Florence, like Rome and Venice, is probably on everyone’s list of iconic places to visit when in Europe. Like Venice’s signature canals that run through the city, Florence is an architectural gem where every structure and building has a story to tell. Besides being home to world famous museums like the Uffizi Gallery, Florence is also home to the best gelato in all of Italy. A culturally rich place like the city of Florence definitely requires you to spend more time to appreciate its beauty. However, if you lack the time, these are the absolute must-do to have the ultimate Florence experience. Though I must warn you that you will come back for more because it will be effortless to fall in love with Florence.
Forget about transportation
One of the best things about Florence is that you spend close to nothing on transportation unlike other Italian cities because Florence is best explored on foot. All the major attractions are literally a few walks away from one another, unless you get lost and keep going around. It is then wise to perhaps map out the places to visit before arriving into Florence. One of the best ways is to save the locations on Google Maps where you can then navigate your way to the various attractions even without having any internet connection.
Postcard perfect views atop Piazzale Michelangelo
Like Venice’s Campanile di San Marco, the bell tower that allows you to get a spectacular 360 degrees view of the whole of Venice, Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence allows you to get the same stunning panoramic view of Florence except with much more space. Walking to Piazzale Michelangelo from the city centre is very possible, but taking a bus might save you some time.
Recommended Duration: 3 hours. It is recommended to visit both day and night! (2 hours if you decide to take the bus.)
The heart of Florence
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or Florence Cathedral, is basically the heart of Florence. The Florence Cathedral being the fourth largest in the world is the most iconic structure in the whole of Florence, uniquely patterned on the outside and breathtaking on the inside. What makes it even better is that you are able to climb up the Duomo, the iconic red-tiled dome that sits at the very top of the cathedral, for a small fee but big number of steps, 463 to be exact.
It will not be easy, as there will be a lot of spiralling staircases, narrow passages and more staircases. What is truly unique about the climb up is that you are able to get close to the paintings on the inside of the dome. After which the final number of stairs would be a little steep and that’s when you know you have made it to the top! Every inch of your body will appreciate your hard work, as Florence will reward you with its most amazing 360 degree views of her beauty.
If you cannot get enough of the beauty of Florence from up above, you can also climb the Giotto’s Bell Tower to also get a marvellous view of the Duomo. The bell tower has 49 steps lesser than the Duomo and also shorter queue!
Recommended Duration: 4 hours if the queue is short. It also depends on how much time you want to spend at the very top.
Did somebody say Gelato?
Gelato better in summer or in winter? I say anytime! There is only so much gelato you can try in 3 days. I will make it easier by narrowing it down the best ones for you. One of the most famous gelato shops in Italy would be Giolitti. As a first timer, you will be very overwhelmed by the number of gelato flavours you can choose from. No worries, they are able to squeeze 3 flavours of your choice in one cone in case you can’t make up your mind. Another famous gelato shop that probably most Florentines will recommend to you is Vivoli. Their rice flavoured gelato seems to be a hit for gelato lovers. The shop may look a little old on the outside and a little hard to find.
One of the most visited museums in Italy
With 1.5 million visitors each year, the Uffizi Gallery Museum is easily one of the most visited museums in Italy. This is evident as long lines outside the ticketing office and entrance is a common sight. It is usually recommended that visitors book their tickets in advance online to skip the queue. It will be like a treasure in a building for art lovers that has been inspired by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello.
Well, if you ask me, Florence is jammed pack with art and even spending a full week in Florence might not guarantee that you have seen it all. In this 3 days, it is recommended that to keep the balance of seeing art and also being able to experience other things. If the Uffizi Gallery Museum totally blows you away, you might also want to visit the Accademia Gallery where the original statue of Michelangelo’s “David” actually stands.
Recommended Duration: One full day dedicated to seeing Florence’s art.
Taking pride in making paper and leather
Italians and leather, no big surprise there. They truly take pride in their leather goods, even the vendors out on the streets. A good leather bag would probably make a good souvenir for yourself. But if the smell of leather is too much for you, Florence is also big on producing the most beautiful paper you have ever seen. They are all mostly handmade and no two paper shops are the same. Some of the most famous paper shops in Florence are Alberto Cozzi and Giulio Giannini.
You will be mesmerized by beautifully designed notebooks, picture frames and even pens that are all plastered with handmade marbled paper. There are also leather notebooks if you would love to combine the two unique elements of Florence.
Recommended Duration: Shopping in Florence, from lunch until dinner time.
A little piggy luck
If you are already at the leather market, do look out for the bronze pig fountain and you might wonder why people are crowding around it or even forming a line. II Porcellino, or the little piglet in Italian, is believed to bring you good luck. The ritual is that you rub the pig’s snout for good luck and put a coin in his mouth where water is running. If your coin falls into the grate below, it means that you will have enough luck to return back to Florence. That’s something to do three days in a row!
Recommended Duration: Rub the pig each time you pass by it.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina or Steak Florentine is steak that has been grilled rare over a wood fire. Sounds good? Yes. However, finding a good one would be a challenge. Do not be too excited to order one steak for each person at the table, because the portion of the steak is huge! This is because it is meant to be shared, unless you are the ultimate meat eater. Expect to spend between 30 to 40 EUR (32 to 43 USD) for a kilo of steak. Some of the best places that serve the best bistecca is Osteria di Giovanni and Trattoria Sostanza.
Other than the steak, if you are looking for a place where the locals love to dine, try going to Pizzeria Ristorante San Jacopino, recommended by a true Florentine. Like the gelato flavours, you will be spoilt for choice because they have all kinds of the freshest pizzas and pastas. The best thing is that they will provide you with an English menu upon request, but I think it makes it even harder to choose just a dish because they are all very tasty. Order the tiramisu for dessert and you will not regret! It is a cosy little place, often filled with locals enjoying great quality food at great value. Quite a gem hidden in the small neighbourhood if you ask me.
The Ultimate Florence Experience in 3 days
Florence, the capital of Tuscany is easily the most visited city in Italy, and it is not hard to see why. Walking in the city of Florence not only gets you from one place to another, it is also a great way to ‘take in’ all of the beauty of the city. Getting lost in Florence may seem like a good idea in my opinion, because every corner of Florence has something to offer. From witnessing the exquisite cityscape of Florence, appreciating art in the Uffizi Museum, shopping for handmade souvenirs to going on a hunt for the best Florentine food, there is always something about Florence that will surprise you. The ultimate Florence experience in 3 days might just leave you wanting more.
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