– Florence City Guide –
Promise me you’ll have fun, he said while holding my hand tightly. Those words resonated with me during the whole flight from Lisbon to Florence, my first destination in Tuscany.
For as long as I can remember, those ochre buildings leaning towards the Arno River held such eagerness in me. Italy has this way of marvelling you on every occasion, no matter how many times you visited. It has something to do with that musical language, the gelato and pastas, that undeniable charms of the old world peaking through that quintessential fabric of those ancient boroughs. It all comes together in a very peculiar way, one that makes you fall in love with it, and long to get back to, as fast as one can.
In such early hours of a day, the blazing sun on the horizon, was a testament of what I already knew – Italy is a scorching country, even in September. The narrow streets of Firenze, makes for a decent hiding place for it, so the first order of business, after checking-in in one of the most beautiful boutique B&B in Firenze, at the Soprarno – was to get lost in them.
Soprarno with its very own deli – SottArno, located at the hip Oltrarno area, a step away from the Ponte Vecchio and the Pitti Palace, was the perfect address in Firenze. There is a superlative idea of being inside ones private exclusive fiorentine home in there, with it’s high frescoes ceilings and stylish details that brings to the table the shared idea of history, as a tribute to the passing of times, and the comforts of modern day living. So, after marveling at our rooms, freshning up to a glass of water and eating some pastries of the complementary all-day buffet, we hit the alleys of that town, stopping by every other door, to look at antiques, get a pannini or discovering the hidden places of Firenze.
There is an insane amount of museums to visit, those alone would extend your stay in the city, but given that I had not more than a few days to spare, I decided to skip most of them and focus on the liveliness of the city, that in itself was an open air museum, filled with renaissance features, marbled sculptures and small fountains. With that being said we opted out for a visit to the Bardini Gardens with one of the most beautiful views of Florence and also less known and crowded than the Boboli Gardens. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio, ate gelato at Trinita gelateria and Carrara too (twice – because why not) and ventured into some shopping at Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella – a must visit, as well as small shops with local delicacies.
Firenze dilutes into your skin, suddenly at the tip of your tongue comes salvé, grazie and prego, like a local would. You ask for a tavolini per due, and make sure you order some chianti with your meal. I remember sitting in one seemingly charming piazza, with the bell tower surmounting it and the trattorias taking over the sidewalks with its pizzas and cheese tables, and imagining myself living there, in one those top floors, with the curtains flying off the windows. The old veranda overlooking the Duomo, and the sound of laughter echoing on the alleys of the city, back to the courtyard of your home. It was a pleasant idea, that not often comes into mind while visiting other cities of the like, but then again, Firenze is not like any other.
After a couple of days venturing both banks of the city, immersing myself in the local cuisine and experiencing Oltrarno Splendid, another incredible and charming B&B from the same collection of the Soprarno – with their stunning rooms, standing tubs and plastered walls with frescoes, I was ready to go further south, to the hills of Toscana.
- Oltrarno Streets
- Uffizi shops and Restaurants
- San Lorenzo for the traditional Firenze
- Santa Maria Novella residential area
- Santa Croce Plaza
- Piazza della Republica for some trendy Cafes
- Duomo for the major attractions
- Bardini Gardens
- Palazzo Vecchio
- The Boboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti
- Gallery of the Ospedale degli Innocenti
- San Miniato al Monte Basilica
- Galleria dell’Accademia
- Bargello Museum
- Uffizi Gallery
- Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, for some fancy dinning
- Osteria Santo Spirito for a cool vibe and good pasta
- Ristorant Skipper where the florentines go for Sicilian food
- Gelataria La Carrara, the best one for me – ask for the special flavour
- Gelataria Santa Trinita, try the pistachio!
- All’Antico Vinaio for some pannini
- Divina Pizza, for some incredible sourdough pizza
- Gilli Café, one of the oldest in Firenze Sostanza
- Sottarno for florentine deli experience
- Trattoria Sostanza
- La Ménagère
- Paintings at Oltrarno borough
- Leather goods
- Wine, Liquors, Cheese, Pasta and Sweets
- Everything at Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
- Antiques at the flea market at Piazza Ciompi
- Truffles and Pesto sauce
Notes: Florence and Tuscany is filled with terrible mosquito strain this time of the year, a strong spray, and cream is strongly advised. Major attractions require prior bookings to avoid long waiting lines.