Having just returned from a whirlwind tour of Italy that included stops in Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome, I wanted to record for you all my best travel tips for maximizing the amount of culture, sightseeing, food, and fun in some of Italy’s most iconic cities.
When planning our trip to Italy, my friends and I were inspired by the New York Times “36 hours in…” guides for various cities. We used the NYT guides for Milan and Venice when planning our adventures, but I didn’t realize there was one for Florence until now. Let’s see how my guide, which was also equally influenced by my girlfriends on the trip, compares.
- Il Duomo di Firenze – The first thing we did upon arrival was try to get tickets to go inside and climb to the top of the duomo. I say “try” because we did not succeed in getting these tickets. As with many tourist attractions and museums in Italy’s major cities, visitors must book tickets weeks and sometimes months in advance. We knew this going in and we prioritized the things we really wanted to do by reserving advance tickets, but other things we decided to “wing,” a strategy that was successful for pretty much everything except for the Duomo di Firenze. I’ll add this to the list anyways because it was a lovely basilica to appreciate from the outside and I’m sure going in will be a worthwhile adventure for next time.
- Uffizi Gallery – This was another thing that we didn’t plan ahead for with advance tickets, but upon doing some last minute research I realized it was something I really wanted to see. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long. For 24 euro instead of the usual 20 euro entry fee, we were able to skip the line and enter the galleries immediately. There is SO much to see in the Uffizi, and I didn’t even realize how many famous artworks were inside until we got there. Among my favorites and the most revered art inside were Boticelli’s The Primavera and Birth of Venus (pictured above).
- Galleria dell’accademia – Home to Michelangelo’s famous statue of David, this Florence museum is a true gem. My friends and I did a guided tour, which was very interesting and definitely worth it. Our tour guide highlighted a few famous works in the museum, focusing on the statue of David and several of Michelangelo’s unfinished or “non-finito” statues of the Prisoners or the Slaves.
- Santa Maria Novella – A beautiful gothic church in the heart of Florence. It costs about 8 euros to enter and its definitely worth the price to see the exquisite chapel and walk around the cloisters. The Santa Maria Novella is the first great basilica in Florence and the city’s principal Dominican church.Just a little note about my outfit, my white jeans are the high rise toothpick style from J. Crew, which are super comfortable, not to mention a spring and summer staple. The top is Free People and it is available at Lord & Taylor for an extra 30% off right now. It is very versatile and comfy and also comes in black, ivory, and lemon. I’m so obsessed that I’m contemplating buying it in another color.
- Mercato di San Lorenzo – Amidst all the history, art, and sightseeing, taking advantage of the local shopping was also high on our priority list. Florence is well known for their leather markets and shops, where you can find high quality leather products relatively inexpensively and oftentimes at unbelievable prices. The “leather market” itself, a couple of pedestrian streets to the side of the Santa Maria Novella, is where you’ll find the bargains. Be sure to negotiate with the vendors to get the best prices. It won’t be hard and most of them will offer you a “special price” before you can even ask. The less conspicuous shops nearby the leather markets, and really all over Florence, offer an even greater variety of leather goods and souvenirs. Check out the nearby Mercato Centrale, or central market, afterwards for lunch and foodstuffs to bring home.
-la fille americaine