Tuscany was my number one place I wanted to visit in Italy. I had visions of rolling countryside with vineyards, historic Florence, and beaches. It pretty much checked all the boxes for me. Dave was excited soak up the history and eat all of the steaks, I was looking forward to seeing the architecture, art and gelato. It didn’t disappoint and I loved our stay there. It was BUSY. Tourism had bounced back big time after the pandemic, so I was glad that we were there during the shoulder season.
We book the high-speed train down to Florence from Ortisei through Bolzano. It was a little over 4 hours to get there as we made short stops through Trento, Verona, and Bologna. We were cutting it close making our way back into town from the village. There were considerably more people shuttling around on the weekend as compared to the Wednesday that we arrived. We did make it through with a few minutes to spare. Dave sprung for first class to seat so we could see what that was like. there was a bit more space, the people surrounding us were more refined and we were served one drink (don’t you dare ask for another, we were shot down promptly). It wasn’t as bit of a difference in quality as when you fly but it was a treat nonetheless. The scenery was a beautiful as the ride up and we made it to Florence without any hang ups.
Where we stayed…
This was where our pre-booked accommodations ended. The evening before our departure, we hopped on Airbnb, Expedia and Google maps in search of accommodations. Our priorities were to be close to the train station, close to the Duomo and center of the city and since the included breakfast at Hotel Hartmann was included, we thought it would be nice to have that again. We landed on B& B de ‘Biffi, which did meet all these requirements, but was not quite as nice as were anticipating. We found it relatively easily from the train station (thank god, because I was in desperate need to use the restroom), and we made our way up the super sketchy, tiny, ancient elevator to the room. Our room was right off the kitchen, so it was loud in the morning as they prepared either your “European” or “American” style continental breakfast. This was a huge let down after the spread at Hotel Hartmann, but honestly, our internal clocks were so off, and we were staying up so late that we missed most of the breakfasts. The room was clean, and the location was prime, so despite it being not as nice as it looked online, and it worked out well enough. Honestly, we didn’t even take any photos of this place. Take that for what it is 😉
What we did…
We continued to do our marathon walking days in Florence putting on 10-12 miles per day. We spent the first day touring around the Duomo and the surrounding piazzas and walking along the Arno River. Beautifull churches and marble statues were everywhere, the whole city feels like an art museum. It is a huge tourist destination, so people of all kinds were everywhere. There was at least one leather, gelato, and art shop on every block.
So basically, we walked, ate, watched people, walked, ate, drank, walked looked at old buildings, drank, and walked some more. It was great. I did miss the nature and peace of the mountains, but we were there for the full-on city experience.
We tour the Uffizi Gallery to appreciate the collection of Renaissance paintings and statues. The building is impressive, but my favorite was actually the courtyard that was outside the entrance. On our last evening as we were walking home from dinner, we actually came upon a man that was just playing his violin for free for anyone to enjoy. It felt like a movie scene and incredible to experience.
We found many cool bars by just wandering around. One evening we found this tiny beer pub and chatted with a trio of Americans that tipped us off to a tour guide they had loved. They hooked us up with this number, we texted him the next day and went on a private tour with Leonardo, a young, super friendly local that loved his city and was knowledgeable about the history and highlights in Florence. He took us around the Duomo, up a little know tower in a hotel that was open to the public and got us fast tracked into the museum to see Michelangelo’s statue of David. This was amazing and I learned way more than I normally would by listening rather than reading signs. I have such a low attention span for the sign reading that having someone just narrate what we were seeing was a huge plus for me.
Other memorable sights we enjoyed were the bridges across the Arno river, the piazzas with statues, the hidden bars in alleyways and the people watching.
What we ate…
Florence was a great place culinary adventuring. I was not aware that there were some very distinct features to food in Florence such as there is no salt in the bread, they are known for amazing ginormous steaks (Dave was so happy), gelato was everywhere, and you could find tiny little windows that housed wine if you were lucky.
Here’s a highlighted list:
- Osteria Filetto d’Oro– Florentine steaks to die for
- La Cantinetta– We enjoyed our last meal in Florence here. The food and service were top notch.
- Pandemonio di Casa Brogi– More steaks and delicious pasta a bit out of touristy region we were staying.
- King Grizzly Firenze– Tiny beer bar in alleyway that was a fun surprise.
- Vini E Vecchi Sapori– We shared a multi-course meal here with wine, artichokes, pasta and steak. I somehow managed to get oil on the new leather coat I had just purchased.
- Trattoria dall’Oste Chianineria– We popped into this little place looking for a glass of wine and found ourselves surrounded by a local’s private birthday party. We did get some sideways glances, but everyone was very friendly, and it was fun to see how Italians celebrate.
- Carabe– We found this place upon recommendation from our tour guide. Delicious!
Florence was an amazing experience- the architecture, food, wine, & people watching- all things that were quintessentially Italy were found. As I would see younger people hanging out or studying, I would wish that I would have taken a term abroad in such a culturally rich place.
I was super happy that we visited in October because I can only imagine how hot and crowded it would have been in the summer. The variety of tourists was fun to see, and I enjoyed the freedom of wearing whatever the heck you wanted because everyone else was doing just that.
I would for sure venture back to Florence and it is a must do if you are contemplating a visit to Italy.