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Top 10 Things to do in Florence

When I began researching and asking around of things to do in Florence, it became very apparent that Florence CANNOT be done in one day. Well, at least not to get a genuine experience. We spent a full week there, and with jet lag and getting acquainted with the area, I couldn’t imagine doing it in less than three days.

You will find more details about our trip in my Florence post here (and more pictures!). Below I share my Top 10 Things that you must do in Firenze!

Top 10 Things to do in Florence:

  1. Buy a Firenze Card. I don’t think it matters which season you visit, it will make your time there (short or long) very worthwhile and a little less painful (if you don’t like lines).We debated on getting the Firenze Card, especially because we were going in off-season, however, we ended up getting it and were happy with our decision. Not only do you get to bypass the line(s) for tickets, but financially it made a difference in the end as well. Here is a breakdown:
    • Basillica di Santa Croce – open 930-530 – 8 Euros
    • Galleria degli Uffizi – Tues-Sun 815-650 – 16.5 euros
    • Galleria del Academia -Tues-Sun 815-650 – 12 Euros
    • Il Duomo – Various hours – 15 Euros 
    • Baptistery – 815-1030/1115-630 – 7 Euros
    • Boboli Gardens & Pitti Palace – 815-430 – 7 Euros
  2. Try the bistecca fiorentina. I grew up in Oklahoma, so I am very acquainted with meat, and meat that is extremely rare. However, in a foreign country, even I was hesitant. Don’t be! I am drooling just thinking about it!
  3. Eat the food. Don’t be afraid to try anything and everything. We asked restaurant owners and servers what they would suggest or would just let them choose if there was a language barrier. We were never disappointed!
  4. Hike to the Piazzale Michelangelo. You could always take a taxi, but you would miss out on sooo much scenery in between. Do the hike, thank me later! 
  5. Explore on and around the Ponte Vecchio. The bridge is beautiful to look at, but the streets around it and on it are full of unique shops.
  6. Visit ALL of the churches. This will not disappoint! The majority of them are free and you will be surprised by how much history each of them contain!
  7. Purchase items from the little shops. I love cheese and prosciutto. Actually, love is an understatement. Florence has so many meat and cheese shops for you to try a little of everything! Note that you will need to know how to ask for a certain amount in their metric system. They also offer fresh bread in the majority of them. Did I mention that I love cheese? And prosciutto?!
  8. Visit the Mercato Centrale. We stumbled upon this place on one of our last days in Florence, and it was a great find! The top floor has a ton of foodie places, whether you are looking for a full lunch or some tapas, you will find what you need. The lower floor is an actual food market, with an eclectic mix of food and goods!
  9. Admire the statues in Piazza della Signoria. Before or after leaving the Uffizi, this square is only a few feet away – and again, you will be in awe at the magnitude of this art that towers over you.
  10. Watch street performers. Around the duomo, squares, and markets, you will find musicians, painters, and street chalk designers. Grab some gelato and enjoy!
  11. BONUS: Depending on how much time you have, take a day trip to one of the many tuscany villages that surround Florence. By train or car, you won’t be too far to have another adventure!

Cheers!

Florence

When I began researching and asking around of things to do in Florence, it became very apparent that Florence CANNOT be done in one day. Well, at least not to get a genuine experience. We spent a full week there, and with jet lag and getting acquainted with the area, I couldn’t imagine doing it in less than three days.

Below I share my experience from our holiday there, and in a follow-up post I will provide my Top 10 Things that you must do in Firenze (with a ton more pictures)!

f l o r e n c e,  i t a l y

We began the first leg of our trip in Florence. We flew from LAX to London Heathrow to Rome. And from Rome we took a high-speed train to Florence. And the navigating began.

…………… …………..

We had decent directions from our Airbnb host, Samuel, on how to get from the train station to our apartment by foot. It was a bit of a hike, considering we were dragging our suitcases and carry-ons behind us. Once we finally made it, our host was waiting for us.

Walking down the cobble stone roads towards our Airbnb.

We got a few recommendations from our host, but considering we arrived late on a Sunday, we wanted to catch the last few hours of the Christmas Market, so the visit was a bit short. We dropped off our things and scurried over to the market.

The Christmas Market was in front of one of the many churches. It hosted everything from roasted pigs to miscellaneous clothing items, to some unnecessary trinkets. We walked around aimlessly trying to beat our jet lag. Nothing much seemed appealing enough to buy on our first day, so we took our time walking back to our place, trying to figure out the area. We ended up stopping for a bite to eat at Osteria del Proconsolo, which was just a few doors down from our Airbnb. The owner was very delightful and offered some other great recommendations.

 

 

The first few nights were a bit rough (my first time experiencing jet lag). But thankfully I had a few days off of work and I had a full itinerary planned ahead, to hopefully wear us out.

 

Monday was a day of walking around Firenze. We explored the Ponte Vecchio, Santo Spirito, the Duomo, and our biggest surprise was the hike to Piazzale Michelangelo. This had a gorgeous view of Florence!

One of the more hilarious/ridiculous moments was trying to find Gusta Pizza. The first day we were walking towards Santo Spirito, we saw this pizza parlor, but it wasn’t open for business. So we made a mental note to come back in an hour or so. The only problem was that we couldn’t find our way back to it. We ended up walking up and down every street in the neighborhood, but our mission fell short. However, the next day we stumbled upon it again, so you better believe we were first in line. And it was so worth it!

