art and Culture:
At the Leonardo Interactive Museum, families can play with Leonardo Da Vinci’s real working machines and engineering designs that he shared in his notebooks, now called “codes,” which he left to future generations to decipher.
Arte dei Ciompi is a craft shop of homemade gifts made with traditional methods that offer wood, leather, and paper products that kids will cherish. You can find something for lovers of art, magic, music, Pinocchio, and whimsy.
Food and Drink:
Satisfy everyone’s taste buds, even the picky eaters, at the Mercato Centrale. Located in the San Lorenzo neighborhood, surrounded by pop-up market stalls selling leather goods. Walk up to the second floor where you’ll find over two dozen food vendors offering everything from pizza, Chinese dumplings, to American BBQ. Order your food at the stall, find a community table, and your meal will be delivered to you.
Ino is a contemporary panino shop just steps from the Uffizzi Gallery. Enjoy a crusty panino with the freshest mozzarella, pesto, and cured meats. This is a hidden spot with quick service and beats the crowded panino shops around the city.
You’ll find pizza options dotted around Florence, but my favorite is Gusta Pizza in my favorite neighborhood, San Spirito. This is a shaded piazza for kids to run around safely at the end of the day.
Gelato is a delicious remedy for a long day of sightseeing. If Florence claims to be the birthplace of this sweet, creamy, frozen, treat, then I recommend making the effort to try as many flavors as you can. Here are my favorite gelaterias: La Carraia, Venchi, and Vivoli.
Only an hour and a half train ride from Florence, Lucca is the perfect town to escape the crowds and to view gothic architecture, frozen in time. Once off the train, you’ll walk through the massive fortress walls that were built to protect the city. Now, you can rent bikes and have a leisure ride on top of the wall, overlooking the city below. Climb Torre Guinigi, shaded by a large oak tree at the top that will reward you with 360-degree views of the city.
Lucca is also known for its musical heritage, and the birthplace of opera composer, Giacomo Puccini. Every summer, the city comes alive with the Lucca Summer Festival, hosting world-renowned musicians and bands in its historic square and venues. It’s an opportunity to enjoy live music in a unique setting with family.
Consider renting an apartment in the city which offers more space, and conveniences like a kitchen and laundry. I personally had a wonderful experience staying with my family at the Design Apartments Florence, Olivia Apartment with a roof top patio. It was perfectly situated between the Duomo and San Lorenzo District, and only a 7-minute walk from the train station.
What Women Want
Florence exudes an ethereal presence of femininity and grace. A muse for art and design that can be appreciated on a girl’s trip to this beautiful city.
Shopping in Florence is therapy for those who want to enhance all the senses. Touch and smell genuine leather at the Scuola de Cuoio Ponte Vecchio, where you can peek inside the studios to see the process of handcrafted handbags and even get your initials inscribed on your purchase in gold.
Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, founded by Dominican friars shortly after 1221. This is the most beautiful store, in my opinion, and the products are just as special.
Ginori has a rich heritage dating back to 1735 and is a prominent brand synonymous for exquisite porcelain and timeless elegance. Step into the flagship store in Florence and prepare to be captivated by the beauty and craftmanship of the rooms, designed to mimic an elegant home.
Art and Culture:
Nestled in the heart of Florence, Gucci Garden, is a unique and captivating museum that celebrates the iconic fashion house's rich history, creativity, and artistic collaborations. Step into a world where fashion, art, and design intertwine, immersing yourself in an exquisite journey through the evolution of Gucci's legendary style. Make your way up to the 2nd floor where you will find an array of carefully curated displays that tell the brand's story through a combination of vintage garments, accessories, photographs, and multimedia installations. Don’t forget to visit the bookstore and boutique on the ground floor and find a Gucci branded keepsake that you’ll only find here.
A visit to the Pitti Palace in Florence is an unforgettable journey through time and art. The museum houses the Costume Gallery, a treasure trove of fashion history. Discover an extensive collection of costumes, accessories, and textiles spanning several centuries, showcasing the evolution of fashion and style through time. From sumptuous Renaissance garments to glamorous 20th-century couture, this gallery offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of fashion.
Food and Drink:
La Menagere, is not just a café or a restaurant – it's an immersive lifestyle concept that effortlessly combines gastronomy, design, and art. Step inside this elegant space and prepare to be enchanted by its unique blend of sophistication, creativity, and relaxed charm. As you enter, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a beautifully curated selection of home decor, plants, and flowers, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. The attention to detail is evident in every corner, with vintage furniture, eclectic art installations, and natural light pouring in through the large windows. At night, the space is transformed by candlelight. The intricate crystal and craft cocktails sparkle, maintaining joyful conversations while a pianist enchants the night. Here, memories are made to last a lifetime.
