Its beauty is intoxicating. The city itself is just the right size – large enough to keep a busy agenda but at no risk of losing its charm – and the surrounding Tuscany countryside only raises the city’s overall appeal. Florence continues to captivate the hearts of many and lucky for us, it was the first stop on our 4-week European adventure!
From the very start, it was hard not to fall in love with Florence thanks to our gorgeous Airbnb. Perfectly located and beautifully furnished, our accommodations set the mood for our dreamy 3-night stay.
For our first day in Florence, we simply roamed the streets and soaked in the ambience. You can hardly go wrong when dining in Florence. Every restaurant and wine bar that we stumbled upon offered a variety of delicious Tuscan dishes paired with an assortment of local wines. Oh, and the gelato! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner – you gotta have gelato. Luckily, gelato shops are a dime a dozen in Florence and can be found throughout the city. Another perk about Italy? The espresso! We were spoiled with almost every establishment serving quality espresso at any hour of the day. It was a tough reality to come back to the States and not have a cappuccino readily available whenever I needed a caffeine boost.
Here were a few of my favorites spots to indulge…
Gustapizza – Amazing pizza, deliciously fresh. It gets busy, but it’s worth the hype.
Trattoria La Casalinga – Charming, cozy restaurant serving tasty Italian dishes.
Pint of View – They offer craft cocktails to-go, need I say more??
Brewdog Firenze – We are loyal Brewdog fans and always check them out whenever we are in Europe. This location had a fun, funky vibe with a cool downstairs seating area and they served craft beer cocktails which I am kicking myself for not trying one when I had the chance.
Sabor Cubano – It was a fun experience! The bartenders were smartly dressed and the bar itself had stand out decor. We visited on a weekend night and the bar was packed. The bartenders were making mojitos by the dozens – so don’t complicate things, stick with the crowd pleasing mojito and join the party that congregates in the street outside the bar.
And there was also a mystery bar that we stumbled upon down some random street that was filled with locals and amazing drinks, but now I cannot find its exact whereabouts..
We took a guided tour at the Uffizi Gallery. We opted for a guided tour because it saved us the time and hassle of waiting in extremely long queues that wrapped around the outside of the museum. With a guide, our tickets were already taken care of (so it was stress free!) and we skipped right to the front of the line. If you are traveling with children, I highly recommend planning your museum trips in advance because every attraction in Italy had nauseatingly long lines. Especially in Rome, but more on that later.
We enjoyed Uffizi Gallery, especially with the knowledge of our guide. The gallery is packed with artwork on display and you could spend hours wandering the museum looking at stuff. So for us, especially not being art buffs, having a guide was a great solution because she navigated us through the numerous rooms and took us to the highlights of the museum and explained the significance of those pieces. For the record, Birth of Venus was my favorite.
We went wine tasting! What an experience that was. For starters, we had 6 people to pack into a 5 person hatchback (thanks William). Luckily, Kait took one for the team and traveled in the trunk for the day (why did we not take a photo of this!?) Haha we love you Kait!
We started off the morning with wine tasting at Fattoria Viticcio. It included a quick tour of the vineyards followed up by wine tasting. The presentation was impressive – we had cheeses, bread, and meats to pair with our wine. But most importantly, the wine was great.
Next stop, Siena for lunch. This was a tricky destination because road signs are hard to understand but apparently tourists are not allowed to park in parts of Siena, mainly the historical and city center bits. Still not 100% certain on the details, but there were areas that indicated being ‘limited traffic area’ or ZTL zone. And once you enter, your license plate is photographed and you could be fined if you do not belong. Just be aware! Florence is the same, it has ZTL zones that you need to be aware of and look out for. Needless to say, it was stressful finding an appropriate place to park, but we made it happen. Once parked, we meandered up a huge hill and found ourselves in Piazza del Campo. A very cool place that is worth checking out and grabbing a bite to eat.
After Siena, we loaded Kait up in the trunk (ha!) and headed to our last stop, Castello di Brolio. We were under the impression that the wine tasting took place at the castle, but we were sadly mistaken. Entry ticket to the castle included one free tasting but the tasting room was down the hill from the castle. The tasting room was extremely stuffy and pretentious – not at all the warm, welcoming vibes that we had encountered in the rest of Tuscany.
All in all, it was a great day! Having a rental car gave us the freedom to explore at our own pace and make decisions on a whim. Regardless of how you plan to get around (whether it be in the trunk of your rental or by booking a tour) Tuscany is a must!
Leaving a little piece of my heart in this unforgettable city, I packed my bags and headed to my next destination – the Dolomites! Stay tuned!
We exchanged our money at Change Exchange Marco Alumno and I highly recommend going to him if you are looking to exchange some cash. Marco was a great guy and his exchange rate was very reasonable. He was a very little booth that runs alongside the Palazzo Vecchio, blink and you might walk right past it!
And a few more memories!