Florence, Italy Travel Guide — Part 1

Winery Tuscany

What can I say — I’m so lucky to be living the life that I currently am! For those of you who don’t already know, my family and I [husband, toddler daughter and yorkie pup] moved from the Seattle area to Eindhoven, Netherlands in January 2017. My husband’s job relocated him here for about the next three years. While the move was challenging, scary and tiring, the benefits have significantly outweighed any negative aspects of moving abroad!

My husband and I have made a point to travel as much as we can because we know we are in a unique situation and won’t be able to travel nearly as much when we move back to the States in a few years. In this travel section of my blog I’ll be highlighting some of my favorite restaurants and things to do in each of the places we visit! I’ll be updating as we continue to travel throughout Europe.

So here we go!

Florence, Italy!

So far I can say with confidence that Florence is my favorite city of the many cities we’ve already visited. It has the unique balance of bustling city with also a little bit of “small town” feel when you get out into the countryside. It’s also a very walkable city which I love! We make a point to try and walk everywhere we go. It helps us really explore each city while also getting lots of exercise so we can enjoy the local eats and drinks without compromising our waistlines! That being said, a lot of pasta, pizza and wine equals the need to walk, walk, walk!

 

our accommodations.

Let me just say that Airbnb has saved our lives! I cannot imagine having to stay in hotel rooms with a toddler! Instead, we can book an entire house/apartment with more than one room so that we can put the baby to bed and still have some time to relax and unwind from the day. Seriously a game changer in the travel world! We’ve had good and not-so-good experiences with our Airbnb accommodations, but this rooftop apartment that we booked in Florence was complete perfection!

[Central Florence rooftop accommodations with a view – and wine!]

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Our Airbnb was such an amazing find! The apartment had 2 private rooftop terraces which we spent a lot of time on, and it was just steps from the Duomo, a well-known Florence attraction. There were tons of restaurants, bars and shops right outside our door, and we could hear the sweet sounds of the city’s hustle and bustle from our rooftop deck! Needless to say, we loved our stay in Florence and would highly recommend this specific Airbnb. If you’d like information on this apartment, send me a personal email to angela@nutritiouslyrooted.com and I’d be happy to give you the deets!

to do.

[1] Florence Central Market [Mercato Centrale Firenze].

A must-see in Florence is the Central Market. The first floor features your more typical market finds like fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, meats, cheeses, wine, etc. The second floor offers a unique “fast food” dining experience with tons of different vendors to choose from! We were told it’s open every day until midnight, but with a toddler in tow who goes to bed early, we didn’t get a chance to check out the late night scene! I’m sure it’s worth a visit though. Coffee and pastries are a staple in most European cities we’ve visited, and Florence was no different. So pastries and coffee it was most days! The croissants are so delicious. Flakey, buttery and a tad sweet. They are just perfect. Or you can opt for a croissant with different fillings. My fave was honey, but I also liked the traditional croissant, too!

[Florence Central Market breakfast finds]

Florence Central Market

[a glimpse of the upstairs market with a plethora of food vendors.]

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The outdoor market which lines the streets surrounding the central food market is a sight to see [and smell!]. Leather is what you’ll smell because leather is what they sell a lot of! Leather anything from bags to jackets to purses and belts. Tons and tons to choose from. This market was more of a place where we enjoyed just looking and soaking in some of the culture, rather than shopping. But it was a fun experience either way and something I would recommend seeing!

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[2] Uffizi Gallery.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of a history buff in terms of art. My husband on the other hand loves it, so we make a point to book some of the more famous art gallery tours. The Uffizi Gallery was one of my favorite art exhibits because our tour guide was on point! Seriously though, a specific tour guide can make or break your experience. We got to see some of the more famous pieces of artwork from Michelangelo, Giotto, Rafael, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. We were barely able to squeeze through a sea of people to snap of picture of the oh-so famous [and surprisingly tiny!] Mona Lisa painting. All in all though, I’m glad that my husband has such an interest in these sorts of things so that I can expand my knowledge and really begin to appreciate the fascinating history of Europe!

travel tip: My husband usually books our tours in advance through a company called Viator. I recommend booking tours before arriving because many of the more popular tours tend to sell out early!

[an outdoor patio at the Uffizi Gallery.]

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[3] Boboli Gardens.

I feel like the Boboli Gardens are a hidden treasure in Florence. I’ve never heard of this specific attraction, but I would definitely recommend visiting. It’s a huge a park [bring your walking shoes!] which is home to several sculptures from the 16th-18th centuries. Not to mention, it’s a beautiful and serene park with amazing views of the city! It’s not the most stroller friendly place to visit, but we made it work!

I just had to share this photo of my husband snapping a picture of our daughter from the top of the Boboli Gardens.

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[4] Piazza del Duomo.

Piazza means “square” in Italian. There are many squares throughout Florence and many other European cities. These large squares can be a great gathering place for tourists because they usually have a famous building or sculpture, or a beautiful cathedral. Many squares also have tons of bars, restaurants and cafés [with outdoor patios, of course!] that are worth a visit. Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is located in the Piazza del Duomo, and it is magnificent! The intracity of this church’s exterior is simply breathtaking! You can just barely see the famous Duomo “dome” in between the two peaks of the church. Unfortunately we were unable to tour the Duomo and climb to the top because we didn’t book our tickets in advance, but we would have loved to see it from the inside and see the views from the top. That’ll be on the agenda for a future visit! Either way, walking by this amazing church each day was all I needed! p.s. this square was soooo busy one of the days we were there because there was a marathon going on! 

[Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.]

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[5] Ponte Vecchio bridge.

We learned a lot about this famous bridge’s significance from our Uffizi Gallery tour guide [another perk of booking guided tours!]. The bridge is unique because it’s lined with shops and vendors, most of which are selling jewelry. We found ourselves crossing the bridge several times throughout our stay in Florence because there are sites worth seeing on either side of the bridge. For a less busy way to cross the river, there are a couple of other bridges you can walk across, you’ll just have to share it with cars, motorcycles and bikes — and please stay on the sidewalks because cars and motorcycles will just zoom by!

[the Ponte Vecchio “old bridge” in the background.]

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[6] Tuscan Countryside Wine Tasting.

We couldn’t possibly visit Florence without a trip to Tuscan wine country. My husband booked an amazing small group wine tour which exceeded all of my expectations! We visited two wineries: Casa Sola was a smaller more “family run” winery and the other, Fattoria Montecchio was a much larger one. In the end, my preference was for the smaller winery because of its intimate feel and delicious wine! In fact, my husband and I had a box of wine shipped home for us and we’ve already ordered more!

Casa Sola winery.

The name means “the farm of the lonely house.” It’s tucked back into the Tuscan countryside and has such a relaxed feel to it! Many wineries, including this one, produce both wine and olive oil. About 100,000 bottles of wine per year are produced from Casa Sola. We enjoyed taking in the views of the countryside and learning a little bit about wine production. One of my favorite parts was learning how to really taste your wine and determine if it’s high quality or not. I feel like I’m slowly but surely becoming a wine snob, but I’m okay with that!

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There’s so much to do and see in Florence! So much history, ridiculous architecture, an amazing local market, shops, restaurants, etc. You definitely wont be bored! I hope I’ve given you at least a glimpse into what Florence was like for me and my family. I’d love to heat about your experience if you’ve been before, or if you are planning a visit and need some tips, please let me know! I’m happy to help in any way that I can.

In Part 2 of my Florence Travel Guide I’ll be sharing my experience with some of the different restaurants and cafés we visited. Stay tuned!

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Angela Freed

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