What to do in Florence is a loaded question.
It’s a bit like asking, “What would you like to do when you grow up?”
There’s a severe problem with that question: it’s way too expansive.
I’m guessing you just have a few days in Florence, so this is designed for you.
I wanna save you 10 hours on the Google, right now.
It’s fun to research your plans for what to do in Florence but at one point you have to stop. Close the screen. Go to bed.
Researching online can be incredible time consuming. It can also lead to pre-trip stress that you’re not gonna “find the good stuff”. Don’t worry. We’re gonna make sure you do.
Right now I’m gonna give you something really groovy:
10 awesome ideas for what to do in Florence.
People pay thousands of dollars to spend the week with me on my small group trips to Italy – and I share with them the same things I’m gonna share with you right now.
This cheat sheet is my list of personal recommendations that are tried and true.
It’s low on museum lineups but high on style.
Let’s get started.
What to do in Florence: Fix 1
Wake up early and go for a walk.
I love San Miniato al Monte, a church built on the highest point in the city. The views are incredible, better than Piazzale Michelangelo, and way less crowded. Even though it’s rated on Trip Advisor as the number one thing to do in Florence, it’s incredibly peaceful. Walk down the steps towards the rose garden and eat lunch at Il Rifrullo in the hidden back garden.
What to do in Florence: Fix 2
Hang out in Piazza Santo Spirito.
Piazza Santo Spiritio is the heart of my favourite neighbourhood in Florence – it’s across the river, known as Oltrarno, and it still has a neighbourhood feel. Have an aperitivo at Volume and eat at Osteria Santo Spirito. Sleep in the gorgeous 16th century palace-cum-hotel Palazzo Guadagni which has an incredible wrap around “loggia” that overlooks the piazza. Don’t miss this warm heartbeat of Florence.
What to Do in Florence: Fix 3
Get your shop on across the river in Oltrarno.
The neighbourhoods of San Niccolo, San Frediano and the area around Santo Spirito are less bling and more groove. Transport yourself to another world in Alessandro Dari’s jewellery and metal sculptures studio. I love it when he blasts the opera. Then cruise your buns down to Via dei Serragli and see what Anthroplogy is trying hard to be but will never succeed at in the amazing interior/art cave of Luca. Next door you have an architectural salvage store and a vintage clothing store, Albrici & Paderni. By then you’ll be on a hot roll and can stumble into Ceri vintage; playground of cool Japanese kids with a penchant for dirty vintage work wear. Who knew? Circle back to Via Santo Spirito and drop by Prive, a micro shop with frocks galore. Angela Caputi’s costume jewellery studio is also adorable. Then slump down and eat something delicious at my fave foodie spot in that zone: Il Santino. All addresses below.
What to Do in Florence: Fix 4
Walk the 463 stairs to the top of the Duomo.
The only thing I’ll stand in line for in Florence, besides gelato, is going to the top of Brunelleschi‘s “La Cupola”. It’s bangin’ gorgeous up there. Bring your camera. And your flats. And then get smug you’ve just stairmastered your way through the Renaissance version of Buns of Steel. The opening hours of the cupola are Monday to Friday from 8:30 – 6:30 Saturday 8:30 – 5:40 and it’ll set you back 8 euro.
What to Do in Florence: Fix 5
Escape to the countryside.
It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in all the small streets of the city and not see the surrounding zone. Mistake! If you’ve got a few days in Florence spend half a day in the surrounding hills on a day tour. The peeps at 500 Touring Club Firenze will show you how to drive a vintage Fiat, or you can work off last nights gnocchi with Tuscany Bike Tours as you cycle through olive groves. Eat more and learn Tuscan cooking with Jul’s Kitchen. Wanna escape to a place without train service like Sienna or San Gimignano but don’t have wheels? Call my man Fabrizio to organize his private driver service. Addresses below.
What to Do in Florence: Fix 6
Get your market on.
The market of San Lorenzo is best cruised in the morning. Peek inside the food market called mercato centrale (closed after lunch) to stock up on gifties for home, then hit the stalls in the streets to gawk at leather bags in every colour of the rainbow. Bring your camera and some cash – cause you’re gonna want both. For lunch fill your face with delicious cheap eats at Da Nerbone inside mercato centrale.
What to Do in Florence: Fix 7
People watch at night perched on a bridge over the river.
