Florence, Italy (Jen Lane)
Everything you see I owe to pasta.
- More about your oliver guide: Jen Lane
- Trip type: Adult, City
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: 5 DAYS
to & from
- Air France SFO-Paris-Florence.
- You don’t need a car when you are in Florence- you can get everywhere on foot. Take taxi from Florence airport to hotel.
- Alternative airport to fly into is Pisa which is about a 30 minute train ride to Florence. You want to take the Firenze SMN (Santa Maria Novella) train. Once in Florence- jump in taxi from train station (beware of the gypsies at the train station!)
Where to Stay
Antica Torre Via Tornabuoni: Via Tornabuoni is central in Florence and an absolutely gorgeous street. The rooms are amazing and there’s nothing better than the view from the roof deck…you feel like you can practically touch the Duomo. Don’t miss the breakfast or the afternoon wine on the upstairs roof.
Where to Eat and Drink
I lived in Florence for a year and still dream of the food & drink. Here are some of my favorites:
- Osteria Santo Spirito: A little unknown piazza on the other side of the Arno which was one of my favorite retreats during my year abroad. You can get away from the tourists a little and soak up how the true Florentines live. You must sit outside and order the gnocchi.
- Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco: Fun, loud and authentic food. Also on the other side of the Arno. Get the pappardelle al ragu di chingale…and lots of red wine, of course.
- 4Leoni: Small restaurant in cute square, great staff and amazing food. Order the pear ravioli (sounds random, but amazing) and burrata.
- Gelato- Gelateria la Carraia: You really can’t go wrong with any gelato place in Florence, but this is one of my favorites.
- Lunch- Antique Noes– in little tunnel for sandwiches to go.
- Vini e Vecchi Sapori: small restaurant, hard to find- off of Piazza Signoria. Amazing food and fun to walk home thru piazzas at night with all the vendors selling gadgets, etc.
- Yellow Bar: one of my favorite spots in Florence for authentic pizza…you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
What to Do
You can spend your entire trip to Florence going to museums, but I truly enjoy just spending my time in Florence wandering the streets, shopping, eating, drinking and taking it all in.
- Museums/Walking Tours: This is going to sound so touristy, but Rick Steves does an amazing walking tour and tour of the Uffizi in an Audio Tour. Highly recommend. Definitely go to the Uffizi and be sure you order tickets in advance. The lines can be crazy and if you are going to go to any museum- this is the one to go to.
- Walk to the top of the Duomo: Don’t do this if you are claustrophobic or scared of heights…but the picture & view at the top is worth it.
- Sit in a piazza- The people watching in Florence is amazing...drink the wine, sit back and relax.
- Piazza Michelangelo: Before the city wakes up, I love to walk up to the Piazza Michelangelo where you get the most incredible views of Florence. On the flip side- it’s also an amazing place at sunset to take in- grab a bottle of wine, sit on the stairs and watch the sunset over Florence.
- Siesta: Yes, siesta. The city of Florence pretty much shuts down from lunch to about 3pm. This is your cue to go back to your hotel and take a nap.
- San Lorenzo Food Market: Amazing food market- looks like nothing from the outside, but worth the trip inside.
- One of my favorite things to do at dusk is to sit on the triangles on the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge with a bottle of wine. You will see the locals do this and if one of the two triangles on the bridge is open- jump over the railing and sit on the triangle…there is no better way to experience Florence from dusk to evening. You will be looking right at the Ponte Vecchio as it lights up sitting over the Arno…just like the locals.
- Watch out for the gypsies and their kids- especially in places like the Duomo where it’s crowded…it’s often the little children who are fast and can go right in your purse.
Taking the kids? Check out Sabrina Eliasoph’s guide. She gives you the scoop on gelato and where to stay with your bambinos!
Florence, Italy (Sabrina Eliasoph)
Firenze, una delle più belle e visitate citta’ del mondo.
