Arts & Culture
Food In Italy
Montana’s Guided Visit To Firenze
Aside from The Trevi Fountain at midnight (L’Fontana di Trevi) Florence, known as Firenze in Italian, is my favorite place on Earth, which is why I’m so excited to take you on my very own guided visit to Firenze. Maybe you’re reading this because you took our Where Do You Want To Go Quiz? Or did you listen to our podcast? Doesn’t matter how you arrived, you’ll be glad you did.
I had the privilege of living in Firenze for a little over a year while I studied at California State University, Florence. During that time I was able to explore a large chunk of the city and get to know some of the best local spots. I’m going to walk you through some of my favorite things to do in the city in this guided visit to Firenze.
Food (Cibo) for your visit to Firenze:
Let’s start with Breakfast time (Colazione). Italians aren’t notorious for their breakfast foods, but they do know how to make a wicked croissant and cappuccino!
- Bistrot Cafè 19.26 Firenze– This Cafe/Bar has the best Nutella Croissant (cornetto con nutella) and cappuccino (Cappuccio- The direct translation is “hood” but in Florence it’s slang for cappuccino. So if you say Cappuccio, you’ll definitely get some street cred.) in all of Florence. Not to mention some pretty awesome ambiance. One time my roommate and I were sitting there before class and one of the many bookshelves slid open to a secret office. Definitely makes you feel like you are in some sort of speakeasy.
- Rimani Ferrucci– This Pastry Bar is across the Arno and in a more local neighborhood. I used to go here on weekends because it was right across the street from my apartment. This place is so cute and always has delicious pastries ready. You can sit outside and enjoy sipping your coffee (cafe) out of a cup that has the entire Florence skyline on it. I might’ve permanently borrowed one on my last day in Florence 😉
- Bottega di Pasticceria- This shop is up the block from Rimani Ferrucci. It has more of a high end vibe and was all of my visiting friends favorite. They have an upstairs loft that you can enjoy and people watch.
For Lunch time (Pranzo) we’ll focus mainly on sandwiches (panini)!
- Officina dei Sapori– The absolute best sandwich shop in all of Italy. You can create your own off a list they have. It is way better than All’Antico, but no one knows about it except the locals. It is the best kept secret of Florence. My roommate, Ceilidh discovered it and my life is forever changed because of it. I am vegetarian, but I would eat meat for that sandwich. I cannot hype it up enough. Unreal.
- All’Antico Vinaio- Yes, number 1 is better. However, All’Antico is still amazing. It is a must stop at least once when you’re in Florence. The line will probably insane so try and go a little earlier like maybe 10:30-11:00am. It is a really, really good sandwich and they are massive!
- Il Coccolo – Fritti e Cornetti- This place does not have panini, but it does have incredible fried dough. It’s very Napoletano. I recommend getting plain fried dough with cheese and prosciutto on the side. It is a must check out spot if you aren’t terribly hungry for a full panino!
- Mercato Centrale- The central market has every kind of food you could want. Downstairs is where you can buy fresh groceries, but upstairs is all the artisan food stands. Every time I went there I went to the Chinese restaurant and got an INSANE crepe. I dream about it still. It is so so good. There is also a cooking school up there with glass walls so you can watch them chef’ing it up.
Dinner Time (Cena) is the hardest to be selective because there are so many amazing trattoria’s and restaurants.
- Il Pizzaiuolo- This place has my favorite pizza in all of Florence, maybe even all of Italy. It is a very local spot that was right across the street from my school. My roommates and I found it our first day of class and wandered in for a late lunch and it ended up being one of our favorite hangout spots. It is a very simple place. They all speak English there as well so ordering will not be a problem.
- Osteria Santo Spirito– Amazing sit-down restaurant in the heart of Piazza Santo Spirito. You can outside and lounge in the middle of a beautiful, local piazza. It is right across the Arno from the heart of Florence, on the more local side. Great pasta and great wine. It is very simple, but the ingredients of everything are so fresh.
- La Giostra- My roommate and I used to walk by this place all the time and we were dying to try it. We finally did it on our last night in Italy and it did not disappoint. The restaurant has the best ambiance. It is covered in beautiful string lights and wood beam ceilings with photos covering the walls. The food and the wine are incredible too, but I think the atmosphere really knocks it out of the park.
Bars/After-Drink Snacks. The nightlife in Florence is always happening! They even have secret bakeries that open in the middle of the night (more on that later). Let’s go over some great spots to grab a class of vino (wine) or an aperol spritz.
- Enoteca Alla Sosta Dei Papi- Amazing wine bar! It is super cheap and you can even get a giant bottle and fill up the wine yourself if you want to take some back to your hotel/ house with you. They have snacks to pair with the wine as well. It’s on one of the major streets of Florence too- Borgo La Croce, so you can people watch as you sip your vino.
- Birreria Art. 17- A great spot to hang out if you are more of a beer drinker. They have some excellent selections. I only went here a couple of times since I had a beer garden across the street from my house (which closed during covid :((( ), but a lot of my friends would come here and hang out. Do not bring large bills and hope they have change because they won’t so make sure you’ve got some 20s.
- Rasputin- This is a speakeasy-type place. I never went because it’s a little pricey, but I have heard wonderful things and it looks really really cool. So I will live vicariously through all of you when you go.
- Istanbul Doner Kebap- This hole-in-the-wall kebab place is perfect after a night of bar hopping! They are open until 4am and it’s super cheap. My friends and I went way too often.
