Get ready, guys. I know it’s been a while (I’m the worst) but I’ve been busy, needed more storage for photos, wanted to do this right, etc. Or, “yada yada yada” (lookin’ at you, George Costanza). Anyway. Florence.
My favorite city.
And not just “so far in the trip” or “in Italy.” Like, one of my Top Five Favorite Cities I’ve Ever Been To.
Instead of just vaguely going through everything we did, I also wanted to share some specifics, like the places we ate, the museums we went to, or the shops we visited. That way, if you ever go, you may find this post and my recommendations (or warnings) useful somehow :)
And without further ado, Firenze:
We arrived in Florence after an extremely relaxing day of traveling through the Italian countryside. We dropped our things off at our hotel (The Grand Hotel Mediterraneo, about a fifteen minute walk from the city center) and ventured to dinner (at a hole in the wall place that had creaky uneven floors, incredible vegetarian options, and a bathroom with a single lightbulb in the basement). Afterwards, most people went straight back to the hotel and to do laundry for the first time, but several of us headed towards the river instead. We watched the sunset and ran about this new and beautiful city, drinking in the easy and artsy atmosphere. Laundry could wait a day.When we finally did go back to the hotel, we found that there was a jazz concert in the park by the river next door. Still not sleepy, we joined others from our group and listened to music at picnic tables under the string lights outside.
The next day we went to lunch at La Cocotte, a cute little place a few blocks north of our hotel and close to the laundromat we had taken over that morning. Desperate for green food, I had a deliciously fresh salad…and some really yummy bread, even though by this point in the trip I had had so much bread that I wanted to punch it in the face. There weren’t many people there, as it was early for the locals’ lunchtime. The waiter was really friendly and excited to practice English with us. Even the decor was cute. Would recommend, especially if you want to do laundry.After laundry and lunch…we went shopping. Mostly window shopping, because everything was very expensive, we had limited luggage space, and it was still early in the trip.
Also, I was sick at this point, with whatever virus everyone had spread around our petri dish of a bus. My throat hurt and my voice was gone, so I mostly wanted cough drops. That was my primary mission. That and my weird contact solution that absolutely no one in Italy had carried thus far. Fortunately, I found both at a really random pharmacy in the middle of town.
It’s probably weird to have a favorite kind of cough drop, but mine is official the Ricola Elderflower one. I ate an entire bag in three days. I also drank a lot of orange juice and was able to wear contacts again for the first time in a ton of days.
After my foreign pharmacy success story, I was able to simply enjoy wandering into and out of rest of the shops we visited. They were all adorable, chic, beautiful, etc. Super inspiring if you’re one for window shopping and repurposing things for a fraction of the cost at somewhere like Goodwill, like I am.
Some of the plentiful and more boutiquey shops we went to were:
- Boutique NadinePictured below
- Super cute decor and displays
- City center prices though, lemme tell ya
- OVS Firenze Panzani
- …and a bunch more I swear, I just didn’t mark them on my map (sad face sorry y’all)
We did make a necessary pit-stops of course. Vivoli was a gelato shop that our Music professor highly recommended, claiming it was the best in the city. We had to determine that for ourselves. (The verdict: way overpriced but delicious nonetheless. The strawberry was incredible.)Paige wanted some more face scrub, so we went to LUSH too. It was in the city center, and it was absolutely beautiful. The women working there were only a couple years older than we were and were super nice and sassy and helpful. The colors kill me.Florence is also full of great vintage shops, just as our Art professor told us. So we hunted around for those too.
Vintage Chanel is still essentially Chanel-priced there, but was still really fun to look around some more hole-in-the-wall places where there is a single cashier up front wearing cat eye glasses, smoking a cigarette, and reading the newspaper.
- Ceri VintagePictured below
- Everything was very pretty but very expensive.
- Easy to get to
- Rock Bottom RecordsCity center essentially
- Kind of sketchy-looking on the outside, with black door frame covered in stickers and concrete steps cracked and falling apart
- Really cool record shop inside though
- Melrose Vintage StoreThis place was really far away and hard to get to. Wasn’t worth it.
