The home of Renaissance art, centuries of rich history, incredible architecture, an abundance of gelaterias and some of the best food you’ll ever eat…you must be in Florence. With endless museums, cracking sunset views over the city and winding streets with plenty of places for an Aperol pit stop every time the heat or the walking gets to be a little too much, the capital of Tuscany makes the perfect city break.
Alla Vecchia Bettola
Viale Vasco Pratolini, 3/5/7, 50124 Firenze
This is straight to the top of my ‘must return to’ list and the best meal I had on my most recent trip to Florence. On the Oltrarno side of Florence (other side of the Arno, away from the Duomo), Alla Vecchia Bettola is the birthplace of Penne alla Vodka, so you know you’re getting a God tier serving when you rock up. Needless to say, the pasta was delicious, and the tiramisu to follow was perfect. I think from now on I’ll only order tiramisu if it’s served straight from a family sized pyrex dish, just like Nonna makes. The most fun (and dangerous) aspect of this small trattoria full of locals? The litre bottles of Chianti they slam on the table in front of you along with the words ‘five euro, all you can drink’. And she did.
TOP TIP: You can make bookings by phone – highly recommended, as this one will get busy!
Located between via dell’Ariento, via Sant’Antonino, via Panicale and Piazza del Mercato Centrale
In any good Italian city there is a covered market full of individual stalls and shops serving up drinks, pasta, pizza, seafood – you name it. Mercato Centrale is busy and full of life; locals and tourists sharing communal tables, chatting away over their lunch or a glass of wine. A great place to explore, and an absolute Godsend if it happens to rain whilst you’re in Florence.
Via di Santo Spirito, 60/R, 50125 Firenze
I cannot rave about this place enough. Il Santino is a little wine bar I sought out after reading several recommendations about and it subsequently lives down in history as one of the best lunches I’ve ever had. Wine, bread, meat and cheese – the ultimate combination, really. If I close my eyes real tight and concentrate hard, I can still taste the crostini I had that day in Il Santino: fresh, thickly sliced, lightly toasted bread with melted pecorino cheese and fine slices of pancetta lain on top, drizzled in light honey. Oh God. Go.
Via dei Conti, 8r, 50123 Firenze
Peppered beef muscle in a Chianti sauce with Tuscan beans cooked in sage, garlic and olive oil at Konnubio turned out to be one of the best meals of my trip. Highly recommend this restaurant – it’s stylishly decorated, the service was excellent and friendly, plus I got a complimentary glass of prosecco on arrival – can’t go wrong there. I’m keen to try their breakfast buffet on my next visit – €12 including beverages, freshly baked bread and pastries, cheese and meats, eggs and quiche. The ideal way to fuel you for the day before climbing all those steps around Florence.
Antico Trattoria da Tito
Via S. Gallo, 112/r, 50129 Firenze
Trattoria’s are one of my favourite things about Italy – restaurants owned by local families and utterly devoid of any pretention, at least in my experience. In Florence’s trattorias you’ll get solely traditionally Tuscan food, and Antico Trattoria da Tito was not only a stellar example, but practically right next to my B&B. A queue out the door at 8.45pm on a Tuesday shows just how popular this place is, but they’re happy for you to grab a drink whilst you wait. The wine is cheap, the food expertly done – that wild boar pappardelle yes please; the service is so friendly and animated – and always ready with the limoncello at the end of the meal.
Via dei Neri, 74/R, 50100 Firenze
Massive paninis. Seriously, huge – good luck eating it all in one go – and all for around €5 each. The kind of place so busy they bark at you for your order, so get an idea of what you want before you get to the counter; there’s a helpful list of their most popular orders to aid you through the struggle. The crowds pour outside onto Via dei Neri and eat their lunch on the pavement in the sunshine, but grab a spot inside and you can pour yourself a glass of wine from their selection for €2 a pop.
TOP TIP: With so many amazing places to eat at to fit in during a trip to Florence, I like to buy a panino on my last day and eat the remainder of it (or all of it!) on the plane on the way home, in a last ditch attempt to bring the atmosphere of Florentine streets home with me. Certainly beats an overpriced, dry aeroplane sandwich!
