One of the reasons I choose to live in Rome is beacuse when the urge to travel strikes and you feel the intense longing to immerse yourself in new things, surround yourself with strangers and have an adventure, you can simply hop on a train for €25 and find yourself in charming Tuscan town or relaxing on a beach. Last week, the destination was Florence and my guide was the ever-professional, engaging, and entertaining tour company: City Wonders.
Florence might just be the perfect weekend getaway. It’s like a pocket sized treasure box that holds some of the most spectacular and famous art and architecture in the world, mixed together with great food and shopping. And it’s so walkable that you never have to worry about buses or taxis (and once you’ve lived in Rome, any opportunity to NOT get on a bus feels like a vacation in and of itself).
THE MINI-GUIDE TO TWO DAYS IN FLORENCE
•Catch the train at Roma Termini for Santa Maria Novella Station in Florence (there are a few stations in Florence, make sure you get off at the right one!). You can choose the fast train that will get you there in just over an hour or the cheaper slow train but if you book in advance, both options can be very affordable.
•Check in to your hostel/B&B/hotel. You will have no trouble finding something central and in your price range – the quantity of Florentine hotels is possibly only exceeded by the quantity of masterpieces in the Uffizi Gallery.
•Hit the San Lorenzo street market for well-priced, quality leather goods (that Italian leather jacket you’ve always wanted? Get it here!) and practice your haggling skills before heading into the indoor food market. Have lunch upstairs where you can satisfy any culinary craving (pizza, pasta, sea food, vegetarian, fried, gelato) in a spacious well-lit and modern cafeteria-style eatery.
•In the afternoon, climb the 414 stairs of the Campanile (Florence’s bell tower next to the Duomo) for an unbelievable view (and, needless to say, work out).
•Now, if you feel up for it, I’d head to the lavish Palazzo Pitti galleries and gardens to finish off the afternoon!
•Have dinner at Vini e Vecchi Sapori (Via dei Magazini, 3) for authentic Italian food that both locals and tourists adore!
•Go for drinks at Volume in Piazza Santo Spirito for an arty, relaxed vibe.
Now that you’ve had a leisurely day on your own to orient yourself and soak in the city, you’re ready to dig below the surface of Florence and learn about it’s history with City Wonders.
I’ve gone on a few tours in Rome with City Wonders: chilled by ghost stories on the Dark Heart of Rome night tour, warmed by wine and cheese on their Rome and Wine Tasting Tour, I knew I would not be disappointed in their Full Day tour of Florence.
The full day Florence tour is a combination of their Best of Florence Highlights Tour and their Uffizi Gallery tour and while you can do either of these on their own, I think the two tours are a perfect complement to each other. The city, that had bee a pleasant tourist detination the day before was deepened and enriched by the stories of wealth, power, greed, and the art that defined and transformed the city.
Best of Florence Highlights Tour:
Our city tour with Paul took us from Michelangel’s controversial, self-indulgent, and frankly… just… well … shall we say… gloriously handsome? statue of David, past the palazzi of the wealthy families who ruled Florence (and some still do), and into the Duomo for stories of the cocky Florentines who built their church to accommodate a massive dome before they had even invented the architecture to construct it! Onward! To the Piazza della Signoria for tales of Hitler and Mussolini and the Ponte Vecchio and a hidden hallway of art that saved the bridge from bombing.
•Stop for lunch at Mangia Pizza (I had Gorgonzola pizza with pears and white wine – heaven!) and gelato next door before heading to the second meeting point to tour the Uffizi Gallery
Uffizi Gallery Tour
The building designed as an office for Cosimo I dei Medici is now one of the oldest and most spectacular museums in Europe. See Giotto’s Madonna, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and La primavera, Filippo Lippi’s Madonna and Child, da Vinci’s Annunciation – basically, as far as walls go, the ones in this Gallery are among the most privileged of their kind.
Our guide took us straight to the highlights, maneuvering through the cowds of toursists to the best positions where she explained the history of the works, their influnce on art and even the techniques used. If I had gone on my own I know I would have been overwhelmed by the crowds and sheer quantity of the paintings but having a guide show us the highlights and provide her excellent knowledge was indispensable.
To book one, the other, or both of these tours, or any of the other Florentine tours with City Wonders, click here.
Whether you will be leaving Italy or simply returning to life-as-usual in the chaos of Rome like me, I’m sure your experience of Florence will shine in your memory as a jewel box full of all the art and beauty that the marriage of money and genius can create.