Listen up: if you’re going to Florence with your sweetheart then go make out on the bridge. My favourite bridges are Ponte alla Carraia or Ponte Santa Trinita (just for hanging out, not making out). Of course Ponte Vechio is the natural choice too. Indulge in a late night gelato session (especially if you’re not making out — cause you still need some sweetness too). There are gelaterias on the Oltrarno side of the river at the end of all three bridges.
Do in Florence: Fix 8
Drink awesome coffee in pretty places.
Of course Florence is chockers with groovy places to worship the religion that is caffeine. Like, where do I start? My bud Freya took me to Roberto Cavalli’s cafe just off swish Tornabuoni — fun to people watch. Of course there is also the Gucci cafe (no explanation needed I think). Then there is the awesome rooftop patio of the department store La Rinascente that has a view over the piazza. That’s a great place for a breather. Remember, sitting down at the tables will cost you more than standing up at the bar in many Italian coffee bars. Addresses below.
What to Do in Florence: Fix 9
Don’t go to bed early.
Italy is not the place to get much sleep. Nightlife in Florence is something you shouldn’t miss; so stay awake and see the fun. Summer nights are spent hanging in the piazza and drinking wine in plastic cups on the sidewalk (everywhere). Winters are spent at cozy concerts inside (in winter go to Caffè degli Artigiani). If you turn into a pumpkin after 10 pm drink an espresso after dinner and jump into the spirit of a youthful Italy that is full of laughter,cocktails and extremely out of tune guitar playing on the steps of Piazza Santo Spirito.
What to Do in Florence: Fix 10
Eat your face off
I’m a picky bitch when it comes to eating out. I spend a crazy amount of time getting my dinner itineraries just right when I host my group trips to Italy; I read all sorts of reviews, books in different languages and always ask the shopkeepers in each city I go, “Dove si mangia bene?” Then I go and check it out. Is it pretty? Does the staff annoy me? Is the food great or just ho-hum? If the vibe is good and they don’t rip me off then I tell the world. Like I’m about to do right now. Here’s my current hotlist of 2013: Il Santo Bevitore, La Casalinga, Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, Il Vico del Carmine, Osteria Santo Spirito, Osteria di Giovanni, Hosteria il Desco, Ristorante Accademia (try their wine and dine menu). Addresses below. Don’t miss my other recs at Restaurants in Florence.
Your Florence cheat sheet:
Il Rifrullo, Via di San Niccolò, 55r (lunch buffet in the hidden back garden)
Osteria Santo Spirito, Piazza Santo Spirito (massive portions and al fresco dining)
Il Santo Bevitore, or sister small spot Il Santino next door, 64/65r (always awesome)
La Casalinga, Via dè Michelozzi, 9R (in business for 50 years cause they offer killer value)
Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, Borgo san Jacopo, 43r (trad Tuscan specializing in wild boar)
Osteria di Giovanni, Via del Moro 22r (a famous Florence eatery)
Hosteria il Desco, Via delle terme, 23r (right near ponte vechio with a gluten free menu too)
Ristorante Accademia, Piazza San Marco 7R (steps from Accademia where THE David lives)
Da Nerbone, mercato centrale (lunch doesn’t get any faster/or cheaper/or better)
Il Vico del Carmine, Via Pisana 40r (pizza place in Oltrarno)
Want more? See my complete list of Restaurants in Florence.
Drinks + coffee
Volume. Piazza Santo Spirito 5 (adorable people and great interior)
Caffè degli Artigiani, Piazza della Passera (live music all winter)
Caffe Giocosa, Roberto Cavalli’s cafe, 10R Via Della Spada (hot barmen, not that I was looking)
La Rinascente, Piazza della Repubblica 1, (take a load off on the rooftop patio of this department store)
Gucci Caffe, Via Tornabuoni 73r – 81r, (serves food and wifi too)
My shopping list for Oltrarno/San Frediano/Santo Spirito:
Alessandro Dari, Via San Niccolo 115/R (metal alchemist not to be missed)
Luca, Via Dei Serragli, 16/R (reclaimed and restored furniture and art)
Albrici & Paderni, Via dei Serragli 20-22/R (antiques and architectural salvage)
Ceri Vintage, Via dei Serragli 26/R
Angela Caputi, Via S. Spirito, 58/R (costume jewelry)
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Palazzo Guadagni, Piazza Santo Spirito 9
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