I simply could not handle a Florentine steak by myself, and each time I’ve travelled to Florence so far it’s been solo, so I’m saving this one. This is the place to go for Florentine steak though, so if this is what you’re after, go to Dall’oste.
Trattoria Za Za
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 26r, 50123 Firenze
Another recommendation from my excellent B&B host Bagio, but sadly one I didn’t have time to try myself on my trip. The owner of Za Za, Stefano, is born and bred on the same square where the trattoria stands and has been running the place since 1977. The inside of the trattoria has vaulted ceilings, old floors hundreds of years old and antique furniture, which just makes the whole place even more appealing after hearing about how fantastic the food is.
Via Dè Ginori, 8/R, 50123 Firenze
A beautiful bar come restaurant, coffee shop and also boutique selling gorgeous homeware and flowers. A lovely and unique place to stop for a meal or drink, or a great place to start the day over a coffee and a couple of pastries.
If you’re staying in an Air BnB or don’t have breakfast included at your hotel, Ditta Artigianale is a great spot for a pistachio cream filled croissant and coffee (you can also buy beans to take home with you). There are multiple outposts in Florence, but one of them is well placed for the walk up to Piazzale Michelango and Bardini Gardens, so suits as an ideal breakfast spot to fuel up before tackling the steep streets.
Antica Porchetteria Granieri 1916
Via Porta Rossa, 27/29 rosso, 50123 Firenze
A hole in the wall place that’s been serving a small variety of pork sandwiches from roasted suckling pig for over 100 years. If it ain’t broke etc…
Piazza de Cimatori, 5 rosso, 50122 Firenze
Great sandwich spot and wine bar, with cicchetti available too. Eat inside or do as the locals do and queue for a sandwich to eat standing outside in the sunshine, washed down by a good glass of wine.
Via del Parione, 19, 50123 Firenze
This one is easy to miss. Look for the sign that says ‘ALIMENTARI’ and get ready to discover a tiny gem. Paninis are made to order and only cost between €3.50 – €6, with wine and spritz coming in at under €5 each. Mariano will be full of locals enjoying a glass of wine and quick bite to eat, and hours will be as sporadic. It’s a brilliant little place.
Gelateria dei Neri
Via dei Neri, 9/11R, 50122 Firenze
You can’t go too far wrong with gelato in Italy, but why not go to the better gelaterias if you have the option? Gelateria dei Neri stole the top spot from Gelateria Santa Trinita for me on my last trip to Florence, and it’s due to their ricotta gelato with pistachio cream swirled through it. God tier – don’t miss it.
Gelateria Santa Trinita
Piazza Dei Frescobaldi, 8/red, 50125 Firenze
Gelateria Santa Trinita was recommended to me by a local and it didn’t disappoint. They make fresh flavours every day, constantly dreaming up inventive options to sit next to the classic favourites. And let me tell you, their signature mascarpone gelato swirled with Nutella? A thousand times yes. Eat your gelato on the bridge overlooking Ponte Vecchio on one side and the sun setting over the Arno on the other.
Via Isola delle Stinche, 7r, 50122 Firenze
Another Gelateria for me to check out next time. This one has one of the famed medieval wine windows too – though I’m told only it’s only used for coffee and ice cream these days rather than wine.
Loggia Rooftop Bar
Piazza Santo Spirito, 9, 50125 Firenze
If you’re going to go to one rooftop bar in Florence, make it this one. A wraparound terrace at the top of Hotel Palazzo Guadagni in Piazza Santo Spirito, this is a stunning spot for a cocktail as the sun sets. I highly recommend the Margot, a margarita made with chamomile infused Tequila and elderflower liquor. Make a reservation! Then go for dinner at Alla Vecchia Bottola. Thank me later.
