Florence is beautiful. We’d never been before but having been to Venice last year and Rome before that, we had an idea of what to expect.
We flew into Pisa airport which is relatively small but there weren’t many crowds and clearing customs was pretty quick.
Having seen how the Italians drive, we decided that taking a bus was preferable and there are frequent buses leaving from outside the airport direct to the city centre. The main company is Terravision and the journey takes around 70 minutes at a cost of €6 single or €10 return.
Florence isn’t huge so walking with our cases from the bus station to our hotel near the river took about 15 minutes. We were located in the heart of the city, close to the bridges and main squares.
The weather was hot – above average for the first week in September (around 92°/ 33C) which made walking around in the main part of the day a little tiring – but a good excuse to sit with a cool drink in a café on the edge of a piazza and watch the world go by. As we were only there for 5 days we decided that a trip on the sightseeing bus would be a good idea, so we could find out where the best places to visit would be and save our legs for walking around on the other days (make sure you take some flat walking shoes – the roads are cobbled or rough in most places and you’ll soon have sore feet otherwise).
When you’re walking around and exploring, be prepared to walk in circles unless you’re following a map (get one free from wherever you’re staying or take a cheap guidebook). Getting lost is part of the fun though and you’ll discover plenty of hidden gems down the many side streets.
Depending upon your interests there is plenty to see and do – I like photography so getting shots of run-down streets and buildings or graffiti is as interesting to me as the typical landscape panoramas. There are many museums, parks and shops and a wide range of bars and restaurants serving traditional food from around the world. You could have an ice cream a day for a month and still not have tried all the flavours available.
Visit the Piazza Del Duomo to see the amazing 14th Century cathedral and buildings which dominate the square. If you’re up for a challenge (I wasn’t), you can climb up the stairs of the bell tower to get some great views. I didn’t fancy the thought of the hundreds of steps and spiral staircases though, so waited to get my views over the city during a visit to the Piazzale Michelangelo south of the river.
There are several bridges over the river, the most famous being the Ponte Vecchio – heaving with tourists, but a must-see. There are tiny jewelers shops across either side and the view both from, and of the bridge from afar, is worthwhile.
Try and visit a market during your stay – there was an interesting flea market on the Sunday we were there in the Piazza S. Spirito, close to the Palazzo Pitti – another opportunity to sit with a beer and a pizza!
I couldn’t really say where to visit without leaving out many equally interesting places, but the city is small enough to walk around and make your own discoveries – and I’d recommend you do just that!
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