Right, 3 months living in this wonderful city and I’m ready to put out a full travel guide for Florence, Italy. And by “Full travel guide” I mean things I’ve found useful and deemed worth sharing 🙂 I’m going to break down my guide into 1. Morning, 2. Afternoon and 3. Evening… And within these breakdowns I’ll include general note worthy points, foods and/or places worth noting and phrases that might be useful. Sound good? Keep reading…
La Mattina (The Morning)
- Whilst living in Italy I immersed myself in the culture, and that meant embracing the coffee culture. Italians drink coffee as much as us Brits drink tea, which is quite a lot. Be warned, there are some rules to follow:
- The breakfast is light – usually a coffee drink, and a pastry of some sort.
- If you want a cappuccino then take it only before noon – Italians frown upon milk based beverages after noon.
- Espresso is okay any time of day, it’s drank usually standing up and within 5 mins of receiving it. So far so good?
- If you want a “proper” breakfast, my 2 favourites are La Menagere (north of river) and Ditta Artigianale (south of river). Both serve top notch coffee and breakfasts including pancakes, eggs, bacon etc. as well as having a nice ambiance.
- In terms of site-seeing, I will space them out over the three sections but you are of course free to do them in any order:
- Ponte Vecchio – Literal translation is “old bridge”. Famous for selling high-end jewellery and having nice views of the River Arno.
- Palazzo Pitti – Palace of the Medici Family. If you don’t know who they are it’s worth doing some research, they basically ran Florence!
- Useful Phrases: Boungiorno (Good morning), Ciao (Hi-informal), Prendo un caffe (I’ll take one coffee-espresso), Per favore (Please), Grazie (Thank you). I think that pretty much sums up the morning phrases. Oh quick word of warning, if you order in Italian and ask for a “latte” you will be served MILK. If you want a latte coffee, then ask for a caffe latte!
Il Pomeriggio (The Afternoon)
- Okay so you’ve had some breakfast, strolled around the city a little bit, time for lunch! It’s hard to list the “good restaurants” because, it’s Italy. But I can give you some pointers, and of course some of my favourites but believe me there is so much more:
- There is a difference between ristorante, osteria, and trattoria. If you want a great quality, great service, fancy meal (with a fancy a$$ price) then ristorante is an “elegant” choice. Next is osteria which offer great food for a more “economic” price. And lastly a trattoria is a small, family run business that servers regional dishes, similar to an osteria. I usually eat at an osteria or trattoria because I am a student and the food is arguably just as good as a ristorante, just not as pretty 😉
- In terms of recommendations, my favourite place is to go to Mercato Centrale (Central Market). This place has a food court on the first floor which is not a normal food court. It is all fresh dishes made from the fresh ingredients found in the farmers market on the ground floor. From pasta, to panino, to Japanese dumplings, to pizza (going back to embracing Italian culture, Italians don’t usually eat pizza for lunch, but do you boo). Honourable mentions; All’Antico Vinaio (famous sandwich place, expect long queue), Pasta Fresca (great, cheap pasta – found on ground floor of mercato centrale) and lastly I nearly forgot the gelato. OMG the gelatoooooo! It’s basically all good, but my FAVEEEEE is La Carraia! Fresh, amazing and cheap, best combo right? Also good ones are Vivoli, Venchi and just any that says “gelato artigianale”. Buonisimo!
- Continuing site-seeing items, I know you’ve got a full belly right now but power through it:
- Palazzo Vecchio – The town square. one of the best tours in the city so worth checking out, also fun fact; it can be rented for weddings (for a price!). And has a replica of Michelangelo’s David if you don’t fancy going to the Academia for the real thing (worth it IMO)
- Uffizi Gallery – Famous art gallery, filled with art left by the Medici family mentioned earlier. Even if you’re not into art, there’s some stunning pieces worth seeing.
