We were surprised by how easy and affordable it was to drive to Florence and return our rental car at a different location than we originally picked it up (Pisa).
Once in Florence, there’s no need for a rental car. It is a very walkable city — and driving around probably would be more hectic than convenient.
Day 3 (continued):
After returning our rental car and checking into our (perfectly located) AirBnb — we could hardly wait to start exploring!
We spent a couple of hours getting lost (or familiar 🙂 ) with the streets around us and of course checking out the oldest bridge in Florence, Ponte Vecchio, and the jewelry shops that still occupy it!
We grabbed affordable and DELICIOUS pizzas at Gusta Pizza for dinner. You won’t regret this place!
We started our first full day in Florence with a quick breakfast at Riviore (it’s free to stand at the counter — or you can pay an “il coperto” (cover charge) to sit at a table) …
before getting in line at the 600 year old Duomo — for our 8:30 AM reservation.
I would recommend purchasing tickets online ahead of time. It cost 18€ for a single ticket to have access to all of the monuments: Cathedral, Dome, Baptistry, Bell Tower, Crypt, Museum. When you purchase the ticket you can also reserve a time to climb the Duomo. The earlier the better for this — in my opinion!
The climb to the top of the Duomo is intense. Definitely one of the more challenging climbs that I’ve done in a building! The higher you get — the smaller the space around you gets. If you are claustrophobic in the least bit and/or unable to climb many steep steps — this is not for you.
Next up was our 10:00 reservation for the Palazzo Vecchio “Secret Passages” Tour. I had previously reserved our tickets online — and we paid for them when we arrived (14€ each).
This tour lasts just over an hour and takes you all through (and up) Palazzo Vecchio. A friend had recommended this tour to us — but we didn’t really know what it would entail. Our guide was very informative and overall we found it to be much more interesting than we expected!
For lunch — Central Mercato! We love to check out the local food markets when traveling and this was no exception. They have many different foods and drinks to choose from. I recommend getting at least 1 porchetta sandwich while in Italy!
If you go to Central Mercato — you won’t be able to miss the San Lorenzo Leather Market. It’s right next door. Although we knew we weren’t going to purchase anything — we took a stroll through it on our way back to our AirBnb for a siesta! 🙂
By 5:30 PM we were ready for an Aperitif at JT Caffee. Most cafes and bars in Italy will offer an “aperitif” before dinner. (This is similar to ‘happy hour’ in the US.)
All this means is that your waiter will probably bring you some kind of small snack or plate (free of charge) when you order drinks. I’ve seen everything from potato chips, small sandwiches, olives, nuts, or a mix of these items!
For dinner — we had reservations at Trattoria 4 Leoni. I wasn’t a huge fan of their bruschetta but our pasta dishes and bottle of house wine were lovely!
If you’re still hungry or just need a sweet fix — Gelateria Della Passera is across the street 😉
Day 5 (2nd full day in Florence) started with a quick breakfast at Shake Cafe. They have a great selection of fresh juices, smoothies, or brunch items.
We had 9:00 AM Reservations at Galleria dell’ Accademia — where you will find the very popular, David by Michelangelo . I recommend buying (at least the) priority tickets online ahead of time. This will guarantee your spot and will save you on time!
This ticket can also be a combined purchased with the Uffizi Gallery — if you plan on doing both.
Tip: You can download Rick Steeve’s Audio Tour (for free) to listen to as you walk around the museum!
After spending almost 2 hours at Accademia — we decided to make the most of our Duomo tickets and also see the Baptistry. Ideally, we would have checked out almost everything the ticket offered — but time did not allow.
For our last lunch in Florence we HAD to go back to Gusta Pizza. I don’t know if we have EVER “restaurant repeated” on a trip… but it was that good! I recommend ordering the Margherita pizza and asking them to add on pesto and garlic 😉
Since it was William’s birthday — we celebrated with the world’s best (and biggest) gelato after lunch! I’m still dreaming about Gelateria la Carreria! Make this place a priority!
If you happen to be in Florence during the month of May — you won’t want to miss the Iris Garden and/or the Rose Garden located near Piazzale Michelangelo.
Unfortunately, these beautiful gardens are only in bloom in May — BUT the beautiful panoramic view from Piazzale Michelangelo is available all year 🙂
After our hike up and down the hill — we were ready for aperitif at Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. This sophisticated wine bar is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine before dinner — OR better yet, a ‘bubbles flight’ 😉 .
On our way to our dinner reservation at Il Santo Bevitore we made a pit stop at Ponte Santa Trinita to get photos of Ponte Vecchio at sunset.
(But maybe I’m the only person who plans dinner reservations around sunset photo opportunities….. ha!)
William’s birthday dinner at Il Santo Bevitore was wonderful. We ordered plates to share and a Brunello bottle of wine. A perfect celebratory restaurant!
On our 6th day we woke up early (and excited!!) to catch a train to Cinque Terre!