Posted - 13th October 2018
One of our most favourite stops during our week long trip in Italy (read more in A week in: Italy) was Florence. After having just watched Inferno, the new film in the Da Vinci Code series, we were determined to see all these beautiful locations. We were definitely not disappointed… We took the train from Bologna, and we had two options: either take the fast train which was quite expensive, or the slower train, going along the scenic route, for a much cheaper price. Here’s our take on a weekend in Florence.
Day 1 – Piazzale Michelangelo | Giardino delle rose
As we only arrived late afternoon, after taking scenic route, we didn’t have much time to look around Florece. First thing that came to mind for us to do, is watch the sun set over this beautiful city, from the best spot in town: Piazzale Michelangelo. After having dropped our bags in our hotel in our very centrally located hotel (right by Ponte Vecchio), we made our way to the piazzale. Be prepared, there are some stairs to climb, as well as a very steep hill, but once you are up there, it’s worth the view.
Now as our signature thing, we bought ourselves some beers in a shop on the way there, got to the top of the piazzale, and watched the sun set. We just thought it was beautiful how the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo di Firenze was sticking out from all the surrounding buildings, and how clearly you could see it’s beautiful green and white colouring.
If the climb is a bit too steep to the Piazzale Michelangelo from the bottom, there is actually a great spot to stop halfway there, the Giardino delle rose. This is a lovely little rose terrace garden, that has lots of benches to sit at, and admire the view as well as the blossoming roses around.
Once darkness has taken over, we made our way back to the hotel by the river, and we had an early night in.
Day 2 – Museo Casa di Dante | Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo di Firenze | Il Mercato Centrale | Piazza della Signoria | Piazza della Repubblica | Basilica di San Lorenzo | Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
We started the day bright and early, because there was a lot of Florence to see! We heard that Dante’s House was in Florence, so our first mission was to find his famous residence. It has now been turned into a museum for tourists to visit, but before we went, we heard that it was a bit disappointing, so we didn’t bother going inside.
Fun fact: If you look at the stone floor just in the middle of the courtyard, it looks like you can see Dante’s face profile.
The main place we wanted to visit that day was Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo di Firenze, so we made our way through the small cobbled streets, all the way to the Cathedral. We knew that it was going to be a long queue to go and visit, so we made sure to be bright and early… BUT guess what? At 9 am, the queue was huge already!!
We really didn’t want to stand the huge line to go inside the Duomo, as the queue was just going all the way around the Cathedral! So we took our chances to snap some photos from the outside, and admired the building’s architecture. We decided that we would try again the next day, but then arrive even earlier than 9am!
We then decided that we should visit the Basilica di San Lorenzo, which was very close by to the Florence Cathedral, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to go in because again, the queues were large, the entrance fee was quite pricey in my opinion, and I had shorts on, which meant they were too short to enter a Basilica… So what do you think we did next? Walked on further… 🙂 The next stop on our list was somewhere we knew we would definitely be let in, the Mercato Centrale.
They sell everything there, so if you need any fresh fish or meat, fruits, spices, clothes, they’ve got it all! There was just so much to see, we took our time looking around, and even bought ourselves some nice souvenirs. We didn’t want to give up, and were determined to see at least one Basilica inside, so after a short walk, we got to Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. It’s architecture really reminded us of the Duomo itself.
We then continued our stroll through the city towards the Piazza della Repubblica. Unfortunately, when we were visiting, they were doing some reconstruction around the piazza, which meant that there wasn’t much to see. However, we noticed that in a building just by the piazza, in the Palazzo Strozzi, two twin loops were installed. We later found out that this was an installation by Carsten Holler and Stefano Mancuso, called the Florence Experiment. People can slide down these funky slides for just a few euros! We just thought it was brilliant how such an old Renaissance building had new structures built into it.
We walked past the Florence Duomo, as we were making our way towards Piazza della Signoria, and we noticed that the queue to the duomo has really decreased, the queue to get tickets to see all the other monuments around the Duomo was very short, so we just thought – why not? Let’s go for it. We bought the tickets, and first thing we decided to do is go up Giotto’s Bell Tower.
Tip: The entrance to the Duomo is free to access, so no need to buy tickets for that, but if you wish to visit the bell tower for a better view, the The Baptistery of St. John which is located right in front of the Duomo and the Duomo underground, you must buy a ticket. It’s also possible to go up the Duomo Chapel, but you must book that in advance and specific times.
