Exploring Florence: How to get the best of your travel to this ancient city
A mix of delights — good food, rich history and picture perfect architecture — Florence is every traveller’s dream. The Italian city is compact yet impactful. Like author Jennifer Coburn once said, “Visiting Florence was like attending a surprise party every day,” and yes, no amount of time in this mesmerising city would ever be enough. Alas, fear not! Although you may not be able to familiarise yourself with every lane and alley of the city, here are some experiences one should definitely not miss.
A visit to the Uffizi Gallery
Adjacent to Piazza della Signoria, Uffizi (oof-fit-zi) is one of Italy’s most visited museums. Home to priceless artworks by legendary artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, and influential pieces from the Italian renaissance period, it was opened to the public in 1765. In high season, typically around June-July, the wait to get into the museum can run up to five hours. So, it is wise to book passes online or invest in skip-the-line passes, thereby significantly reducing the waiting time. The gallery has over a 100 rooms padded with artworks and occasional special exhibits as well.
Grab lunch at All’Antico Vinaio
Minutes away from the Uffizi Gallery, All’antico Vinaio is Florence’s most legendary street-food destination. Founded in the 1960s, this shop changed hands in 1989, and is currently owned by Tommaso Mazzanti; who is always present at the shop and greets everyone with a broad smile. The eatery serves some of the best sandwiches in the entire Tuscan region and sees upto 700 customers on a busy day. All their sandwiches are made using a local bread called schiacciata, which is baked fresh everyday. At five euros a pop, this small outlet sees lines run for 20 to 30 minutes on a busy day. However, the wait is tolerable, thanks to their house wine which is available for the customers as they wait for their order. A good combination to try out would be mozzarella, rocket leaves, tomatoes, prosciutto and some truffle paste.
Load up on leather at Mercato San Lorenzo
One of the most famous leathereaer marmarketses inn thee worworld, San Lorenzo has shops of all sizes and variants. For those willing to let loose their pockets, to those on a budget, it’s all there. And not just leather, it is the ideal spot to pick up nifty souvenirs and local handicrafts. Take your time looking around and make sure you have seen everything before you start spending. There are a lot of opportunities to bargain, so always try to snag a deal because many goods are marked up initially. The vendors, who speak English well, may be harder to pursue than the others, but be at it, and you will are sure to walk away with an amazing deal.
Otherwise known as the Italian happy hour, aperitivo has several places in town participating with several offers and endless spreads of mouth-watering cold cuts and cheeses. Home to a huge international student population, Florence has a number of college bars as well as eloquent ones. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, aperitivo traditionally starts around 6.30pm or 7pm and runs on till the restaurant or bar starts serving dinner. Start your journey with a traditional Italian cocktail — like a Chianti wine, Bellini or Negroni — and let the meal take its course. A few local bars to check out are Sei Divino, Il Santino and La Cite.
Overlook the city lights with some gelato
Named after one of the most important Florentine artists of the Renaissance, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Piazzale Michelangelo gives s a panoramic view of the gorgeous city that Florence is. Day or night, the destination is a delight, where one can just sit back and relax with a glass of wine or some authentic gelato from one of the many vendors around. Although it takes a bit of legwork to ccl up to the square, the breathtaking view more than makes up for it! Hundreds can be seen enjoying a picnic or simply hanging around during sunsets and golden hour at the steps of the piazza. In the middle of the piazza, there is a monument made up of bronze copies of some of Michelangelo’s most famous works — the four allegories from the Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo and the famous David — with his gaze directed towards the hills on the other side of the city.