Florence, like most Italian cities is filled with history but Florence in particular also houses many works of art. It’s filled with magnificent architectural achievements and was once the home of many house hold names such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. The city is literally a walking museum and everything is super close which makes touring the city on foot quite enjoyable.
Accommodation in Florence
WOW Hostels Florence was one of the nicest hostels we’ve stayed in. It had a large common area, private rooms, ensuite, A/C, a fitness centre, laundry and awesome staff. It was inexpensive and within walking distance to all the main attractions in Florence. Highly recommend this hostel.
What to do in Florence
- Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence’s main attraction, the beautiful cathedral in the centre of the city. It is free to enter the Cathedral (shoulders and knees need to be covered) but to climb the 432 stairs to the top of the Duomo known as the Cupola there is a €10 charge. You can also walk up 416 stairs to the Bell tower for a view of the Duomo itself. The €10 covers both entry fees.
- Piazzale Michelangelo – Another famous viewing point to see Florence. Many side streets with cafe’s and coffee shops. A walk to the top won’t take long and it is free. A good equivalent if you don’t want to climb the steps to the Cupola at the top of the Cathedral.
- Uffizi Gallery – The Uffizi houses the premier collection of Italian Renaissance art, featuring works by such masters as Botticelli, Titian, Michelangelo and da Vinci. Get your tickets in advance at uffizi.org in order to guarantee your entry time and avoid the long lines to get in.
- Accademia Gallery – One of the most visited Museums in Florence. This museum of art is famous for its several sculptures by Michelangelo, notably his David (shown above). One of the most reviewed galleries on TripAdvisor we have ever seen (14,000!).
- Mercato Centrale – Heaven for Foodies! A very modern market hall with numerous restaurants featuring classic Italian dishes and sit down seating. Downstairs you will find the fresh food markets with vegetables, fruits, pastas, meats, cheeses etc. Outside you can shop for leather bags, jackets & souvenirs. A must visit in Florence!
- Ponte Vecchio – The most ancient and photographed bridge in Florence. This is the only bridge that wasn’t ruined during WW2. Take a walk over and through all of the Jewlwery stores that line either side of the bridge.
- The best thing to do in any city is turn off your GPS and get lost walking through all of the alleys of these cities, you will stumble upon things you never intended to and find yourself eating a gelato or a pizza in many of the different piazzas that form the city. Here is detailed list of all the main piazzas in Florence.
- Take a day trip to Pisa. There isn’t a lot to do other than see the leaning tower of Pisa and a few other museums, so you could easily dedicate 1/2 a day to this. The train will take roughly 1 hour from Florence and it is a 20/25 minute walk or you can take the bus. If you want to climb to the top, you must book at least 16 days in advance but no more than 45 days in advance. You can buy tickets here
Eating in Florence
Eating in Italy is no doubt one of the biggest “struggles”. It’s a blessing and a curse in one. Every corner there are pizza stores, sandwiches, gelato stores & street food. If there’s one thing you need on your visit to Italy it’s a bottomless stomach! Below are our recommendations for a meal out in Florence.
- 7Brothers – Do it yourself Gelato. Probably the best we’ve had in Italy so far! You can choose between a cup or a cone, 8 different flavors and an array of toppings from fruits, sauces, chocolates etc.
- El Chico – Yes yes, we did have Mexican in Italy. When all you eat is pasta and bread for 2 weeks sometimes a taco is all you need ;). Really good Mexican if you ever need to mix it up!
- Trattoria l’Oriolo – A little restaurant away from the main tourist areas, decently priced and awesome waiters!
- All’Antico Vinaio – The BEST focaccia sandwich you may ever eat (shown above). There is a reason this is rated #1 out of 2032 restaurants in Florence. This place draws crowds like nothing else but it is so worth it. There are 2 on either side of the road and they are both the same so don’t be fooled if one line is longer than the other! Ask for their recommendations or create your own sandwich. We had 2 different combinations and they were both absolutely amazing. Nom nom NOM!
