Florence – otherwise locally known as ‘Firenze’ was the more ‘homely’ part of my Italy trip. Mostly because I was there for a good 3-4 days and pretty much settled down within the first few hours of arriving. I took the train in from Milan which was around a 2 hour ride on the express. The views were amazing, which made the ride so much more bearable… even though I couldn’t get the free wifi working!
I’ve never seen anything like the city of Florence, where buildings date back to the Renaissance meaning they are full of character! Visiting churches and art galleries seem to be the popular thing to do when in Florence. Being interested in neither I decided to just wander around the streets and absorb the liveliness of it all… while finding the best Gelato/Pasta/Panino. Possibly why those few days went by so leisurely since I didn’t have to queue for anything other than food! 3 days would be enough to cover Florence though, include the popular tourist attractions!
Posts of Florence have been broken up into different categories, so you can expect an entire post dedicated to particular spots I’ve visited, gelato (duh), dining at Mercato Centrale San Lorenzo etc. Now for the PHOTO SPAM!
I booked myself a private room through Airbnb, it was actually my first time staying with a host. For a solo traveler, it felt less lonely knowing there were other people in the apartment.It was conveniently close to the train station meaning I didn’t have to roll over any cobblestone paths. These are the times when airbnb is so much better than a hotel! For one, the bed is heaps more comfortable.. I felt like I could stay in the entire time… but of course I didn’t. There was so much of Florence waiting to be discovered! 😎
Santa Maria Novella church around the corner of my airbnb
First thing I did after checking in, other than taking a nap was joining a Free Florence Walking Tour. It was the best decision made as I got a brief history lesson on some of the places which I probably wouldn’t have looked up myself, but mostly got to familiarise with the streets. That is why I love Florence – it’s such a walkable city! There are buses running through town but for double the time (usually 15mins more), you could see more of the city on foot. The furthest I’ve had to walk to an attraction (which is up a hill) was 30 or so mins from my base. My tip is to make a gelato stop or two along the way to fuel you up 😛
San Lorenzo Church
One of the largest church in Florence and also one of the more ‘ordinary’ looking one… purely because Michelangelo never got around to implementing his design on the exterior since he got commissioned for another job elsewhere in Italy.
“The Duomo” of Florence, the cathedral which you can pay to climb up 600 or so steps to see the city from up top. Did not do this climb since I figured I’ll save this experience for another trip when I’ll have Alfred to push my butt along. Besides… I was more keen on seeing this cathedral from a far…
Almost same angle… different times of the day. It was probably around 9PM on the right!
Piazza della Signoria
One of the squares in Florence where you’ll find most of the tourists posing with statues, one of the more popular statues being the fake David. The real David is housed in the Accademia Gallery which I wasn’t interested in queuing up for this time round. I’ve always wondered why the statue of David was so popular. From the tour, I learned that other it being sculpted by the great Michelangelo himself.. it was actually a big challenge for him because the marble he was given to work with was in pretty bad shape (left off by previous sculptors).. yet he still managed to create one of his best works from it.
This Medusa statue could give me nightmares!
Uffizi Gallery also a popular tourist destination as it houses works of famous artists like Leonardo Da Vinci. The outside is decorated with statues of famous Italians such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello… separating each column.
Random art you’ll find in streets of Florence.
Plenty of local artists set up near tourist attractions hoping that you’ll take a piece of their work home with them. They are mostly watercolour artworks.. I picked one up as a little souvenir 🙂
End of the tour at Pitti Palace – where you’ll find the entrance to Boboli Gardens
Sitting pretty above the Arno River is the Ponte Vecchio Bridge – probably one of the most photographed bridges in Florence (and there are a few along the Arno!) Back in the days, butchers used to occupy the shop spaces on the bridge but now mostly owned by gold jewellers and artisans.
Is this not the cutest taxi?!
It was Pitti Uomo / Men’s Fashion Week in Florence when I was there, so you can definitely spot out the fashionable people
Next level selfish car, little cars of Italy are funny..
Piazza della Repubblica
Another square in Florence where you’ll find big brands like Michael Kors, Gucci, Prada etc.. as well as the Apple Store. The prettier attraction there would half to be the antique Carousel which has been run by a family over several generations. Even prettier at night!
The watercolour painting I picked up was from this fella!
There were 2 leather markets that I came across in Florence; one being the famous San Lorenzo Markets which is also the larger one spanning across several streets and the other at Piazza del Mercato Nuovo.
San Lorenzo Markets
Most of the bags at SLM were similar, and there were plenty colours on offer. Its hard to judge whether they are really italian made leather, doesn’t help that most of the vendors were from the middle east… but if you researched on what to look for, you’ll probably find real leather there even if its not the best quality.
Some tips; 1) Look out for the leather smell, should be pretty distinct to plastic, 2) leather edges are usually frayed or even better if you can see the other side of the leather on the inside 3) some vendors would put a flame against the bag to show that its real leather… if its fake, it’ll burn up. One of the bags I picked up they automatically did the fire test.. I bought it immediately.
They have “RRP” prices on the bags, but they’ll often give you the best discounted price straight up. My bag was priced at 55-60 euros but he gave it to me for 25euro without bargaining. I tried doing the “I only have 20 euro” in my wallet and they didn’t budge. I knew I got a pretty good price for a leather bag though (thats less than AU$40!). Wish I could’ve came home with so many more goodies for myself and my loved ones but ahh… duffle bag travel life is restrictive!
Oh and if you’re magnet collector like me – you can definitely find cheaper than 3euro magnets at this market! I picked some up for 1.50euros… yet I still came across magnets for 1euro later in the trip…
Piazza del Mercato Nuovo
There are slightly different types of bags here compared to SLM … they seemed less colourful but if you’re after shades of brown, this is the place to go. The vendors here are mostly Italian .. legit bonus points? Prices seemed a little more expensive here too but then not sure what you’d get from bargaining.Given the space its housed under, it is a lot more cozy, hence be careful walking around here because I had a near pick pocket incident! I walked into a Zara store afterwards where a fellow tourist pointed my bag was entirely unzipped! Lucky nothing was stolen, phew!
Fiats eeeeverywhere, the oldies are cuties
When you haven’t researched on where to eat… look out for the queues!
Basilica di Santa Croce
A strip of leather stores near the Basilica of Santa Croce, there are a few reputable stores around here.
Store of Masks
People point phones/cameras at gelatos in hand is a common sight in Italy, I was one of them..
Fashion in Florence
Love how restaurants incorporate green to their exteriors 🙂
High end designer brands on Via de Tornabuoni
Was wondering why I wasn’t passing by a lot of the big brands… then I stumbled across them, on my last day (thankfully). They are mostly located along Via de Tornabuoni, you’ll fine Celine, Salvatore Ferragamo, Emillio Pucci, Gucci etc
Street Art in Florence
For such an old city, I didn’t expect to spot much street art. I was wrong. The tour guide pointed out these special “do not enter signs”. They aren’t actually functioning signs so if you are driving through, look carefully! There are soooo many across the city!
Random “under water” series of famous Italians