Le Volpi e l’Uva
Piazza dei Rossi, 1R, 50125 Firenze
Snug inside, with a few tables out on the pavement, this small wine bar is the perfect place to wile away a few hours. Order some cheese and charcuterie (you may have to guess as it’s all in Italian) and sink some wine in the evening air. I loved this as a solo spot (they do wines by the glass) but it would also be perfect with a few other people – you could easily spend the whole evening here.
Via Santo Spirito, 21R, 50125 Firenze
Babae is a decent spot for brunch, but the reason I’m listing it here is it has a working wine window! Wine windows stem from a time when aristocratic families were permitted to sell wine from their own vineyards, and by selling directly onto the street they wouldn’t need to pay taxes as you would from a shop. Supposedly they were used a lot during the plague, and came into their own during our own pandemic! I believe it’s open between 7-8pm each evening, but don’t hold me to that – as with all my recommendations, I encourage you to google beforehand.
La Terrazza at Hotel Continentale
Vicolo dell’Oro, 6, 50123 Firenze
With views of the Arno, Ponte Vecchio and the dome of the Duomo, this is a wonderful spot for a drink as the sun goes down over Florence. Usually only accessible to guests of the Hotel, external guests can reserve a table for a maximum of 4 people with a minumum spend of €200, so not the cheapest! Might be worth a shot if there is just one or two of you to see if they will let you walk in, but if not – a great compromise is the €30 continental buffet breakfast they do on the terrace between 7-11am.
Empireo Rooftop View American Bar & Pool
Plaza Hotel Lucchesi, Lungarno della Zecca Vecchia, 38, 50122 Firenze
Rooftop pool for guest use only, but after 7.30pm non guests can visit the bar overlooking the city if they have a reservation – perfect timing for a summer Florentine sunset.
SE·STO on Arno
The Westin Excelsior, Piazza Ognissanti, 3, 50123 Firenze
Serving aperitivo between 7pm and 9pm, and open until 1.30am, SE·STO on Arno provides a 360 degree view of Florence. This is a good spot for sunset views if the weather isn’t the best or a little chilly too, given the wraparound glass windows.
La Rinascente’s Le Terrazze
Piazza della Repubblica, 50123, Firenze
At the top of Florence’s main department store there is a terrace with bar and restaurant and boasting panoramic views of the city open all day and evening (check their website for set hours throughout the year).
Three-Sixty Pool Bar, Grand Hotel Minerva
Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 16, 50123 Firenze
The fantastic rooftop pool, jacuzzi and sun beds on the roof of the Grand Hotel Minerva are reserved for guests only but non guests are welcome on the other terrace where there is a rooftop bar open daily in the summer months between May and September from 11am until 12am. Aperitivo is served around 7pm.
Hotel Baglioni, Piazza dell’Unità Italiana, 6, 50123 Firenze
Fine dining is available at B-Roof at Hotel Baglioni, but is equally inviting with its wicker sofas and comfortable chairs for aperitivo hour with the view of the Duomo in the distance.
3B Bed & Breakfast
3B is a lovely, small B&B with a wonderful trattoria downstairs (Tito’s) and just a ten minute wander down from the Duomo. The host Bagio couldn’t have been more helpful, annotating a map with some food recommendations after I announced that eating my way around Florence was pretty much the sole purpose for my trip, and he knows his stuff. Breakfast was offered at a little cafe across the road rather than in the B&B itself but that suited me fine. Bear in mind however that there are a lot of stairs up to 3B Bed & Breakfast so not suitable for everyone.
On my second stay in Florence, I wanted to stay somewhere nearer the Arno and found a great limited time deal on Booking at small hotel Parione Uno. Great decor in the rooms and helpful staff but the location of Parione Uno is the true pull. No breakfast is served, but take that as your chance to act like a local in a nearby cafe, or take yourself our for a fancy brunch!
THINGS TO DO
Florence Cathedral (Duomo)
The most famous landmark of Florence, and among the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, the Duomo is unique in its design and the colours that is used in the architecture. Inside serves a stark, plain contrast bar the beautiful mosaic floor and painted dome. You can also climb to the top of the dome, but beware the stairs up are narrow and winding!
