Today, I’m sharing all the details of our stay in beautiful Florence, Italy and a special day trip into the Tuscan countryside. After Rome, it was nice to enjoy a slower pace.
Day 1 – Arrival and Shopping
- Arrival in Florence – We got up early in Rome and caught the 9 o’clock train to Florence. Our apartment was about 500 meters (1,500 feet) from the Santa Maria Novella train station.
- Apartment Check-in – We checked into another gorgeous apartment that I found on VRBO. We could see the Duomo from our window! It had the perfect location, just a few doors off the beautiful Piazza Santa Maria Novella. This is a beautiful quiet plaza with a two wonderful hotels and several good restaurants. Each morning, Scott and I got up early, enjoyed a cup of coffee and listened to all of the Basilica bells chiming.
- Car Rental – We headed to rent our car for the next day’s fun surprise for the girls.
- Lunch at 4 Leoni – This was a restaurant that I read about several places and it was so good we ate there twice! The food tasted as fabulous as it looks in the picture above.They are famous for their fiocchetti di pera (pasta with taleggio and pear). Our waiter, Byron, was from Croatia and was extremely friendly and helpful. Be sure to ask for him!
- Palazzo Strozzi – This art foundation has international art exhibits and is especially geared to families and children. The exhibit when we were there were these giant slides that explored the relationship with movement and plants. Guests could slide down these three story intertwined slides as part of the exhibit. Check their website for exhibits.
- Wandering and Shopping – We spent the next several hours wandering the beautiful streets of Florence to once again get our bearings. We walked through the Pitti Palace area in the neighborhood surrounding and then across the Ponte Vecchio, peering in some of the glittery shops on the bridge. Next, it was back to the Piazza del Duomo, home to Florence’s famous Santa Maria della Fiore Cathedral, better known as the Duomo. Along the way we stopped at the flagship location of the famous paper store Il Papiro. They are the original creators of Florence’s hand-marbled papers. Each of the girls selected a notebook and a few souvenirs for friends.
- Dinner at Parione – A friend recommended this quaint restaurant for an authentic Florentine experience and it did not disappoint! They even had gluten free options.
- Gelato at Fontana Gelateria – This great shop was around the corner from our apartment and we stopped here each night. Here’s a tip for finding the most authentic gelato—a friend told us that the gelato shops that have gelato mounted up and decorated with fruits and flowers are a tourist trap. Authentic gelato shops have smoothed gelato, and may even have containers with individual tops and the labels out front.
Day 2 – Cooking Class in Anghiari and Day in Tuscany with Friends
This was fabulous adventure! We drove about an hour and a half outside of Florence for the day. Sweet friends with a home outside of Florence arranged a private cooking class at their favorite restaurant for us, Da Alighiero, in the 1100 year old village of Anghiari. We had an amazing time with Chef Silvia and her husband Gianni. We learned to make everything from bread and crackers to turkey cutlets and chocolate truffles! We then spent the afternoon at our friend’s home enjoying the views of the Tuscan countryside as well as authentic Tuscan hospitality.
- Drive to Anghiari – I would definitely recommend renting a car and driving into the countryside, since there are many quaint villages to visit. As I mentioned, Anghiari 1100 years old and overlooks the valley which far in the distance is home to a luxury goods factory…I can’t remember which!
- Lunch at Silvia‘s restaurant, Da Alighiero, is a must!
- Wander through this tiny village that is one of the most picturesque in Tuscany. Trains do not run here so it has remained much the same. So beautiful!
- Sunset at the Piazza Michelangelo – We arrived back in Florence just in time for sunset from this plaza overlooking Florence. It is across the Arno River and an easy taxi or bus ride from the city center.
- If you don’t want to brave renting a car in a foreign country, I recommend the cooking class at Get your Guide. It is on an estate just above the Piazza Michelangelo. It features fabulous reviews, and I had originally booked that for us before the other opportunity arose.
Day 3 – Florence Duomo Climb and Guided Tour and Michaelangelo’s David Tour
- Florence Duomo Climb and Guided Tour – I booked a one hour Duomo Tour and Climb through Get Your Guides. Get Your Guides is like the Esty site of professional tour guides. Independent professional guides and many local businesses list their tours and classes on this site. You can read many reviews about each of them. Our guide, Manuel, was fabulous!
- I did not book a longer tour of the cathedral and Duomo combined on the advice of friends we actually ran into in Rome. You were able to see the inside of the cathedral as you pass through to climb the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo. Climbing to the top of the Duomo takes place partially inside before terminating at the observation deck. This is where I ran into a darling reader and her husband from South Carolina! It is so fun to meet you when I have the chance!
- As you climb the Duomo’s interior, you enjoy up close and personal views of the amazing artwork at the top of the dome. Your ticket to this tour also includes entry to the baptistry as well as the cathedral, but the line to the cathedral is incredibly long and we felt like we had seen it adequately from the other tour.
- I would definitely do this tour and skip the lines!
- Lunch at Gusta Pizza – This is a favorite of my friend Jennifer who just moved to Tuscany with her family. Be sure to follow her at www.texastotuscanyblog.com and on Instagram at Texas to Tuscany. Gusta Pizza was everything that the hype claims and is probably the best pizza we have ever eaten! I ordered ours to-go because it was crowded and ate in the shade around the corner at the Piazza Pitti Palace. This is a perfect opportunity to visit the Boboli Gardens. My gluten-free girl was able to grab a salad from a café in the Piazza.