Now, be prepared, there are A LOT of stairs to go up to get to the top of the Bell Tower. Thankfully, there are places where you can stop and take a breather, before continuing the climb. Once you get to the top, you get the most stunning view of Florence and the Duomo itself. To be honest, we didn’t mind not booking the tickets to climb the Duomo itself, because the view from the Bell Tower was amazing!
After the Bell Tower, we visited The Baptistery of St. John, right in front of the Duomo. By this point in the afternoon, there was not queue to go inside, so we just walked inside, leaving the buzz from the outside, into the most peaceful and quiet building. We just sat on the chairs, and all we did was look up. The ceiling was golden, covered by the most rich decorations.
Once we finished visiting the Baptistery, we decided to join the queue to go into the Duomo. Guess what? The queue was much shorter, which meant we only had to wait 30 minutes to go inside. It was just stunning inside, and what we really noticed was the temperature change when we stepped inside from the hot outside weather. Again, the ceilings were drawn all over, with the most beautiful colours.
Fun fact: Did you know that Florence’s cathedral is the 4th largest in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Paul’s in London and the Duomo in Milan?
As we still had the ticket, we were allowed to go under the Duomo itself to visit the Santa Reparata. This is 3 meters under the Duomo, and you can actually see the foundation of the Cathedral that dates back to 1926, of a Cathedral that stood there before the Duomo we see here today, the Basilica of Santa Reparata. Once we finished our visit, the evening was finally upon us. So we decided to go for a bite to eat and then spend the evening at Piazza della Signoria. If you want to read more about where to eat in Florence, please read our Eating out in: Florence blog.
The Piazza della Signoria is so lively and vibrant in the evenings. Lots of people just having a drink on the terraces, lots of music played around by buskers. After spending most of the night there, we made our way back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.
Day 3 – Boboli Gardens | Bardini Gardens | Chiesa di San Salvatore al Monte | Ponte Vecchio
For our last full day in Florence, we decided to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and spend some time in the beautiful gardens that are just so close to the city. I think this was what was so amazing about Florence, you’ve got the beautiful history and Cathedrals, but also stunning gardens and nature right on the doorstep. We started our day by going to the Boboli Gardens.
You need to buy a ticket to go to the Boboli Gardens, but with this ticket, you also get access to the Belvedere Fortress as well as the Bardini Gardens. And these gardens are huge! If you want to see it all, you really need the whole day to explore. First thing we walked towards was Neptune’s fountain and then all the way to the Museum of porcelain. We didn’t go into the museum, but the view from the garden there was beautiful, of the Italian country side.
And all the flowers were blossoming, we just had to take a photo…
I think Sam and I literally walked all over those gardens, even the little alleys that looked over grown. It was a nice hot day, so was good to get away from the sun in the shades of the trees.
We love views, and we always try to find the best places to see those best views. And guess what? The Boboli Gardens have another stunning view of Florence and the Duomo, you just have to find it!
Unfortunately the day we visited the gardens, the Belvedere Fortress was closed, so we couldn’t visit it, so we just went straight to the Bardini Gardens. They are just as beautiful as the Boboli Gardens, but much smaller. Again, we ready to do some walking uphill!
And you can find secret locations where you can sneak away from the crowds.
And don’t get me started on those views again… They’re just everywhere!
We walked all over the gardens, but had plenty of time of the day left, and didn’t want to go into the city yet, so we decided to walk to the Chiesa di San Salvatore al Monte. Again, that meant we had to walk up towards where the Piazzale Michelangelo was, and even higher! Again, this little church was decorated as the Duomo, in the green and while marble.
They were actually preparing the church for a concert that would be happening there that same night, so the inside on the church was all lit up. It made the church look so special inside, and thankfully the entrance was free, so we had the chance to see it.
After an exhausting day of walking, we made our way back down to the hotel, dressed up and went out for dinner. On the way, we saw the sun set over Ponte Vecchio, one of the most iconic bridges in Florence. This bridge is special because it’s full of jewellery shops, so the building built over the bridge are still in use.
Fun Fact: Did you know that there is a corridor, called the Vasari Corridor, which is a pathway that goes from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, right over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge? We found that out thanks for Inferno 🙂
We loved our very short stay in Florence, but there is just so much more to see, which unfortunately we didn’t manage. There are many museums and galleries that are famously known to house statues by Michelangelo, so if you do get more time in Florence, you should definitely visit! We’re definitely going to go back. We hope you enjoyed reading our blog on a weekend in Florence.
Xoxo Ani and Sam