One of TRULY’s favourite occupations while on holiday is to find the most attractive things to do in any given location, no matter how esoteric or peculiar they may be. Florence, as it happens, has its fair share of must-do experiences, and they aren’t always the ones everybody knows about. But let’s try and keep it that way shall we.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or as you might like to call it, Florence Cathedral, is the most obvious one on the list. The iconic dome of which you’ll see on the front of just about every travel guide, so it might be a good idea to beat your fellow tourists by making an early visit.
Up next is Paszkowski – Florence’s rather glamorous destination for a spot of coffee. Fortunately the quality of the coffee (and the hot chocolate) matches the surroundings of this national monument, though the food is at times best avoided. Paszkowski is a very short walk from the cathedral.
Even if it isn’t a particularly sunny day, some of Italy’s best gelato can be found just south of the river. Gelateria Santa Trinita serves up the likes of mascarpone, fragola, and our favourite, cookies and cream. The ice cream here is so good you have to sit down for a while to think about it.
While enjoying your scoops, take some time to peruse the shops surrounding not just Palazzo Vecchio, but the streets that take you off into the quaintest parts of Florence as well. There you’ll find vendors selling fresh cheese, salami, wine, and olive oil to save for the larder at home.
credit: Franchesco Crippa
Of course there are other regions in Italy more famous for their pizza, but there exist restaurants in Florence producing stiff competition. It might arouse some controversy, but first among them is Gusta Pizza for its buzz, quick service, and bang for your buck. 6euros for a margarita? Surely not.
If you’re game for a post-diner stroll, then it’s worth reaching San Miniato al Monte which is, as the name suggests, perched on the top of a large hill. The basilica at the summit is often described as one of the most enchanting in Italy. What’s equally as impressive is the view back down onto Florence – a particularly dramatic sight at night.
credit: Ed Webster
The Boboli Gardens are worth including on your list of things to do, especially if you’re looking for some breathing space after wading through tourists on the Ponte Vecchio. The gardens are as good a location to repose as they are to see the rooftops of Florence and the Tuscan hills on the horizon.
Picking your way through the city you might discover lampredotto sandwich vendors on street corners. They are not to be ignored, because what they serve is tripe – a traditional peasant’s dish hot or cold, salty or not salty, in a toasted bun. They make for a tasty snack to say the least.
There’s an abundance of museums around Florence, but if you have a fear of crowds, the most intriguing of them might be La Specola. The museum is filled to the brim of curiosities from 300 years ago as well as various collections acquired by the Medici family. Just make sure you have your lunch beforehand, as the wax models can be quite perturbing to say the least.
credit: Stefano Costantini
A trip to Italy isn’t really complete without dabbling in some wine tasting. Tuscany is known to produce some of the finest reds outside of Bordeaux, and Cabernet Sauvignon has been growing in the region for a quarter of a millennium. In Florence, you’d want to go to the appropriately named Piazza del Vino to appreciate these prized grapes.