- Piazza Santa Croce and Church – Be sure to visit this beautiful church.
- Gelato at Gelateria della Passera – This quaint shop is in the same plaza as 4 Leoni. It was one of our favorites in Florence, and I highly recommend the Mojito and Grapefruit combination!
- Michalangelo’s David – I booked a one hour tour again from Get Your Guides for Michelangelo’s David. This guide was as good as our first that day at the Duomo—she gave us a lot of history about this incredible statue as well as a few highlights of the incredible collection of instruments in their music gallery. The world’s first piano resides here! Our ticket for this one-hour tour also included admission to the museum, where we were able to wander around at our leisure.
- San Lorenzo Market – We then walked to the leather market. Here you will find stall after stall of leather goods. The market has everything ranging from handbags and wallets to men’s belts, leather journals, and more. Many of the stalls have a lot of the same products, so be sure to wander the grounds and bargain before you make a purchase. It’s amazing how something that would be €100 quickly becomes €60, and at the next vendor they’ll start at €60 and it becomes €20! Some shops have unique goods and do not barter, being market stalls for physical store locations. Sogni in Carta is one such store, which sells marbled paper journals and leather journals that you can have your name embossed in. Make sure yours isn’t faded before purchasing, though!
- Sunset Drinks at the Grand Hotel Cavour Rooftop Bar – We had drinks at the rooftop bar at the Grand Hotel Cavour, Terrazza Michelangelo. We did not have reservations, but I would recommend making them if possible. They happily accommodated us and we enjoyed a drink as we watched the sunset and listened to the cathedral bells chime 8 o’clock.
- Dinner at Lorenzo de’ Medici – We then walked to dinner at one of the two restaurants we found in Florence who offer gluten-free options for everything, Lorenzo de’ Medici. Named after a famous Italian nobleman, the restaurant is a very family-friendly casual restaurant, just what we needed. We ended the night with gelato at Fontana Gelateria, of course.
Day 4 – Rest Day, Brunch and Shopping
- As we like to allow for every several days, we took it slow and decided not to make the trek to Pisa. Instead, we enjoyed a slow day wandering the streets, going back to a few of our favorite shops, and brunch at 4 Leoni. I told you—it was that good! Jennifer Tattanelli is a fabulous designer with truly gorgeous leather clothing, handbags and shoes featuring ready-to-wear and custom pieces. A friend recommended this shop to me. Another favorite is Viajyu, a shoe store that has ready to wear and custom shoes.
- Dinner at La Reggia degli Etruschi – We ended our visit to Florence with another reader recommendation, dinner at La Reggia degli Etruschi. This beautiful restaurant is located about a 20-minute taxi drive from Santa Maria Novella. It is part of Florence, but is considered a different “town.” The views of the Tuscan countryside and the city of Florence were outstanding. As you know, I love a great sunset, and this one was one I’ll never forget. We sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the view and great conversation as well as wonderful cuisine. The service and the food here are truly perfection. One thing to note is that the hill you walk up to the restaurant is pretty steep and cobblestone. Taxi’s won’t drive up it. Don’t wear wedges like I did or you’ll have to take them off on the way down…like I did! Oh, well!
The next morning we were off on the train to Venice! Next week I’ll be sharing all of those details.
I hope this is helpful if you are planning a trip to Florence. I truly can’t wait to return to Tuscany.
Happy Wanderlust Wednesday!
Before you go, be sure to check out these recent posts for travel and fashion inspo!
- Wanderlust Wednesday: Rome in Four Days
- What I Wore in Italy
- Italy Packing List
- Fall Transition Styles from Nordstrom
- Casual Day Dresses for Fall
- What I Wore this Summer in Spain
Restaurants: I’ve starred the ones we went to, but the others are are recommended by friends who loved them.
- ** Parione – Traditional Tuscan cuisine. We loved this on our first night.
- Camillo – Lunch or dinner charming traditional
- **Trattoria 4 Leoni – Old and famous in small piazza, charming delicious dinner – Erin
- Barretto – Wonderful Dinner
- Il Santo Bevitore
- Accademia Restaurant in San Marco Square – good for lunch
- Dinner at Pitti Gola – A friend loves this place and is a member of their wine club
- Olio & Convivium – restaurant with great shop Bottega for bread and Tuscan specialties. Must see! Foodie paradise
- Zeb is reasonable place for fabulous food
- **La Reggia degli Etruschi – Everything about this restaurant is beautiful! Be sure to allow enough time to walk to the overlook just past the restaurant and take in the views. A reader recommended this restaurant.
Other things to do:
- Via Tornabuoni – most elegant street with shopping
- Via Calzaiuoli – Pedestrian street with shopping
- Markets – The Market of San Lorenzo – preferred by tourists
- The New Market – leather goods under the Loggia del Porcellino
- Flea Market near Piazza Santa Croce (must see) last Sunday of every month except July
- Pitti Palace
- Uffizi Gallery
- Palazzo Vecchio Museum
- Loretta Caponi – beautiful linens and nightgowns
- Viajyu – fabulous shoes to purchase and custom design
- Jennifer Tattanelli – Truly gorgeous leather clothing, handbags and shoes featuring ready-to-wear and custom pieces.
- Florence Duomo has mass in English
- Day Trip: Pisa
I didn’t even look at hotels! We loved this apartment and would stay there again in a heartbeat!
All photos are my own and taken on my iPhone X other than the apartment photo.