- Secret Bakery! This is definitely the most fun on this list. All over Florence, there are secret bakeries that open at around 2am and close around 4:30-5:00am. If you happen to walk by an alley and see a glowing, bright, fluorescent light, try knocking on the door… It’s probably a bakery. Some of the best treats I’ve ever had! Here are the coordinates of one: 43°46’10.3″N 11°15’48.3″E, (43.769516, 11.263417), Italy
Ice Cream/ Gelato. Italian Gelato is so creamy and light. They really nailed Ice Cream. This list contains some popular spots as well as some really local places. Can be enjoyed at all times of day!
- Gelateria dei Neri- The best in Florence, and one of the best in all of Italy… I would know, I had my Lizzie McGuire moment and dated a Gelato maker… I still preferred dei Neri. Do yourself a favor and go there as many times as possible before you leave.
- Gelateria Beatrice- Super local spot with the same woman there every day. My roommate and I loved walking over there to say hi to Beatrice and get some Stracciatella Gelato.
- Vivaldi- Another local spot right behind a cute mini park. The cafe is super cute to sit in and enjoy your Gelato. At night they have live music sometimes too!
So, now that we’re stuffed, are you ready to continue your guided visit to Firenze? I hope so because when I lived there I worked at some of the most famous museums in the world, and I can’t wait to show them to you.
Florence has one of the best art museums in the world (we’ll get to that) along with some of the coolest palaces you’ll ever see. Here are a few on my must-see list:
- The Uffizi Gallery– This gallery was originally the private collection of the Medici family. That’s why it is connected to both of the Medici Palaces (Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti). It houses many works of the most infamous artists of the Renaissance; Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Da Vinci to name a few. Plan to spend a few hours there because there’s so much to see.
- Palazzo Vecchio– I’m biased because I was a tour guide here for the summer. It is a stunning palace, but you must take a tour to understand what you are looking at. I recommend either the General Palace Tour or the Dante’s Inferno Tour. Both have some incredible stories and secret passages that you get to explore.
- Accademia Gallery– You have to see The David at least once in your life. He is the most beautiful man you’ll ever see. Truly a magnificent sculpture. (And no, the sculpture in Piazza Della Signoria is a fake. The real David is inside the Accademia).
- The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo– We went here many times for school and it never got old. You can learn a lot about the Duomo and also see the real Doors of Paradise. The ones on the Baptistry are remakes to protect the real ones. They also have a sculpture by Donatello that is pretty spectacular.
- Palazzo Pitti/ Boboli Gardens– Amazing Palace with a massive garden, need I say more? Quick story time: Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchio are connected by a long, second-story passageway called the Vasari Corridor that goes over the Ponte Vecchio. It starts at the Uffizi Gallery, crosses the Ponte Vecchio, and exits at the Boboli Garden. My professor used to tell us that when the Nazis entered Florence, Florentine citizens would come and go as they please right over their heads via the Vasari Corridor. Who knows if that’s actually true, but I always liked that story.
Sightseeing (Giro Turistico):
Anything that I wouldn’t classify as a museum will be on this list. Mainly churches and Piazzas that have beautiful things to see.
- San Miniato- The church of San Miniato is at one of the highest points in Florence. Not many people make it up there, but it is my favorite church in the whole world. There is just a really sacred energy that you can feel when you enter. Monks still live there and do Gregorian Chants (5:30pm every day in the Summer. 4:30pm in the Winter). And if that’s not your vibe, the view from outside is still stunning. The author of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi, is buried in the graveyard there.
- Piazzale Michelangelo- A great place to walk up to watch the Sunrise and Sunset. Such a gorgeous panorama view of the city. You can see all of Florence up there.
- Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory- Galileo’s Observatory. It’s in the hills of Florence so you would need some sort of rental to get out there but it is worth it if you can.
- Piazza di Santa Croce- My favorite Piazza to meet my friends at. During the Winter they have an incredible Christmas Market. The most real-life Hallmark thing you could ever see and every bit of it is magical. Highly recommend. If you are there in the Summer go inside the church and check it out. You can see some of the most famous artists’ tombs there like Michelangelo.
- The Duomo and Baptistry- This is a given. You can’t miss it. The center of Florence and one of the most beautiful structures in the world. Built by Brunelleschi, I don’t think anyone truly knows how this was able to be done in that time period. Truly remarkable.
- Sant’Ambrogio Market- A really cool outdoor flea market by my old school. You can find some hidden gems there.
- Forte di Belvedere- Beautiful view and they have a nice little cafe to enjoy an Aperol Spritz. Sometimes they have really cool art installations inside too.
- Ponte Vecchio- Along with the Duomo it’s the most infamous thing in Florence. If you can spare the money buy a piece of jewelry on the bridge.
I could keep this list going on and on, but I think I’ve given you enough for maybe a week of activities. Florence is such a special place. Everyone who goes experiences some sort of self-discovery reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love. I know I did.
Travel like a local to Firenze tips!
- The airport is very easy to fly into, but not as easy as others to leave! The train doesn’t go there, which is rare. The bus isn’t too hard to navigate, but if you fly into Florence, this is one time to consider grabbing a cab into the city.
- Firenze is walkable! Don’t rent a car if you’re staying in the city center. If you fly directly into Milan or Rome, take the train to Firenze.
- If Firenze is your hub, take the trains. You can get to Rome on the high-speed train in about 90 minutes. You can take the local trains out to Lucca, Pisa and the beach. You can easily train to Bologna and/or Venice.
- PRO TIP: Find the easiest, best-priced flight into Europe, instead of fixating on Italia. Barcelona, Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris, London… so many places. Stay 1 night then take a local cheap flight like Ryan Air or Easy Jet into Pisa or Firenze. OR one of our favorites, fly to Zurich, you arrive in the morning, take the trains to Firenze! Grab a bottle of prosecco and some antipasto for lunch on the train, take a nap and arrive mid-afternoon feeling great!