Florence: Italy’s City of Art and Gelato

Ciao! After my visit to Rome, Florence was my second stop in Italy. Florence is the capital city of Tuscany. Florence, just like Rome was spectacular.Though the city is populous, I fell in love with the place from the moment I arrived. The architecture and the winding alleys make it irresistible. It is an Italian city known for its art and history. You can see art on every corner. No wonder, Florence will give you numerous reasons to visit its magnificent sites.

What more great is that most of the attractions are free and food are cheap. From Rome, I took a train going to Florence.  The average journey time is 1 hour and 30 minutes. I bought my train tickets online, weeks before my trip. You can check Italo or Trenitalia to book train tickets. I booked my Rome to Florence ticket through Italo that costs 20 EURO/ 23 USD/ 9 OMR/ 1,199 PHP. It is cheaper to book in advance through online.

Italo Train

 

Where to Stay

Florence is full of hostels, hotels, and Airbnb. You can see a lot of places to stay. I stayed at Emerald Palace. The name may sound grandiose but it a hostel located in the heart of Florence. I stayed in a room with other three travelers. The accommodation was 600meters away from Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station. I walked from the station to the property. I paid 144 EURO/ 169 USD/ 65 OMR / 8,636 PHP for a 4-night stay. It was my first time to stay in a hostel and to tell you honestly; I didn’t know what to expect. Surprisingly, I liked it. The room is enormous and clean. There is a private toilet inside the room.The only catch, I didn’t know that the hostel is on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the building without elevator. But the staff was accommodating in carrying my luggage. Staying in a hostel is a great choice if you want to save money on your trip. Plus you meet a lot of other travelers on your trip. Book your stay through booking.com


Booking.com

Emerald Palace BnB Dining Area

Getting Around

Florence is a small town. It is even smaller than Rome. It is best to go around by foot. A map will be very useful to stroll around the place. Make sure to ask a map from the tourist information office or to the place you are staying. The staff at Emerald’s place were very helpful and informative in telling which places to go.

 

Small winding alleys of Florence

Things to do:

This town has an amazing culture, history, and art. There are markets, garden and museums to explore.If you have limited time just like when I had my trip, here are the list of sights and things to do in Florence. I like traveling at my own pace and doing the things that I truly enjoy. Personally, I enjoy going to the main attractions, eating and going to the supermarkets. So even I am delivering my must-see you are always free to tailor your itinerary based on your needs.

1. Explore Il Duomo Firenze

This church known as Santa Maria del Fiore is a must-see in Florence. It is one of the landmarks of the city. The exterior is magnificent. It is indescribable. It has one of the churches that I had seen with a unique appearance.  It is free to view but expect a long line in getting in.

Look at the details!
The exterior of the Duomo is one of a kind!

2. See David at Academia Gallery

David is one of the famous sculptures in the world by Michaelangelo.  It is one of the must do in the city. I wasn’t interested at first but when I saw the masterpiece in real, no doubt a lot of people would want to have a glimpse of the piece. It is big and very detailed. The entrance fee is 12.5 EURO/ 14 USD/ 5 OMR/ 750 PHP.

The famous ” David” of Michaelangelo
There are a lot of arts to check aside from the David at Academia Gallery.

3. Eat at Mercato Centrale

Mercato Centrale, the most famous market in Florence is also called Mercato de San Lorenzo. The first floor has all the kind of high quality of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, and meat.

The second floor is with many food stands. It offers a lot of Florentine dishes. I tried Lampredotto which is a must try at this place.  Lampredotto is a local dish made from the stomach of a cow and topped with salsa and spicy extra virgin olive oil. Just be prepared to eat standing or a stool especially to the popular stand famous for local cuisine.

Ground area of Mercato Centrale
The food court at Mercato Centrale.
Lampredotto, local food from Florence. Try it at Nerbone stall located on the first floor of Mercato Centrale. There is a long queue at this stall but it’s all worth it!
These are the people lining up for the lampredotto!
Pizza, antipasto and a drink!

4. Stroll around Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria is a piazza filled with sculptures. A replica of David and Fountain of Neptune can be found at this open square. In the plaza, there are a high number of restaurants and bars where people can enjoy.

It can be crowded at the square.

5. Visit Piazza de Michaelangelo

To get a superb panoramic view of the town, Piazza de Michaelangelo is the place to be. The piazza is dedicated to the city’s most famous artist Michaelangelo. You can see a copy of Michaelangelo’s works like David and the Medici chapel. It is a bit challenging to climb going up to this place, but it is all worth it. You can get a clear view of a number of the city’s prominent landmarks like Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio. During the night, there is live music and it a great place to chill out.

On the way up to the Piazza.
The view from Piazza del Michaelangelo.

6. Eat Gelato

Eating gelato in Florence is one thing you should do. It is the birthplace of this dense Italian ice cream. The great challenge is finding the best gelato in the town. I asked the locals for recommendations and the top picks are gelato from Vivoli, Gelateria Perche No, and Gelateria dei Neri

Gelato from Gelateria dei Neri
Even a baby can get enough of the gelato!

7. Walk along Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio is the oldest and most photographed bridge in the city. It joins the center of Florence with the district of Oltrarno on the river Arno. The bridge is famous for jewelry shops built along it.


 

Live music at Ponte Vecchio
Enjoy a beer by the river

Tips:

  1. It is advisable to be early when visiting museums. Museums can be crowded.
  2. Watch out for your stuff when walking around.
  3. Food is cheap. You can get pizza and pasta for reasonable prices. But learn how to avoid tourist traps where food can be costly and of poor quality. You can have a good meal for 10-15 EURO/ 11-17 USD/ 4.5- 6.7 OMR/ 600-900 PHP. When I was there, I avoid eating on the main square where the waiters are handling flyers and getting pushy to get you in. For a cheaper option, you can eat panino (sandwich). The local delicacy lampredotto costs 3.5 EURO/4 USD/ 1.5 EURO/ 210PHP including water. You can also buy food at the local supermarket.
    People love to eat good food.

    People are falling in line for food if it is taste yummy!
  4. Public transportation isn’t necessary for Florence. Explore the town by foot. It is one of the places I visited where the main attractions are not so far from each other. Just make sure to have a map.
  5. Learn few words of Italian like ciao (hello), please (per favore) and grazie (thank you).

 

View from Giardino delle Rose

 

Is Florence the city you want to visit? What’re the things you want to do? Share in the comments below. 

 

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