Florence is exactly what I expected, and then some. To be honest, I had heard mixed reviews prior to my arrival. Some loved it, some said it was ehhh. I liked Florence quite a bit. It is a perfect sized town. As Gaudi is to Barcelona, Michelangelo is to Florence, and his touch is seen just about everywhere.
I arrived mid afternoon on Saturday. I opted for something a bit nicer than a hostel. I stayed at Hotel Santa Croce whose building was from 600 AD. This counted as a first as I hadn’t previously spent the night in something that old. I did have possibly the smallest room I’ve ever had, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. What was lacking in room size, was made up for in location. The location was literally 150 meters from Santa Croce, or better known for the final resting place of Michelangelo & Galilei. This was also a perfect spot to easily walk to some of the most famous sites of Florence.
I spent the first day taking it easy. Mostly getting lost in the city streets and scoping out the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. The second day I vistited the Accademia & Uffizi, the home of David & Botticelli’s Venus, respectively. I was a bit worried that the lines would be massive, or even worse I would not be able to get in as there are limited tickets. Fortunately, on the off season, you do not need to worry about this as much and more likely as not, you only have to wait for a few minutes. I also do not recommend trying to do more than two museums in a day.
“A wise man makes his own decision, an ignorant man follows public opinion.” -Grantland Rice (Early 20th century American sports writer)
This is how I thought about David until I actually saw it. I came in through the side of the museum and was nervous I had actually just paid to go to the wrong place as there was little to no line. As soon as I turned the corner, there he was. He really is magnificent. Not like the Mona Lisa where you are expecting something a bit bigger. His size is part of what is so impressive of the statue. I’m going to leave it at that and hope it causes you all to want to visit as it is something that you just have to see for yourself.
So when I was in Budapest this past November, I went on my first ever free walking tour. It was great. This prompted me to look for the same in Florence and fortunately I found one. The group was rather small, but it is the off season in Europe. This tour wasn’t as great as the Budapest one, but I would say on any of your next travels, you should look into free walking tours as they are great ways to get to know the city, get a few local tips, and even meet some fellow travelers.
Lets talk about food for a minute. I love to eat out. I think it is the best way to get to know a place and also a great way to build memories. On Sunday night, I found a little place near the hotel. It wasn’t too crowded, and a lot places in the area were closed for Sunday. I had pasta and red wine followed by tiramisu. I can’t say it was the best meal of my life, but it was certainly good food, which at times, is hard to come by. The staff was great and made it an easy place to eat alone. They even gave me a free shot of limoncello. Salute!
The next day I had the menu del dia at the restaurant recommended by the hotel. I’m usually skeptical of partnerships. However, they partnered with the right place as the meal was extremely filling, and for only 10 euros, I had an appetizer, a main plate, & a side. If you can plan ahead, a large lunch is usually a better deal than splurging on dinner. I also had Gelato everyday in Florence. It is really hard to say no when you are constantly passing Gelaterias. I tried the famous ‘Grom’ and am sad to say I wasn’t impressed. Perhaps it was the flavors (tiramisu and crème de grom).
Florence is a fun city with new places to discover around each corner. I think two days was sufficient and allowed me to get a feel for the classic Italian city. You can easily spend more time but two days was enough to entice me to come back at a later date. Plus, I am quite anxious to get to Barcelona. See you in Spain!