La Terazza offers a truly unforgettable rooftop dining experience. Perched atop one of Florence’s most prestigious hotels. Toast to girl time with breathtaking panoramic views of the city’s iconic landmarks.
You’re in Tuscany so it only makes sense to embark on an unforgettable girls' day trip from Florence and immerse yourselves in the enchanting world of Tuscan wine. I recommend signing up for a small group tour of the Chianti region and San Gimignano or Siena if you have a full day. Engage in interactive tastings, allowing your palate to be tantalized by the rich flavors and aromas of renowned varietals such as Sangiovese, Chianti, and Brunello di Montalcino. Indulge your senses, savor exquisite flavors, and create lasting memories with your closest friends as you explore the scenic vineyards and wineries that surround the city.
Your accommodation should be relaxing with options to gather your group for intimate conversations. I recommend the Hotel Continentale in the heart of Florence. With 5 dining options including the hip rooftop bar and pool, this hotel is a social hub. It’s the perfect place to rejuvenate and enjoy a moment with friends amidst the vibrant energy of Florence.
In Love in Florence
Florence is one of the most romantic cities and an easy choice to celebrate with a loved one.
Learn how to make the perfect al dente tagliatelle pasta or wood fired pizza by signing-up for a cooking class and lunch at a Tuscan Farmhouse. Shop for fresh ingredients at a Florentine market before venturing to the home of an expert chef as you create Italian dishes from scratch. Then sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor, complemented by Tuscan wine of course.
Explore the enchanted gardens of Giardino Bardini, a hidden gem that offers a peaceful green space with meticulous landscaped gardens and stunning views. Stroll under the iconic wisteria pergola and renaissance sculptures. One of the highlights is its breathtaking panoramic view of Florence. The garden also features a charming outdoor café where you can relax with an aperitivo or gelato and soak in the tranquility of your surroundings. If you’re visiting Florence in July or August, I recommend planning time for the outdoor cinema on the Belvedere Terrace overlooking the city.
Surprise your special someone with a gift on the Ponte Vecchio. This pedestrian bridge has housed shops since the 13th century. In 1593, goldsmiths and jewelers were only allowed to have shops on the bridge to improve the wellbeing of others and to kick out the unpleasant odors of the tanners, butchers, and fishmongers. As you stroll along the bridge, you’ll find shiny gold pieces and precious stones--a perfect gift for the one you love.
Art and Culture:
Visit the Galleria dell'Accademia museum’s true crown jewel, Michelangelo’s David. As you stand before this marble masterpiece, you’ll be in awe of its size, intricate details, and the sheer skill with which it was sculpted. It’s an experience that leaves an indelible impression, allowing you to appreciate the human anatomy and the genius of one of history’s greatest artists.
Discover the masterpieces at the Uffizi Gallery. Prepare to be enchanted by the works of legendary artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael, and Caravaggio. Wandering through the gallery's vast rooms, you'll encounter celebrated artworks like Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" and "Primavera," Michelangelo's "Tondo Doni," and Leonardo da Vinci's enigmatic "Annunciation." Each masterpiece tells a story, reflecting the genius and artistic vision of its creator. Beyond the breathtaking paintings, the Uffizi Gallery offers breathtaking views of Florence from its rooftop terrace. Take a moment to soak in the panorama, with the Arno River flowing gracefully through the city and the majestic Duomo dominating the skyline. It's a picturesque vantage point that adds an extra touch of magic to your visit.
Food and drink:
At Il Barretto, prepare to be enveloped in an ambiance of timeless charm and understated luxury. The bar's intimate setting, with its cozy seating, soft lighting, and elegant décor, creates an inviting atmosphere that beckons you to unwind and immerse yourself in a world of refined indulgence.
Indulge your taste buds at the Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, the museum's exquisite restaurant. Led by three-Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura, the restaurant serves up a culinary journey inspired by Italian traditions and flavors. Delight in inventive dishes that reflect the Gucci spirit and philosophy, ensuring a feast for both the eyes and the palate.
Visit the elegant and historical Cantinetta Antinori wine bar. As part of the esteemed Antinori family’s wine empire, this establishment celebrates the rich heritage of Italian winemaking and offers a glimpse into the world of wine through its cellar and tasting experience. Explore the historic wine cellar, which houses a vast collection of Antinori wines, and learn about the family’s winemaking legacy. Engage in a wine tasting session led by expert sommeliers, where you can deepen your appreciation for the flavors, aromas, and nuances of Tuscan wines.
Florence, the enchanting city of art and culture, offers not only its own breathtaking sights but also serves as a gateway to the stunning Tuscan countryside. If you're seeking a romantic escape from the bustling city, a day trip to the charming villages of