- It did have Burberry trench coats and a lot of flannel though. Otherwise it had mostly guy’s clothes and cowboy boots. A little odd but if that’s your jam, the prices were decent.
- Lady B. Jane Vintage (might have been closed but if it was open it was unmemorable and had weird hours)
Things start closing at 5 pm, super annoyingly early as most cities we had visited thus far. All there really was to do, we found, was shop or visit museums and walk around eating gelato. And we had done that, tirelessly and happily, all afternoon.
Since stores and museums were not an evening option, we went to eat an early dinner instead. We ate deliciously fresh pizza and drank red wine (which was also probably really good but I’m not a fan) at a restaurant with cute table settings outside and a brewery in the basement. No idea what it’s called, but that’s definitely a way to pull in teenage white girl tourists (or at least, me): cute patterned dishes and nicely arranged outdoor ivy-covered patio tables.Afterwards, we wandered around the city some more. It was only eight o’clock or something, but the city was napping and eating and quiet. We found a park on the edge of the city and enjoyed the sunset for a bit.
Then we wandered back into the city towards the river (the best way to navigate here, I swear, especially since our hotel was right beside it). We listened to a street violinist play Tale as Old as Time, and it echoed amongst the ancient buildings romantically. We twirled and gave the pretty city a big ‘ol hug before returning to our rooms to get ready for another day of museums and sites and shops and adventures.
We woke up early and went into the city to climb El Duomo before our first class museum trip of the day. The city was already very much alive and awake~We didn’t realize that the site lines would be so crazy long, or that you had to reserve a spot to climb up because they only permit so many people to climb it per day. (So, tip, if you go, reserve it like three days before and get there way early.) Oh, also we were all wearing shorts and skirts. To go in the cathedral at all, ya gotta cover up.
In other words, we didn’t get to climb the cathedral dome. But we climbed the next best thing that does accepts scandalously clad tourist ladies instead: the Campanile.
It was really windy. And of course I was the one who wore a dress.The view was essentially the same as if we had climbed the Duomo: completely gorgeous. The narrow staircase was literally the only downside, so if you get claustrophobic easily watch out. There are plenty of stops on the way up though. And it’s so worth it to climb all the way to the top.Plus, afterwords you get to hoarsely shout (whisper): “We climbed that!”
Afterwards we headed to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see our man David. We found some interesting shops to pop into on the way, of course.Like this gem, an entire rubber duckie store literally called the Florence Duck Store.But afterwards:He was the highlight of this museum, but off to the side there was also a really random room full of plaster castings. One entitled “The Campbell Sisters dancing a Waltz” by Lorenzo Bartolini caught my eye because the figures reminded me of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Turns out, it was in fact a statue of two sisters during the same time period whose names were Emma and Julia, daughters of the Duke of Argyll (Scotland). I read the plaque and it was super interesting, probably because I’m an art nerd. But 10/10 would recommend reading plaques and learning context and cool stories and fun facts. Stay in school kids.Afterwards, what did we do? Yep, more shopping. But this time we stumbled upon an art supplies store (called Salvini Belle Arti) and I was so happy and excited about it that I almost cried. (Not really, but it was a really nice art store and we weirdly hadn’t seen any thus far.)
We had seen most everything on the touristy side of the river, so for dinner and the rest of the afternoon we went across one of the many bridges to the more neighborhood-y vibed side. It was quieter, which could have had something to do with the time of day. But there were trees and hills there too!We got food and took it to picnic on the steps of the Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s situated on the hill across the river from the city, and we had heard that picnicking and watching the sunset there was the thing to do. So, not ones to turn down recommendations of fun things to do in foreign cities, we arrived while the sun was still chillin’ up in the sky and settled in.
