Meeting my old roommate from Florence back again in the city we lived is the best time ever. A weekend is never long enough. The weather in February is surprisingly nice and sunny, especially coming from grey and cold Germany.
We flew with a connection in Munich this time and Air Dolomiti was a new airline for us as part of Lufthansa. They serve prosecco in real glasses to all. Europe travel is so good. The hotel Alfieri, which is an old palazzo, was on the Arno in a perfect location. We would stay again.
We had planned to take it easy the first night, making a reservation in advance online with I’Tuscani 2 for a typical bistecca fiorentina that is a must eat when in Florence. It’s a flat rate menu per person, the odd part of the restaurant was an impromptu performance from what seemed to be an unaffiliated theater performer who recited a story of the Medici family. Random, but that’s Italy. Our plans to take it slow that night derailed as the waiter brought out all sorts of homemade shots, on the house at the end of the meal. Everything from grappa to limoncello – delish – but some in our party of friends were feeling it the next day for sure. Would still highly recommend the restaurant for a casual vibe, giant steak. It was the best steak experience of the weekend (even after going back to Il Latini the last night – which was also delish as usual, but a different experience).
We also made a res at Osteria Cinghiale Bianco and with three of us, we were sat at the most adorable loft table in a nook over the dining room. We can’t imagine how the waiters can go up and down the slim ladder-like stairs, but they did it. The waiter actually knew my friend which made it a little weird as he lingered a long time to chat often, but all good. The home-made pesto pasta and pappardelle with wild boar was amazing as was the burrata with truffles and radicchio salad with parm. The house wine from Chianti is always good everywhere, so don’t let them try to sell you a bottle.
For breakfast we repeated the same place every day which is unheard of normally, but it’s that good. I had been last trip so knew to come back again. Ditta Artigianale has simple breakfasts, great award winning coffee, free wifi, and the best fresh peach bellinis in the world.
We had intended to either go on a day trip to Tuscany or Siena by bus or train, or do the city’s free walking tour (everyday at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m.) to get a refresher on the cultural details we forgot since living there. We ended up lingering at breakfast and wandering the city’s landmarks the entire weekend – and shopping of course.
Mercato Centrale and the vendors outside is a tourist spot now with Eataly inside on the second floor compared to the local market it was when we lived there. It is worth a walk though and a good spot for lunch. It is also still one of the best streets for shopping knock-off bags and picking up souvenirs.
For bags stop in Umberto Selleria: Umberto Boldrini is a leather craftsman that has a shop on the way to Pitti Palace. He designs, sources and makes the bags with his son-in-law. The quality is unmatched and rare in today’s mass-produced world.
For lunch, it’s hard to not have something good. We tried to go to the panini shop Alimentari but we didn’t make it this time. The best lunch we had of the trip was the risotto del giorno with brie cheese and artichokes at this antique looking restaurant Birreria Centrale, then pizza at this other spot we found along the way the next day – good but not the best ever, though it did the job.
The best of all, as always, is La Carraia, named after the Ponte alla Carraia Bridge located on the corner, opposite the river from the Duomo. We ate there at least 4 times this trip.
Gelateria Santa Trinita is now on the corner of the Trinita bridge, and we first went there by mistake as La Carraia used to be the only gelateria on the corner across from a bridge. I knew the moment I held the cup, we had made a mistake without realizing. Of course it is still delicious, but they are more expensive, and don’t have all the flavors. The stracciatella was good but overall no contest.
Gelateria Artigianale La Strega Nocciola was our second favorite, also a little expensive but unique flavors like lavender were amazing.
Don Nino at the Duomo (right around the corner from a La Strega location) is good but not worth it for the price, plus they are the only gelateria that wipes the top of the cup of ice cream flat instead of leaving the full scoop – shame. The cannoli looked good but we didn’t try them.
You can hit most all the main spots in Florence in three days. With two more days, we would have also gone inside, but the weather was so nice, we didn’t pay to go inside much except to see the David.
The weekend we were in town was the procession for Calcio Storico of Florentines dressed from the 1500’s parading by the Duomo to Santa Croce for the soccer game. It was also the 10-day annual chocolate fest, Fiera Del Cioccolato.
The Ponte Vecchio was crowded as always but is the best to see the gold and jewels in all the windows along with pottery shops over the bridge.
The Duomo is free to go inside, 15 euro for the tower. The line was short so we stopped in to see it. Beautiful as always, amazing how they were able to construct the building and paint the detailed dome in perspective in that era.
The David in Galleria dell’Accademia is a must. We love the evening time when museum goers file out and you can grab a snap of David with no one around. Tickets were about 12 euro. When we lived in Florence years ago, photos were not allowed in the museum at all, so it is really weird/great we can take cell phone pics now with no flash in the museum. Selfies everywhere. Tuesdays are also student nights.
Uffizi Gallery – Just a walk through the area without going in is enough. The walk through the lobby area inside to the gallery is a spectacular painted quart yard as well, free.
Piazza della Signoria just past the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio, has all the statues and the famous fountain with David replica in front of the old palace. We were lucky to see the fountain before construction scaffolding went up on Monday. The Perseus Statue is here in this square too in the Loggia dei Lanzi.
Palazzo Pitti is different in that you can no longer go in the quart yard without a ticket. The front is the same though, still a perfect spot to bring wine and a blanket and catch the sun out front. We buy art from the painters out front each time too.
Santa Maria Novella is a beautiful church in the same architecture and design as the Duomo. The square itself is a bit shady there – always has been. SImilar to the area around the train station and the area of Basilica di Santa Croce.
Santo Spirito – The food and crafts market on Sundays is the best. We brought home wine and cheese and oranges with the leaves still on. So overwhelming and it has grown much larger over the years. I want to buy it all. The bakeries and restaurants in this area are also great for lunch and Pizza Gusto is nearby too.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a bus or a taxi ride up the hill for the best views in all of Florence. We prepared and stopped at grocery store Sapori & Dintorni Conad, near the Ponte Vecchio for prosecco, juice, meats and cheeses for a picnic on the steps overlooking Florence at the famous bronze David. The perfect way to spend our last day.
There are a few street art scavenger hunt trends in Florence over the past fer years. One with street signs and one under the theme, Art Can Swim. Read more about the artists here. See how many you can find. Here are just a few:
There are new breweries popping up all over Europe, One brew pub is located just down the street from where we used to live.
- Archea Brewery (Via dei Serragli, 44) over the Carraia Bridge, past the ice cream was our favorite.
- Brew Dog Firenze (via Faenza 21r (via del Giglio))
- Beer House Club (Corso dei Tintori)
- Friends – an oldie we didn’t stop at but it brought back memories walking by.
See you again in September Firenze!
View the photos here.