Nightlife in Florence
Like in most Italian cities, the nightlife in Florence flows in and out of the piazzas. Whether your looking for an aperitif, cheap drinks, a meal, or a night of dancing, you will invariably meet up in many of the different piazzas before heading out for the night. Piazza Santa Croce is a place you’ll find a large selection of bars, restaurants and cafes. Most are within walking distance and will be crowded with a mix of locals, tourists and students. Our night was spent at the following bars:
Moyo – If you are after a perfect spot to have a cocktail or 2 this is the place to go to begin your night. They also serve an awesome “buffet” with the purchase of a cocktail, you could easily use this as your dinner.
The Red Garter – Just next door to Moyo was a typical, foreigner filled bar for drinks and a place to have a dance with no cover charge.
Beer House Club – Huge selection of on tap beers, be vary they aren’t the cheapest.
Piazza Michelangelo is also a great inexpensive place to bring a bottle of wine/snacks and watch the sunset over Florence.
The romantic water city of Venice is one of a kind and for this reason it should be on any Italian itinerary, even if it’s just for a day
Staying in the centre of Venice can be pricey especially if you leave it to the last minute like we did. There are plenty of accommodation options in the actual water city but if you are trying to watch your budget, you should consider staying outside of the main city of Venice, which is a 10 minute train stop away. That town is called Venice Mestre, not Venice St Lucia which is the main station. We stayed at Hotel Martello in Venicce Mestre and would recommend it as it was right near the station and good value.
What to do in Venice
- Get lost! Whilst having a phone with GPS can be helpful, when in Venice, it is almost impossible to follow the little blue dot on the phone, as it gets just as lost as you do! There are a number of main waking paths but it’s great to go off and get lost in the many alleyways! You never know what you may find. If getting lost isn’t your thing then we suggest taking a map from your hotel or any of the info points around. They are much easier to follow and are well marked.
- Gondola rides are the main “thing” to do in Venice but boy can they break the bank! It’s €80 for 30 mins or €100 after 7pm. An alternative option is to take a 2 minute gondola ride across the canal. Sure, this isn’t as romantic as your own personal 3o minute ride but we personally couldn’t justify spending the $! Doing it this way costs a whopping €2. They are located throughout the city but are hardly marked so look at a map for crossings.
- Boat tour + audio guide – Although Venice is walkable it is no doubt best seen by boat, at least for part of your stay. When arriving at the main train station get boat number 1 (€7.50 p/p) which takes you to San Marco Square. San Marco Square is the main tourist hub of the city. To get an insight into what you are looking at download the podcast ‘Rick Steves’ Grand Canal Audio Tour’ and it will quickly orient you with the city + explain the many monuments/buildings you will see along the way. It’s very fascinating on the canal as you pass by the variety of different boats filled with locals, workers, tourists, families, taxis, ferries & cargo boats.
If you plan on visiting the city on water for longer, check out Time Out’s top things to do in Venice.
Eating in Venice without the Venice price tag
Just like the rest of Italy, a surcharge is added on to your bill as soon as you sit down, and this can range from €1 to€4 Euro per person. So be careful where you choose to eat and of course avoid all the tourist trap restaurants on the main water front. Venice isn’t cheap but there are still a variety of places to grab a quality bite to eat without the price tag. We utilized the small pocket restaurants, grocery stores and hole-in-the-wall pasta joints. No fancy restaurant recommendations this time around!
- Gelato: You must check out the Soco Gelato store. Probably the best gelato we had in Italy! Flavours to choose? The Orient Express (cinnamon, cookies, vanilla and mild ginger OR caramel toffee) It was also the first time we’ve had ice-cream in a edible waffle cup too.
- Cheese/Meat/Bellini: Make a stop in one of the many grocery stores and create your own meat and cheese plate, a bottle of Bellini (prosecco and peach, Emily’s new favorite drink) and sit by the water’s edge to watch the boats go by.
- Pasta: Take a look in the small alley ways for takeaway pasta hole-in the walls. We stumbled upon Fried Land and had one of our favorite pasta dishes here, they also have salads, pizzas and sandwiches. Most dishes were €5.
- Spritz it up! During the early evening when everyone gets off work, the piazzas get filled with people having a drink, most commonly, the Italian drink known as a Spritz.
Could you see yourself living in a city on water? They believe in 20-40 years time Venice will no longer be a livable city and in fact be more like a museum for people like us to go visit – it’s already kind of like that.
After 3.5 weeks in Italy it was time for us to say goodbye to the carbohydrates and gelato and take a train to Hungary via a day stop in Vienna, Austria!
Married days survived: 179