By Rachel Sandall
To me, Italy represents all that is right in the world. Good food, warm people, fine art, a love for fashion and a passion for quality, Italy is as close to paradise as this earth offers. I lived there for five months in college and have taken numerous Italian vacations, I feel confident it’s not the rose colored glasses talking…I truly believe Italy is one of the best places in the world!
It’s been said by a very wise soul (the amazing Rick Steves) that if you can only visit one European country, Italy should be it. A trip to Italy provides everything most Americans are looking for in their European getaway, it’s got the history, the art and of course the food…oh, the food….and one of the best cities in Italy is definitely Florence. Florence is one of the most touristy places in the world, but it’s charm and beauty more than make up for it. A visit to this Renaissance capital offers you the chance to walk the same streets as Michelangelo, to examine the drawings of Davinci and to be seduced by Tuscan wine, gelato and the art of la dolce vita.
Here’s my honeymooners guide to enjoying Florence…
The Uffizi. I’m not much of a museum person, but even I can appreciate that at the Uffizi, you are truly standing in the presence of genius. This is the oldest museum in the Western World and is the home of all the great paintings you grew up learning about in school. A must see!
Galleria dell’ Accademia. This houses what I consider to be the finest piece of art in the world, Michelangelo’s David. Very few pieces of art will take my breath away, but the David is as close to perfection as I’ve seen. It seems blasphemous to call it a statue, but technically that’s what it is. Sculpted out of marble each vein, tendon and muscle is perfectly proportioned and life like, as if any second David is going to come off his platform to take on Goliath. My advice is to visit the Uffizi first, because nothing measures up after seeing David!
The Duomo. The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is a pillar of the Florence skyline. Almost anywhere you go in Florence, this massive gothic style cathedral is visible. The dome on the cathedral has remained one of the tallest in the world since 1436, when it was built. It’s easy to see how the fathers of the Renaissance might have been inspired by this incredible structure, and since the church is open for visitors (and you can even climb to the top!) you too, can be inspired!
The Piazza della Signoria. One of the best ways to experience Florence is simply to wander around the narrow alleys and enjoy the many piazzas, the most famous one being, The Piazza della Signoria. This square is decorated with statues by some of the most famous artists in Florentine history, and is the heart of the city.
Ponte Vecchio. Chances are if you’ve seen a picture of Florence it was probably of the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s only surviving Medieval bridge. Here you will find one of the best views in the whole city, maybe all of Italy…maybe even the whole world!
Where to stay:
Here are my favorite two hotels in Florence!
Since 1903, Grand Hotel Baglioni has been an integral part of Florentine life. This lush hotel has provided lodging for rulers, heads of state, artists, intellectuals and travelers the world over. Although the building dates back to the early 19th century, there is no lack of modern conveniences, a stay here is truly luxurious.
This might be the best hidden gem in Florence. Tucked neatly in the center of Florence, lies one of the most stylish boutique hotels I’ve ever seen, the perfect juxtaposition of old world charm and modern sophistication. Even though we were staying in one of the most chic places in all of Tuscany, with just 20 rooms, the staff manage to stay true to Italian hospitality.
What to Eat:
Each town or city in Italy has a speciality, don’t leave Florence without trying these…
Bistecca alla Fiorentina- A huge slab of high quality beef seared on the outside (this steak changed my husband’s life forever, not even joking…)
Crostini- This is a starter of small toasted pieces of bread with various spreads including crostini Tuscani which is liver pate.
Gelato- You’ll find amazing gelato anywhere in Italy, but in Florence, you’ll find gelato on a whole other level!
Want more Italian travel tips? Check out our Travel Guide to Tuscany!