- More about your oliver guide: Sabrina Eliasoph
- Trip type: Family, City
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: 1 WEEK
to & from
We spent the first week in Forte dei Marmi, about ½ hour outside of Pisa. (There are summer nonstop on Delta to Pisa from JFK.) We arranged a car to drive us the 1½ hours from Forte dei Marmi to Florence.
Where to Stay
Ponte Vecchio Suites: A great place and price for families. Only ½ block from the Ponte Vecchio but on the “other” side of the Arno (the side of Santo Spirito and the Pitti Palace) and across the street from the Ferragamo-family owned hotel, The Lungarno. Hotel is located on a touristy street, yet only a few blocks away from where things start to calm down and you find real Florentines. Rooms are small but designed to accommodate families with kitchenettes and a pullout couches. Very modern amenities and breakfast served to your room. The best part of this place is the price– so affordable for being a stone’s throw from the center of the city.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Trattoria del Pennello: A trattoria near Casa di Dante; casual but family friendly and owned by the best people.
- Trattoria Gargani: Famous, famous place and fantastic food.
- Mangia Pizza Firenze: One of the most awesome little secrets right outside of Piazza Signoria. Very hip, very cool but small so get there early for lunch or for dinner… pizzas are insanely delicious.
- Osteria Santo Spirito--- YUM!!!
- Food court within the Florence Central Market: Have everyone try a different vendor.
- The department store Rinascente on Via Del has a top-level patio open in the summer. A WONDERFUL rooftop for a cocktail and a close view of the Bell Tower and Duomo. Beautiful spot for a picture.
- Lungarno Hotel: Sit right on the Arno and enjoy a Negroni or any other cocktail. A gorgeous spot to sit on a summer night and take in the view.
- On the other side of the Arno, away from all of the tourists, there is a church called Santo Spirito. In this neighborhood, many true Florentines love to eat and hang out. Some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes are here so don’t be shy about crossing the Arno to get there.
What to Do
- Climb the Duomo with kids 5 years and up - too steep for anyone younger. It’s a fun family excursion, not only teaching kids about the significance of Italy’s Catholic roots and why cathedrals like this were built during the Renaissance, but also a fantastic peek into architecture with Bruneschelli’s famous dome.
- Check out Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy and Perfumaria.
- Museums, of course: Accademia, Uffizi, Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace.
- Take road trip up to Fiesole, an adorable town high on a hilltop above Florence. There is an amphitheater where they perform summer operas, dance performances, and other shows. Beautiful on a summer night, lovely breeze, and you see the valley of “fiori,” or flowers, the namesake of this city.
- Great Synagogue of Florence is an architectural gem and serves as a keynote of the history of Jews in Tuscany and Italy. It survived the war which alone is a miracle. It’s Moorish architecture is exquisite and it is very much worth the time and effort to go inside. Closed on Saturdays for Sabbath. Women must wear long sleeves. It is just a few minutes walk past Santa Croce.
- Reserve advance tickets to go into Uffizi, Accademia (where David is) and any other major museum in Florence to shave hours off long lines.
- Climb the Duomo in the late afternoon. Check official closing times but if you go around 4:30 pm, just shy of closing, lines are not nearly as long and you get a beautiful early evening breeze and view once you’re up top.
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa on a brutally hot summer day, in the middle of the day, with kids. Heat was oppressive, traffic in and out of the piazza where Tower is took a long time, masses of crowds, all made for cranky kids and not a great experience. If you do go, go early in the morning.
- Don’t eat meals in any of the major piazzas (Signoria, Repubblica, Duomo, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella). They are tourist traps and you will be slammed with high prices. Restaurants outside of the squares can be fine.
- The Central Market of Florence was disappointing - a lot of leather that all starts looking the same and touristy tchotchkes. Don't waste too much time there.
What to Pack
Heading to Florence with your amore? Check out Jen Lane’s guide who will take you on a eating and drinking tour!