I only visited 3 cities in Italy; Rome, Florence and Venice. I enjoyed my time in each of these beautiful cities, but it was Florence that stole my heart. To me it was perfect. The colourful buildings lining the river, the view of the terracotta rooftops from the tip of the Duomo, the big squares where people sit and listen to buskers, the long thin streets hiding tiny doorways and alleys, the vast green spaces almost hidden from tourists and finally the incredible ice cream.
I strongly believe that the way you feel about and remember a place is more dependent on the experience you have there, rather than the actual place. On my trip in Italy I spent half of my time in Florence and split the remainder between Rome and Venice. By doing this there were 2 consequences. No. 1, I got to spend 5 nights in Florence which allowed me to explore the whole city and some of the surrounding villages and countryside. No. 2, it left me short on time in the other cities. Therefore, I feel a 5 night stop in a city is a good duration. To be honest, I would even prefer longer.
I stayed in a really great hostel – I wrote a review of it here.
Whilst in Florence I spent time with some good friends of mine who I met whilst volunteering. This really added to the experience and I had a really wonderful time. We managed to do everything.
We walked down the river and explored the Ponte Vecchio and the Pitti Palace beyond this. The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge with loads of shops on it, mainly jewelry. It’s really beautiful and always packed with tourists! The Pitti Palace is an absolutely stunning building looking out onto a huge square where we had a couple of picnics. It also has some beautiful gardens which I really wish we had gone. (My one regret from Florence).
We walked up the many steps to the top of the Duomo, and the tower that sits beside it. The interior of the Florentine Cathedral is spectacular, especially to an architecture student like myself. The building is huge, almost too big to comprehend, so you can imagine how incredible the views are when you reach the top…
We got lost a lot… Which is fine. The winding streets of Florence give it character and getting lost through them and giving up and having tea was a personal highlight.
We went to an incredible Leonardo Da Vinci museum. The Website. I would highly recommend it! I learnt so much and it was a lot of fun.
We visited Fiesole, a small town which is only a bus ride away from the centre, but being up in the hills it has fantastic views over Florence and the rest of Tuscany. It’s a stunning place and quite secret and hidden away.
And we cycled a loop around the city.
Renting bikes from my hostel and seeing the city from behind the handlebars was my favourite part of my trip there. We spent the whole day on the bikes and it gave us far more opportunities to see outside of the centre of the city. Our plan was to look at a map and aim for green spaces. That we did. Along the river there is a beautiful park that goes on for miles and makes you feel very far away from a city, let alone a tourist hub like Florence is mid-August. We also rode up to Michelangelo Square which most people get to by bus. This is a must go. It, again, has stunning views across Florence and is among quieter suburbs and woods.
When I visit again, which I will, I’d love to spend longer in the area and explore more of Tuscany. I got a glimpse of the countryside from the train into Florence, but I’d like to travel around it more. I also never got to visit the famous leaning tower of Pisa not far away. I’ll have to get that classic tourist photo at some point in my life.
PS. Here’s a photo of the happiest pug I have ever met.