Onto the next day. Initially, we were planning on a few museum visits over the course of a week; however, once I read that the Firenze card would be useful, we decided to squeeze as much in as we could. The card is 72 museums, in 72 hours, for 72 dollars. And although we were visiting during off season and many (blogs) said we didn’t really need it, it is really dependent on the person. We absolutely loved it! (More on that in the next post)

We visited the Galleria degli Uffizi, Galleria del Academia, Il Duomo (and climbed to the top), Baptistery, Santo Spirito, Santa Maria church, Basilica di Santa Croce, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. I’m usually not a big museum person – but I was in complete awe the entire time. Each piece was grandiose and a bit majestic.

We had several day trips planned for our stay. The first one up, San Gimignano. We took the train from Florence to Pogibonsi, and then a bus up the hill to San Gimignano. It is always an adventure trying to figure out public transportation and then not knowing your final destination. But each minute is just that, an adventure. Missing your bus and having to wait an hour until the next one… well, that was fun too.

San Gimignano absolutely took my breath away. This adorable hill town was so quaint. Obviously we were there in “off-season”, so I’m sure it was much more enjoyable as we weren’t bombarded with other tourists or people trying to sell us stuff.

We walked around the little village getting lost in between streets and taking way too many pictures. When lunch time came, we found one of the few places open that was serving wine and a panini. We met Maristella who was a native to the area and had a very popular shop. (ps she was actually very nice and happy, this was the best picture out of a few)

Afterwards, we grabbed some gelato from the only gelateria open and enjoyed it in the city square. We weaved in and out of picture points and leather stores. When it began getting dark, we headed back the same route we got into town.

Our days in Florence were beautiful. We walked in and out of as many streets that we came upon. Often visiting the same place several times. On recommendation, we tried this panini place called Il Due Fratellini – hands down, the best!

We drank plenty of wine, ate more than enough prosciutto, tried the pizza, gnocchi and as many pastas as we could, not too mention the tiramisu. We were there for Christmas, but we didn’t make any definite plans. So, we ended up finding a small place close to Piazza Santa Maria Novella – there we tried the bistecca for our Christmas Eve dinner. It’s recommended to share between at least two people – but based on experience, I would say at least four people. But it was absolutely delicious.

After dinner, we planned on attending Christmas Eve Mass inside the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore). However, we walked inside around 930 – and after realizing that we would have another 3+ hours to wait and then go through service, we opted to pass. People were already staking out their seats, and it was a bit of a long haul for us.

We came across this Christmas bar crawl group, singing down the cobble streets

Florence was magnificent in so many ways. I got to see in person so many things that I only got to read in history books. The culture was more than I expected. Attempting to grocery shop was an adventure. The food, of course, is better tasted. I consumed more than enough expressos, desserts (mainly tiramisu), and pastries to feed a small army.

I would say Florence took a piece of my heart.

 

Valle de Guadalupe Wine Tasting

A girlfriend invited me last minute to join her and a few friends on a wine tasting tour down in Mexico. We had talked about it a few times and I could not pass up this opportunity! Here is the breakdown:

  • We took an Uber down to the US/Mexico border. From there, we walked across into Tijuana after getting through the border checkpoint, which took a solid 30 minutes. After a small hike, our transportation (a small bus) for the day was waiting for us.
  • Our guide, Roberto, provided breakfast burritos, (which looked and tasted like taquitos) made by his sister and Bloody Maria’s (with the option of Vodka or Tequila).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drive down to Valley of Guadalupe was about 2.5 hours. (It feels a lot longer on the way down there than on the way back!) The total cost of the trip was $150 dollars and it included:

  • The bus ride to and from, with morning food and drinks
  • Tastings at three wineries + one guided tour
  • Light lunch/snacks between vineyards
  • Dinner (without alcohol)
  • Water bottles throughout the day
  • Tour guide, Roberto (will link once he has a website)

Our first winery was Clos de Tres Cantos. Their location was located on a small hilltop surrounded by vineyards below. There were about six small hut like structures that are all made from reused materials from Mexico. Which is an amazing feature, besides the wine! We had our tasting outside, served with local cheese, bread, and olive oil. The wines were great, and the majority of us snagged a few bottles to take back home.

Our second winery was Decantos. Their building was more modern than the first winery, but their view is magnificent. Gorgeous landscape surrounding their winery! We had time for a few pictures before they sat us at a large picnic table. Once settled, we began our tasting and ordered a bunch of appetizers for a light lunch.

We were also provided a tour of their facility which goes underground! Our tour guide was very informative and kept it brief! It was a nice break from the outside heat!

Our last winery was Adobo Guadalupe. When we arrived they had a food truck out front and the place was pretty crowded. They had a small tasting room, but large enough to fit the majority of our group. It was a very cute place, however, we didn’t have much time before heading to our dinner reservations. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of pictures, but definitely check out their website.

For our last stop of the day, we made it to La Esperanza Baja Med for dinner. We were served several beautiful courses and we ended up opening up a few of our bottles that we had purchased throughout the day. The restaurant was packed, so thankfully we had reservations. Their place was also surrounded by beautiful vineyards and had a modern touch to it. Would definitely recommend this place!

Did I mention the tequila? When in Mexico…

Cheers!