Even a lifetime of travel wouldn’t be enough to conquer all of the stunning landscapes that Italy has to offer. The ruins of Rome, the canals of Venice, the turquoise waters of Sicily — we can’t get enough. However, there’s one city in this luxurious land that simply cannot be missed. Between its vast history, stunning architecture, and never-ending supply of art, this “Cradle of the Renaissance” is a must-see. We’re spending 48 hours in the cultural capital of Tuscany: Florence.
Drop your bags and get the day started with Florence’s most famous (and beautiful) architectural structure — the Duomo. This marble Renaissance dome constructed in the late 13th century will take your breath away. Make sure to see Vasari’s Last Judgement fresco inside, painted in the mid- 1500’s.
For another more literally breathtaking experience, get your late-morning workout in by scaling the stairs at Giotto’s Campanile. The panoramic view of the red roofs of the city is the ultimate payoff. Your eyes (and thighs) will thank you.
Lunch at Piazza della Repubblica
Head to Caffe Donnini 1894 for a light lunch in Piazza della Repubblica. Snack on some salumi and cheese, fresh Caprese salad, and mixed crostini to cure your mid-afternoon hunger. Be sure to snag a seat near the window for perfect people watching (and carousel) views.
Get your history fix post-lunch at one of the smaller museums that Florence has to offer. We particularly love Orsanmichele, a museum situated in a 14th-century granary boasting religious paintings and the Madonna in marble. But if sculptures are more your thing, the Bargello museum is not to be missed, featuring Renaissance sculptures from Michelangelo in a 13th-century building. Both museums are within five minutes of Piazza della Repubblica.
Stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s most famous medieval bridge, for optimal window shopping. The store windows are full of jewelry and trinkets, perfect for bringing home for family. Once across the river, snag a fabulous aperitivo at Golden View Open Bar. With seating along the Arno River, there’s no place more romantic to share a bottle of wine and cheese.
While on the other side of the Arno, head over to Piazzale Michelangelo for the best view of the city. The uphill walk is steep yet beautiful, covered in hanging vines and willowy plants. Time your hike just right to catch the sun setting over the Duomo, a once-in-a-lifetime view you’ll never forget.
After a day full of walking, your appetite is sure to be raging. Enjoy an authentic Italian meal at Finisterrae, just around the corner from Santa Croce. We recommend the lasagna ai carciofi or filetto di branzino. The restaurant also offers an extensive pizza menu; if you’re there in the right season, you might even be offered one with a ricotta stuffed crust.
Not ready to close your eyes on this stunning city just yet? Head just a few doors down to FUK Cocktail Bar for your favorite classic cocktails and live music. Mayday Club is also a great option for those seeking homemade, innovative cocktails. Looking for a quieter way to end the night? Check out Rivoire Florence for all of your espresso, chocolate, and pastry needs. Deciding which dessert to choose will definitely be your hardest decision of the day.
Piazza della Signoria
After your hotel breakfast of jams and pastries, start your day with a walk along the Arno River down to Piazza della Signoria, an open outdoor space lined with sculptures. Here you’ll find a replica of the David (the real one is located in the Galleria dell’Accademia), as well as the Nettuno.
Just a few steps away from the Piazza, you’ll find the famous church of Santa Croce. The church is filled with tombs of many great Italian creatives, including Michelangelo and Galileo. Giotto’s frescoes line the walls of this stunning interior. Not to be missed.
For an authentic Italian meal, head to La Taverna for delicious lunchtime pizzas. Don’t be surprised if the family members who own the joint are finishing up their own meal or taking their time finishing the last drags of a cigarette. The pizzas are to die for; we recommend the cheese pizza with arugula and pine nuts with a half carafe of wine. Bonus — the quality to price ratio is the best in the city. Grab a gelato at Gelateria dei Neri for your walk back into the city center — Mascarpone and Nutella are a must try.
Looking for some savory sweets to bring back to the States? Vestri is your one-stop shop for all of your artisanal chocolate needs. Oh, and we won’t judge you if you grab a second gelato. A piccola copetta will run you a mere 1,80 euros (and their white chocolate flavor is incredible!)
San Lorenzo Market
The outdoor market at San Lorenzo is a must for those looking for handmade Italian goods. Florence is known for leather goods, and San Lorenzo market is the perfect spot to find them. Briefcases, wallets, and coin purses line the stalls in an array of colors. Scarves, keychains, and other trinkets are also available for just a few euros. Is it a rainy day? No problem — the market has an indoor section as well.
Aperitivo – Dinner
The most important time of the day- aperitivo. Make your first stop at Caffè Giacosa, a.k.a the birthplace of the Negroni. Legend has it that Count Camilo Negroni stopped here one evening, his usual bar, for his beloved Americano cocktail, though asked the bartender to make it a bit stronger than usual. The bartender replaced the soda water with gin, giving life to this modern-day cocktail favorite. After your quick sip of history, head to La Ménagere for experimental, handcrafted cocktails. Feeling hungry? Grab some mix-and-match tapas at the bar to pair with your cocktails, or head to the restaurant part of the establishment for some gourmet cuisine.
Where to Stay:
For affordable, no-frills accommodations, look to Hotel Boccaccio, ideally located right next to the Santa Maria Novella train station. For more luxury accommodations, look no further than Grand Hotel Mediterraneo, beautifully situated on the Arno River. The hotel offers over 330 rooms, an extensive breakfast buffet, and three in-house restaurants to choose from.