A part of the complex of beautiful buildings that make up Florence’s Duomo, I highly recommend climbing the steps of this 87m tall bell tower for stunning close up views of the famous dome and Florence beyond. Go early in the day to avoid bigger crowds and high heat of the afternoon if travelling in summer.
TOP TIP: If you want to pick between climbing to the top of the duomo or the campanile, I personally prefer the latter. It’s always better to look onto the big attraction in my view, much like the rooftop of the Rockefeller looks over to the Empire State.
The medieval city hall of Florence holds some amazing art, notably in the Hall of the Five Hundred, which is absolutely huge and has art on all sides and the ceiling. The map room is fantastic, with dozens of painted leather maps depicting the world 500 years ago; and climbing to the top of the tower allows yet more wonderful views of the city sprawling beneath. Palazzo Vecchio was probably one of my favourite tourist things to do in Florence, and a rarity for Italy – is open on a Monday!
Piazza della Signoria
The square in front of Palazzo Vecchio holds the replica of David, among lots of other impressive sculptures in Loggia dei Lanzi, a covered area with open arches onto the piazza. A great place for people watching, too.
The panoramic views from Piazzale Michelangelo are fantastic at any time of day, but if you choose one spot from which to watch the sun set over Florence, let this be it. This square up on the hill is worth the climb, even in the heat – take up a bottle of wine and sit watching the sun glitter on the surface of the Arno river as it sinks down below the red tile roofs of Florence, leaving the dome of the Duomo silhouetted against the sky.
Michelangelo’s David at the Bargello Museum
At over 500 years old and 17 feet tall, David is one of the most famous sculptures in the world and is not to be missed whilst you’re in Florence. I’m not overly into Renaissance art (despite Florence being the home of it), but I was blown away by David. It is an astonishing feat by Michelangelo: an incredibly detailed and lifelike marble man carved out of one piece of stone by hand. David gets a lot of visitors so booking a time slot in advance will avoid you wasting time waiting around to see him – or worse, missing him completely.
Once home to the Medici family, Palazzo Pitti is now host to the city’s largest complex of museums. The famous Palatine Gallery is situated here, where work by the likes of Raphael and Caravaggio can be found; fantastic Royal Apartments and also a great collection of costume and fashion over the past few centuries which is well worth a look.
The gardens behind Palazzo Pitti are home to many sculptures and an ancient amphitheater. It’s also just a lovely space to have a wander, with – again – great views of the city.
Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River
This famous bridge is unique in that it is a covered bridge with open arches dating back to Medieval times, with shops all along it. Once home to butchers, the shops are now mostly jewellers, art and souvenir shops. Take a wander over the bridge and along the Arno before crossing back over on Ponte Santa Trinita and getting yourself a huge gelato from Gelateria Santa Trinita.
Dedicated to the Italian fashion house, this museum covers the history of the Gucci brand, complete with clothing and handbag exhibits.
I really made up for missing the Bardini Gardens on my first trip, timing it perfectly for the famed wisteria gardens overlooking the city below. The gardens sit up toward Piazzale Michelangelo, and there is a baroque staircase running through the Bardini Gardens from which you can enjoy vista of the city and the Duomo poking through the red roofs. If you time it for the wisteria it’s very special indeed.
An unmissable attraction for many, the Uffizi Gallery is one of he most important art museums in the country. This is the place to go to view works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello, to name a few.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Flights into Florence are notoriously expensive, but if you can get a flight using Avios you’ve got yourself a deal. I paid £35 in taxes for a flight that would have been over £400 had I bought outright. The best alternative to this is flying into Pisa an hopping on the train to Florence, which will take anywhere between 50 mins to 1 hour 20 mins depending on the train you take. Trains in Italy are super easy and efficient, and you can save hundreds by flying into Pisa. If you do fly into Florence, it’s a short and easy trip on the tram to the city centre from the airport. In terms of getting around Florence itself, on foot is best!
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Updated July 2023.