Florence was a great place to kick off our Eurotour. I'm familiar with the city, so getting around wasn't a problem at all. I also knew several good places to visit, and, of course, one phenomenal restaurant. It made things very easy. We stayed exactly two blocks away from Edi House. Our Airbnb had a washing machine. Aside from getting caught in a very violent rain/thunder/hail storm on our first night while walking home from the Boboli Gardens, everything went smoothly. And I learned that Longchamp bags are completely waterproof. I'm not kidding. We. Were. Drenched. But absolutely nothing in my purse was wet. At all. Anyway.
Beyond its familiarity, Florence is a fantastic place to visit because it's chock-full of art, architecture, and history without being overwhelmingly huge. It's the perfect combination of big-city amenities with small(er)-town charm. You can easily walk everywhere. There's a little something for everyone, no matter your interests. And the food. And wine. And gelato. And, oh yeah, that skyline. How can you not fall in love?
Want to experience Florence like a true Stevenson? Keep reading.
What to Do
Where to Eat
1 // For dinner // When I studied in Florence, my roommates and I ate at Edi House every Friday night. When my brother came here with his Eurotour, he and his friends ate here every single night. When my parents and I came to Florence last month, we ate here every single night. And so when B and I came on our own Eurotour...well, you guessed it. I do tend to like my routines. What's not to love? It's a close-knit, family-run restaurant with both outdoor and air-conditioned indoor seating. A liter of house wine is only 9 euros. The truffle gnocchi. THE TRUFFLE GNOCCHI (do they deliver to America?). The seafood strancozzi. The panna cotta. The strawberries and gelato. I honestly don't know what else to tell you. If I haven't convinced you by now that this restaurant is amazing, then there's really no hope for you. The prices are reasonable, but the quality and service are through the roof. After my parents and I ate here three nights in a row last month, they gave us a $20 bottle of Chianti Classico wrapped in a menu to take home with us. It's a bit of a walk if you're staying in the city center, but the roads are safe, and you'd be an absolute dumbass to miss this. Just please. Trust me here.
2 // For sandwiches // Thanks for this one goes out to our Airbnb host, Michael. He told us about this sandwich shop, All'Antico Vinaio that was famous. We were kind of skeptical, especially after reading some TripAdvisor reviews that compared it to Subway. After eating there, all I have to say is that if YOUR local Subway is anything like this, please call us, because we will be there ASAP. These sandwiches are HUGE, served on fresh focaccia bread, and stuffed with the freshest, most flavorful ingredients you could possibly imagine. B ordered some kind of set sandwich, but I let the owner make one for me. I told him I wasn't big on meat but I really liked veggies, and boy, he delivered. This was not your ordinary sandwich: thinly shaved parma ham, ricotta cheese, marinated artichokes, grilled zucchini, freshly sliced tomato, freshly chopped basil (as in, chopped right in front of me), balsamic vinegar reduction, olive oil, and God knows what else. By the time he put all that on there, this thing was roughly the size of a hardback copy of Gone With the Wind. I could only eat half of mine. And all that, for 5 euros per sandwich. There's a line around lunchtime, but we got there right at noon, and didn't have to wait at all. This is a definite don't-miss, especially if you have hungry travelers with you!
3 // For gelato // As part of our Grape Escape wine tour, we were given an hour and a half to see San Gimignano. And they were kind enough to tell us about Dondoli, supposedly the best in the world. I can't speak to the validity of that, but I do know that I still have that gelato on my mind. I got two flavors: sparkling wine and pink grapefruit, and blackberry lavender. Ah-may-zing, especially in the heat. I have been craving the blackberry-lavender since. Brian got two flavors as well: Nocciola, a hazelnut flavor, and menthe. This was not your typical chocolate-chip-mint ice cream. This tasted like you had pulled a few mint leaves off a plant in your back yard and put them into gelato. It was refreshing and delicious. If we ever make it back to San Gimignano, we'll definitely make a stop here, and order a much larger size. There is quite a line, but they have a LOT of servers, so it goes pretty quickly.
4 // For a lot of choice // This is not only new since I studied in Florence, but apparently since my parents and I visited a month prior. Mom and I thought we had eaten lunch on the second floor of the Mercado Centrale, but apparently we didn't. Or else they renovated in a month. We're still unsure as to where we actually ate that day and what happened since. Regardless, the second floor is (now) a cool combination of bars, restaurants and foodie shops. Kind of a fancy food court, if you will. Have a steak, have a fish, grab a glass of wine, or watch a futball game, or buy a 330,000-euro black truffle. It's really up to you. But if you've got a wide variety of palates in your group, it's a great place to go so that everyone can get something they like. It's also very noisy, so it would be great for children, or drunk adults.
Additional tips and tricks
1// If you go to Piazzale Michelangelo, take the 12 or 13 bus. Our Airbnb host tried to tell us to walk it, but we took the bus because of time constraints, and we're glad we did. We walked back down, and it was steep. Not good at all for the coordination-challenged (aka me).
2// If you go to Piazzale Michelangelo for sunset, go early and take a couple of pics at the top, but then walk a little way down to see the main event. There are plenty of resting points and nooks and crannies without 35,000 people. One couple even brought a picnic and sat on a solitary rock with a great view of the Duomo. We really wished we had done that, because being in the crowd up there and having selfie stick-wielding Asians frequently shoving us aside did bad things to our blood pressure, even with the mini bottle of Prosecco we brought with us. Good thing our next stop was Edi House for a liter of wine (and dinner).
3// The number 1 bus takes you to the train station. We walked to our Airbnb. We took the 1 bus back to the train station. It was a definite improvement (for B, at least, who was carrying our suitcase and a backpack).
Any other tips from Firenze-loving fans? Feel free to share in the comments! And if you know anyone going to Europe soon, tell them to sign up for an email subscription - lots more EuroTips coming soon!
xoxo and ciao!
E & B