2011 and 2014
Favourite Memory: Arriving on a late train on a summer evening. We dropped off the luggage at the hotel and went for a walk looking for a place to eat. We found a place around the corner, almost empty of customers and about to close, but they waved us in and sat us outside with a view of the Palazzo Vecchio. The chef came out to say hello and wish us a great stay in his city. We all fell in love with Florence that night!
In a nutshell: The city itself is a living museum. We enjoyed the art, the architecture, the people and the food. The kids liked it so much that we went back a second time, and would gladly go a third! The list of things to do is extremely long, but here are some highlights, especially if you visit with kids.
Piazza della Signoria- History, art, sculpture, architecture, gelato and cappuccino all in the same place! This vibrant piazza is still the political hub of the city even though it seems to have been taken over by the tourists. It is much quieter in the early morning and we have run into free evening concerts under the Loggia dei Lanzi on a couple of occasions. If you have time, make sure to take the Palazzo tour.
Stroll along the Arno River and admire the bridges. The Ponte Vecchio is probably the most famous and the only bridge not destroyed during WWII. It is lined with jewelry shops, gelaterias and throngs of tourists, walking along it is an experience in itself.
Detail of the ceilings inside the Palazzo Vecchio
The Uffizi Gallery has an amazing collection of masterpieces, plan to spend at least two or three hours. Make sure you get "skip the line" tickets to save time and remember that Michaelangelo's David is at the Galleria dell"Accademia not here and it is a separate. Walk along this outside gallery, there are statues of famous people in politics, art, literature, science, and religion.
Walk the city at night. All the stores are closed and the tourists are mostly gone but restaurants and pasticcerias are open and the buildings are lit up. Sometimes there are street musicians and it adds nicely to the ambiance. When we are in Italy our family tradition is to go out for a 10 o'clock getlato, great excuse for a night stroll!
Have fun visiting one of Florence's famous markets. This is the Mercato del Porcellino, it can be a tourist trap so inspect your merchandise carefully and haggle to get a better deal. This was a great place to get scarves and small leather gifts to bring back home.
Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistry and Giotto's Campanile are architectural marvels of their time. Read Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King to get an appreciation of what a feat it was to build this Dome. Visit the inside of the Cathedral, it is not too impressive but it is still worth a look. Spend time admiring the Baptistry doors and climb to the top of the Campanile or the Duomo for stunning views of Florence and the Tuscan hills.
Museo Casa di Dante was a fun museum for our kids who had to read Dante's Inferno, and if you are a fan of Dan Brown, go on one of the themed tours that will take you through secret passages and the famous Hall of 500 where, if you have a good lens, you can see the "cerca trova" flag.
Leave the hectic tourist area and get lost in the narrow winding streets. You will find little cafes and restaurants frequented by locals, usually where the best food is found!
Finally, take a bus or drive out to Piazzale Michelangelo, this is the best spot to enjoy this iconic view of Florence. On the way enjoy the beautiful homes that line this scenic drive.