We got a great spot; there wasn’t yet a tourist crowd, and everyone around us spoke Italian. They brought wine and snacks like we did. Paige and I journaled while Elizabeth painted. It was such a sweet and relaxing pause in our busy bustling day
Before we knew it, the sun was sinking and we were packed in amongst countless bodies speaking countless languages. Runners in a race jogged by below, and we all collectively cheered them on. A boyfriend gave his girlfriend flowers that sat on the stone steps by my feet. Someone was talking really loudly about a goldfish and spilled wine everywhere, but no one was mad they simply shifted over. And then someone proposed where runners had passed maybe fifteen minutes before. Again, everyone cheered. The sun set over the river and passed the torch to the twinkling lights of the city instead.
It was a perfect evening.
This morning we went to the Bargello, an old Italian prison that still felt very much like just that. Well, a prison or a castle from Game of Thrones.
- The real Florence Baptistery door competition tiles carved by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi that casually began the Renaissance. (The ones on the door now are FAKE. Also we learned about this from Tracey (our art history professor) and it was so cool to actually see them in the flesh.)
- Donatello’s David. He carved David before it was cool. Also he was green now which is even cooler.
- The enormous woven rugs that line the walls of one of the upstairs gallery rooms.
- The JEWELRY and trinkets, they’re all really sparkly.
- The super cool windows (below).
Afterwards…we tried to climb the Duomo again. We were wearing the proper clothing…but still no cigar. The line was insanely long and we didn’t have a time slot, so they had run out again or something. So we just went inside instead. It was enormous and felt empty. Would definitely recommend climbing it instead of simply staring up at it. Also, even though your ticket will get you in any of these sites, don’t go in the basement. It was the crypt and sounded super cool but was actually boring as hell. Paige and I walked around pretending to be interested but quickly gave up and left because there was nothing to see. We promptly stripped off our pants and sweaters outside the front of the Cathedral instead. Much more entertaining amiright.We found the cutest cafe right beside the cathedral called Don Nino. I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS PLACE ENOUGH. It had wifi, was really heckin cute, and served as our meeting place for several days. It was very crowded as it was kind of tucked nicely away in plain view. Also, they had really yummy cappuccinos.Pretty sure that taking pictures of street artists was collectively frowned upon, but when we headed to find some clean clothing basics at HM and Zara on our way to the Uffitzi Gallery later in the afternoon, we did it anyway.I also absolutely despise both HM and Zara now, but this was cute.The Uffizi Gallery was the personal art collection and palace of the Medici Family in Florence. It was ENORMOUS. Lots of Mary and baby Jesus paintings, but a ton of gems like Botticelli’s and Michelangelo’s. The shield with Medusa on it was even there somewhere.
These ladies were pretty cool. They were the seven Virtues by Pollaiolo and Botticelli, named after the virtues themselves and holding their own particular symbols. My girl Justice was a badass. Again, read plaques and stay in school, kids.While we were all sitting outside waiting to go into the museum, Tracey told me that I looked like “the Botticelli” and that I should take a picture with her.
There are, you know, a bunch of Botticelli’s, so I was mildly confused. She didn’t offer any explanation, though, so I didn’t ask and figured I’d go inside and find out soon enough. And I did.
We had learned about these paintings in class, and they were huge and gorgeous. The promised picture is below. I think it was our hair. Also I was flattered beyond words. Because, VENUS?? Shucks! Frikkin queen amiright.The rest of the day was spent finding more medicine and buying orange juice because I still felt pretty crummy. That, and knocking out for thirty minutes on my tiny hotel bed. Then we headed back to the chill side of the river for our last Florentine dinner.Paige and Elizabeth had the “world renowned steak” at some tiny restaurant we found. But sometimes cheese platters and Coke are just the way to go man. (I also had some weird bread soup thing. Would not recommend. But still, steak isn’t my jam so it’s a way better alternative.)Florence made me so happy. Everything we did was relaxing and fun. We were at ease window-shopping and walking, content to simply be. We sat and soaked in the food and art and wine and atmosphere. We peeped all the street art, tried on clothes we knew we wouldn’t buy, twirled to street performers and sang in empty streets. Florence was a dream. Not all a cake-walk, mind you; I was sick, people are annoying, not all gelato is created equal, and rose-colored glasses are quite stylish. But it was a dream nonetheless.