Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region of Italy. It is well known for its wine production and its Renaissance masterpieces.
I have stayed both in the centre of the city and on the outskirts of the city. Both are good in their different ways. Staying in the city centre is very expensive however everything is on your doorstep. However there is no escaping the constant chaos of the city, this is where staying slightly out of the centre has its perks. You can relax and explore the quiet streets with the city only a short metro ride away and save a lot on the hotel room too.
Dominating the skyline is the Duomo, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church in Florence. One of the best places to view the Duomo is from Piazzale Michelangelo.
The Piazzale is up a hill on the south side of the river, there is also a replica of David by Michelangelo up here
Heading back down the hill you will probably stumble over the Ponte Vecchio.
This bridge spans the Arno River and is most famous for having jewellery shops built along it.
Back over the river you will notice the huge number of designer stores. Armani, Valentino, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, you will find them all. If shopping is your thing you will be in heaven! One of the most prestigious streets is Via de Tornabuoni, you will find most for the designer stores on this road.
Elsewhere in the city, there are countless stores many selling leather goods, jewellery and clothes. Florence really is a shopper’s paradise!!
If shopping isn’t your bag then there is plenty of art in this city to amaze for hours.
In Piazza Duomo you will find the previously mentioned Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. When you are stood next to this architectural masterpiece you will realise how big it actually is.
On the hour, the bells from the tower chime and ring throughout the square and neighbouring streets.
You can climb to the top of the Duomo but if you want to do this I would recommend getting up early and getting in line before it opens or going later in the day just before it shuts as queues around midday are about a quarter mile long and four wide! Or even better you could buy a skip the line ticket online if you knew when you wanted to visit.
Piazza della Signoria is another square in the centre of the city.
In this square is another replica of David and other stunning sculptures along with Palazzo Vecchio, an art gallery that is full of Italian history. The entrance prices are quite high and there is quite a queue to climb the bell tower but the view was definitely worth it.
Close to the main train station is Basilica di Santa Maria Novella a 15th century church.
A lot of street musicians set up in this square and as the square is bordered with cafes and restaurants where else is better to enjoy a coffee or glass of Italian wine and watch the world go by?
And on the subject of food…. You simply cannot go wrong anywhere in Florence.
If you eat in one of the squares then the food will be slightly more expensive than on the side streets but the price is not extortionate
In the time I have spent in Florence I have never had a bad meal. Between stonebaked pizzas, freshly made pasta dishes or meat and fish, they have all been fantastic.
My personal favourite is the Italian delicacy gelato. Don’t go mistaking this with ice cream though or you will have a lot of upset Italians on your hands! Everywhere you look there will be a café or gelato parlour selling huge varieties of flavours. The prices aren’t low but the portions aren’t small either.
One thing to note in Florence, you will get hassled by street sellers and beggars a lot! As rude it may seem the best way for them to leave you alone is to point blank ignore them, if you acknowledge their presence they will continue to bother you until you have either given them money or bought something.
There are also illegal sellers on the streets of Florence. These tend to be the people selling from a sheet on the pavement or from a cardboard pop up stall. They sell counterfeit designer bags, phone chargers and sunglasses. I definitely would not recommend buying anything from them.
You will find the pavements in Florence are very narrow and you will end up walking in the road for a lot of the time. You may get beeped at by cars for doing this but they aren’t being aggressive they are simply letting you know they are there. The horn is used in a friendly way in Italy (for a lot of the time anyway)
Easter is a particularly special time to visit Florence as Italy has such a high Catholic population.
On Easter Sunday at 10am at Piazza del Duomo there is a celebration called Scoppio del Carro (explosion of the cart). It is a 350 year old tradition where a dove shaped rocket flies down a wire outside the church towards an elaborately decorated wagon built two to three stories high and rigged with fireworks. When the dove collides with the cart it sets off the spectacular firework display and a good harvest is ensured for the year ahead.
After the firework display, a procession of local people in traditional dress takes place throughout the Florentine streets. For the following few hours after the celebration the drum beats and trumpets can be heard echoing the city.
As we were walking down the street after all the festivities had ended, or so we thought, we heard a lot of whistling and then four GIANT oxen came walking towards us. I still haven’t found out why but it sums up Easter Sunday in Florence, perfect chaos!
Florence is a great Easter weekend away. Great traditions have been kept and hopefully they will continue for the years to come.
A couple of days is a perfect amount of time to spend in this gorgeous city. If you are traveling to Italy for longer then visiting Pisa, Rome or Venice is easily possible using the trains within a couple of hours.