As is usually the case with travel, we arrived to Florence on Sunday night a little bit tired but a lotta bit excited. After the tourist craziness of Venice, I think that we were all ready for a bit of a break.
It was a bit of a hike to our hotel (shout out to Rick Steves for the recommendation) and we took a moment to rest before heading out for dinner. We ended up stopping in one of the first places we saw – an adorable and rustic organic Italian restaurant. The food really lived up to the place’s appearance and we left refreshed and ready to walk around the city. We decided to head towards the more historic district of town and plan the next day out.
We walked through little cobblestone streets admiring fancy things in windows of stores and taking in the beautiful weather (a welcome change from England) when we suddenly turned a corner and BAM, there it was.
I will never forget this moment of pure and utter awe and inspiration. We all stood, awestruck by the Duomo’s beauty and grandeur. I cannot even imagine living in Florence and coming across buildings like this casually. We spent a good chunk of the next couple days climbing and studying the building and it is one of the most majestic and incredible things I have ever seen in my life.
Still captivated by the Duomo, we ate breakfast with it looming in the background and then bought some tickets that would allow us full access for 24 hours. We also made a reservation to climb the dome the next morning. With our 15 Euro ticket, we were able to view the museum, church chapel, climb the bell tower, and climb the dome – neither of which were easy feats – but both of which are incredibly worth it. Each climb is 400 steep, narrow, windy stairs to the top. Most of the time, people are going both directions and part of the climb involves smushing yourself against a wall and side stepping across people. My calves are still rebelling against me a little bit. I am proud to say that we saw Florence from three of the best spots in the city.
Views and a local taste
A trip to Florence is not complete without seeing the city from above. Here is a collection of pictures I have acquired of this gorgeous city from various spots. Florence is an absolute must-add to any travel list.
It is full of the magic you’ve heard about – cobblestone streets, terracotta roofs, and hidden neighborhood gems to explore. I am extremely envious of those who have called this city home for study abroad. Paige, a member of my sorority family, is one of these lucky gals. She hooked us up with a fantastic list of insider-tips and places to explore. On our second full day of Florence, we ventured to the neighborhood she called home and got crackin’ on the list. We started the afternoon with a tour of the Santa Croce church, sprawled across a couple acres and full of centuries old art and courtyards.
Next, we ate at her favorite sandwich place All’ Antico. We saw the line before we saw the place. With a tiny location on each side of the street, this place dishes out huge Italian sandwiches better than your wildest dreams. Rachel and I both agreed that this was the best sandwich we’ve ever had, and for only 5 Euro!
Finally, after some afternoon explorations, we trusted Paige once again to guide our path for our last night in the city. We set off on a 20-minute steep uphill walk to Piazza Michaelangelo for the most rewarding view I have ever seen: Florence from above at sunset. This little hidden gem is perfect for a relaxing evening with friends or a significant other. It was not nearly as crowded as we expected, even on Valentine’s Day, and the climb up made it so much sweeter.
Art, Culture and a Magical City
Spending Valentine’s Day in Florence was nothing short of magical. We saw several amazing views, went to Galleria D’Arte Moderna, wined and dined, and fell in love with the city.
There are so many more museums and experiences to be had in Florence and I hope that I have the opportunity to return one day. The people here were so kind and welcoming to us. Even though there were other tourists in the city, the friendliness and loving vibes put us at ease throughout our stay.
From museums to shopping to late night gelato runs, there is really no way to have a “bad time” in Florence. There is absolutely something for everyone here and I think you’d have a hard time finding anyone who has visited and failed to fall under Florence’s spell. I am now on a train headed for a quick stop in Siena before our final three nights in Rome!