I know I’m about to disappoint everyone (especially everyone from Harding who went to HUF), but… Florence was our least favorite city in Italy. Sorry, y’all. Florence really is a beautiful city, but we found it to be so Americanized that we didn’t enjoy it. At times we felt like we were in downtown Boston because everything was written in English and the buildings just looked “old.” There was no charm or quaintness to it. Perhaps we just didn’t venture out far enough (we were only there for about 24 hours after all). Florence is definitely a city for art afficianados so we found our “things to do” list lacking. Matt and I can appreciate art to some extent, but we really don’t get excited about art galleries, art museums, paintings, or sculptures. Having said all of that, I do want to share with you the things we enjoyed about Florence.
Where To Stay
Hotel Cellai was the nicest place we stayed while we were in Italy. The location was perfect because we were able to walk there from the train station. FYI… I DO NOT recommend that. We got turned around at the train station and couldn’t find the taxi line. By the time we found the taxi stand, the line was so long it
was easier faster sounded like a good idea for us to walk instead. Dragging all that luggage down half a mile of crowded streets wasn’t ideal, but we did it and we learned and I’m now here to tell you not to do it. Anyways, Hotel Cellai is a beautifully decorated boutique hotel that has the best (free!) hotel breakfast I’ve ever had! Great option for accommodations in the historic center of Florence.
What To Do
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
Better known as the Duomo, the Cathedral in Florence is breathtaking. The architecture alone is to be marveled at. Constructed of white, pink, and green marble, the church is regal, intimidating, and elaborate. When you visit the Duomo, there are actually quite a few different places to see. There’s the church (Cathedral), a bell tower (Campanile), the Dome (Duomo), the crypt, and the baptistry.
Type A Tidbit:
If you have any desire to climb to the top of the Duomo, it’s very important that you reserve a ticket online ahead of time. Only a few people are allowed to climb each day, and every ticket was sold out for our entire stay in Florence. Don’t climb if you’re claustrophobic or scared of heights!
Tour Guides are no longer allowed to utilize “skip the line” passes, so be prepared to wait with everyone else.
The Cathedral is free, but get there early. The longest lines we experienced in Italy were at the Duomo/Cathedral. We arrived 45 minutes before it opened, and the line still wrapped around the building!
Even though I know nothing about art, I DO know that the statue of David by Michelangelo is a must-see in Florence. The statue has been moved from its original location to the Academia Gallery. The gallery houses many other magnificent paintings and sculptures, but since we had such a short amount of time in Florence, we booked a one hour semi-private tour so we could see just the highlights. I’m so glad we did that! We had no clue what we were looking at or who any of the artists were, so the tour guide helped us focus on the main pieces. Our guide also told us some really interesting details that I would have missed on my own. If you look closely at the statue of David’s left foot, you’ll see that it has been damaged. The statue used to be out in the open in the museum without any guard rails or protection. In 1991, a man came into the museum and attacked the statue with a hammer! Thus, causing the damage to the foot that is still visible today.
Palazzo Vecchio used to be the town hall of Florence, but now it’s a museum open for tours. We didn’t have time to see the museum, but I did want to go here for one of the best views of the Duomo. While climbing the Duomo might be fun, once you’re at the top, the view is not that great. However, climbing the tower at Palazzo Vecchio offers a fantastic view. The staircases are steep and narrow so make sure you’re in good shape before attempting this climb! The view at the top is worth it!
There’s nothing too special about this piazza except for the panoramic view of Florence’s skyline. Take a cab (you definitely don’t want to walk… it’s uphill!) to the piazza around sunset for breathtaking scenery. We had appetizers and drinks at the outdoor patio of the hotel there, and it was picture perfect.
The Ponte Vecchio is said to be the only bridge in Florence not destroyed during WWII because it was too beautiful to damage. In reality, it wasn’t destroyed because it wasn’t a threat due to it being too narrow for army tanks to cross! But… I guess the legend sounds better. The bridge is lined with shops and jewelry stores, and it’s always crowded!
Santa Maria Novella Farmacia
Being a pharmacy nerd, I couldn’t leave Florence without seeing one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. The painted ceilings alone are worth a visit! It’s no longer a pharmacy, but they do sell perfumes and expensive soaps. Be warned that we looked for this place on three separate occasions before we finally found it!
Even though Florence wasn’t our favorite, we did enjoy our time here. Art enthusiasts would feel much more at home than we did! Come back next week for our guide on where to eat in Florence!