Florence is a beautiful Italian city located almost half way between Milan and Rome. It is touted as the home of the Renaissance. It was home to Michelangelo, da Vinci, Dante and many other Italian masters. The city is littered with museums and galleries and once the good weather hits tourists flock there by the thousands.
I normally travel in the off seasons or at the least the shoulder seasons. I also don’t like going to what people consider tourist destinations. This year was different though. We wanted somewhere we could fly into and stay put. Somewhere we could walk around or take public transportation to so we wouldn’t have to rent a car. I had driven around England last year and it wore me out, I wanted to actually get to relax and take things in this time and Florence fit the bill.
I will stat by saying that if you are going to go to Florence you should really try to do it in the off season. As off season as you can get actually. I went late in the spring hoping to avoid the tourist crunch that I knew would be there in a couple weeks and I was wrong. I remember standing on the Ponte Vecchio, staring out at a sea of people so dense and far that I couldn’t see the street they were walking on.
We stayed at the Hermitage hotel which is literally steps away from the Ponte Vecchio, looks out over the Arno river and is only a couple dozen yards away from the Uffizi. It’s a gorgeous hotel with a great staff and a breathtaking rooftop garden. It is not the most accessible hotel since you have to go up a long flight of stone stairs to get to the elevator which is also very small. Florence is not really built for the mobility impaired in my opinion. It has a lot of small staircases and doorways.
Almost everything I had read or seen on Florence had said that the things to see were the Uffizi Gallery, the David statue and the Duomo. I did manage to see all of them and to be honest, I was underwhelmed. If someone asked my opinion I would suggest that if you were going to Florence be sure and see The Bargello Museum which houses two David statues, one by Donatello and another by Verrocchio along with hundreds of other gorgeous works in an old Italian building with an open air forum in the center. The house where Michelangelo lived and the Santa Croce church where he, Dante and dozens of other famous Italian’s are buried are also the main places I would recommend someone seeing on a trip to Florence. Oh and I would absolutely say that anyone travelling there should get the Florence City Pass. It cuts out standing in line to dozens of museums and attractions.
It’s Italy so I think I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to mention the food. Right outside the door from the hotel Hermitage is a gelato shop/cafe which has outside seating perfect for people watching since it is steps from the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. There has to be at least fifty excellent restaurant choices within a stones throw of this area of Florence. Unfortunately, I only got to sample five of six of them since we were only there for a week but I tried as many as I could and didn’t have a bad meal while I was there. They understand that tourists want good Italian food and service while they’re visiting and the folks in Florence work hard to earn those tourists dollars. One thing that is a must for any meat eater visiting Florence… steak Florentine. There are dozens of places in Florence that make it and I’m sure all of them are excellent. The one I tried while I was there was at the Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco (Tavern of the White Boar) and it was simple and amazing.
As much as I love Italy, Florence was not my favorite place to visit. I would maybe like to go back someday during a much more quiet time of year and maybe see some of the less touristy things that are in and around the city, as well as explore some of Florence that isn’t just inside the old section of the city. I’d also like to see more of the Tuscan countryside but that may be a trip back all by itself.