- The Duomo – You might have seen this once or twice somewhere. Duomo is the main Church of a city, and Florence’s has a district looking one with it’s famous dome. For 15EUR you can climb the dome, go into the cathedral, climb the bell tower and visit the museum. A must.
- Piazzale Michelangelo – the picture above, yea, that’s from this famous square. You get the best views of the city from here. You should either go when the sun is out and enjoy a gelato and chill… or you should go in time for sunset and take in the red, yellow and purples over the views of the Duomo.
- Useful Phrases: Ciao (still works). Prendo un coppa OR cono (cup or cone for ice-cream), Posso avere due gusti? (Can I have 2 flavours?), Per favore (as before), Grazie (as before). Still with me?
La Sera (The Evening)
- Okay we’re into the home stretch. Again I’m going to start with food because, you know, Italy:
- Apperitivo – this is basically happy hour. You can find a small bar that does apperitivo, and this is usually 8-10EUR which includes 1 drink/cocktail and all you can eat buffet. This can be used as an appetiser before a bigger meal else where, or for a student life like mine, this is a great place to seriously have “ALL you can eat”.
- Dinner. Now. This can be complicated. Italians have a structure which is a little different to what you might be used to. These days it’s normally done on special occasions, but I’ll walk you through it anyway…
- Antipasto – the appetiser. This is usually a selection of regional meats and cheeses to have with your wine as your exchange pleasantries.
- Primo – the first course. This is usually a pasta based dish without any meat. So it may be some spaghetti with tomatoes or a risotto etc.
- Secondo – the second course. This is usually a meat based dish; some sort of chicken, beef or pork and is served with a salad or vegetables. Oh and don’t forget to pour another glass of wine. (Usually, either a primo or secondo is ordered instead of both, but see how you feel)
- Dolce – the sweets. For desert you can either have a fruit cup, some tiramisu, panna cotta etc.
- Caffè – yep even in the evening. Like I said, Italians drink a lot of coffee. This is absolutely an espresso as milk has no place in coffee after a meal like this.
- Digestivo – is the drink to conclude the meal. Drinks such as grappa, amaro or limoncello (my fav). Having one shot of any of these is supposed to “ease digestion” but I figure it’s just another excuse to drink! Salute!
- In terms of my favourite places, I love love love Torcicoda (which has a ristorante, osteria AND pizzeria), all great food and is near Santa Croce. I love going to Signorvino also, as it is right on the river, has a great selection of wine and good prices. Lastly, Trattoria die 13 Gobbi is exquisite and does a fantastic Florentine steak. That is by no means all of it, but some of my faves.
- Worth noting, a lot of restaurants close between lunch and dinner, some opening from 7-7.30pm onwards so check before you leave home hungry at 6pm! (Luckily apperitivos should be open this time if you need/want).
- Now there’s not much site-seeing happening at night, so let’s talk about nightlife:
- Santo Spirito – is a square south of the river where a lot of locals hang out. There are restaurants and bars all along the square.
- Santa Croce area – lots more bars around here, depending on what you’re after. Red Garter is a choice for tourists as it has karaoke, I’ve not met a single Italian who likes it, but it does seem to attract American and Latin American women, make of that what you will.
- Club scene there is Bamboo which I don’t recommend (again usually only American), there is Blue Velvet which can be fun on Tuesday (Latino night) but in terms of “proper” clubs there is Yab which is pretty nice, plays a mix of music and the VIP is not too expensive if you want to be separate from the riff raff.
- Useful Phrases: Buona Sera (good evening), Per qui (for here), Per porta via (for take away), Il conto per favore (the bill please), Buona serata (have a good evening). Want more phrases? If so, tell me what you want to know and I’ll add it in later!
That’s my brief(ish) guide of Florence. If you want more of an insight you can check out my vlogs which can give you a visual as well as the occasional shot of me trying to get some camera time 🙂 Let me know if this was useful and if you had others ideas that I’ve overlooked.. Ciao!