10 Things to Do in Florence
There are so many things to do in Florence, Italy that it can get overwhelming. Here are my picks on what do to and what to eat in the heart of Tuscany. Plus, renting an apartment in Florence.
Italy is my favorite place to vacation and no matter how many times I go back, it’s still as lovely as the last.
If you’re looking for ideas and tips on how to spend your time in Florence, I have some great ideas.
Plus, if you’re looking to rent an apartment in Florence, I show you one that I rented the last time I was there.
1/ Eat Gelato
I’m not even kidding around when it comes to gelato in Italy. I eat gelato like it’s my job. MY JOB.
Two a day at a minimum. Three a day at maximum since I don’t want to return home with diabetes.
My favorite gelato places in Florence to get a scoop (or two):
Pistachio is the true test as to how good a shop’s gelato is. If the pistachio is neon green in color, they’re probably using food coloring and artificial flavors.
Gelato made with real pistachio should be the color of the crushed nuts they’re made from, a dull green. If you can’t tell if a gelato is mint or pistachio, move onto the next shop.
You know all those gelato shops with mounds of gelato piled up high? They add chemicals to make it stay that shape. The mounds should be a warning sign to stay away.
Another good tip that a place has great gelato are the lines. If you see a ton of people gathered around, it’s usually a sign that the place has great gelato.
2/ Get Breakfast at a Local Cafe
Want to feel like a local? Have breakfast at a local cafe.
Go to the pastry display, pick a baked good and order a cappuccino or latte to enjoy at the bar, standing.
Quick, delicious, and you’re all fueled up to start the day.
If you want to sit, you’ll be paying more since they charge you a higher price, or a set fee per person (“coperta”), if you sit at a table.
3/ Have Afternoon Tea at the Four Season Hotel Firenze
Not only is the afternoon tea wonderful here but it’s inside a centuries-old Tuscan palazzo. The hotel and the grounds are simply stunning.
After your tea service, wander around the ground floor common rooms and the garden. It’s gorgeous.
4/ Walk the Boboli Gardens
The HUGE building Palazzo Pitti was originally home(!) to Luca Pitti, a banker in Florence.
The palace has since been the residence to families that ruled Florence and it’s now a gallery that’s open to the public.
Depending on the ticket you purchase, you can get access to different parts of the palace. I would recommend NOT trying to do everything in one day. It’s just too much.
The Boboli Gardens is a behind the Palazzo Pitt and I’m telling you right now, the palace is HUGE but the Garden is even HUGE-R. As in 111 acres. On a hill. Bring water. Bring snacks.
There are lots and lots of sculptures scattered throughout the Gardens. There are also lots and lots of stairs. I had no idea I was in for a hike.
The views were worth the climb, though.
They have ice-cold water fountains tucked in few areas of the garden. I was so happy to see them. Ahhh.
There’s this gorgeous long path called Cypress Avenue (Viottolone). Cypress trees line the sides of this stretch of land and it’s quite breathtaking. Also breathtaking, knowing that it was ALL DOWNHILL. You know what that means? I would have to walk at one point, ALL UPHILL.
As you walk down this Avenue, you’ll see alleys that veer off to parts unknown. I didn’t want to know, so I kept walking straight down the Avenue.
A gelato after the walk through the Gardens was VERY well deserved. I learned something about myself — I love parks, just not hillside parks.
INFO: Piazza Pitti, 1 | 50125 Firenze, Italy | +39 055 229 8732
5/ Visit a Museum
The lines are a bit insane in the peak travel months, so what I like to do is to stop by the museum and go on the shorter line which allows you to just buy tickets for another day. Come back the next day and there’s usually a shorter line for people with tickets. (Although I think Uffizi would still have looooong lines for ticket-holders.)
6/ Go Shopping for Italian Products
When in Florence, I always visit the Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella. It’s the oldest pharmacy in Italy and it’s housed in what used to be a monastery.
When I say pharmacy, I don’t mean a place to fill you prescriptions but rather a place to get beauty products.
The packaging is gorgeous and they make great gifts.
7/ Walk Around the City (With a Gelato)
The entire city is really a giant outdoor museum with treasures around each corner. Go beyond the main tourist spots and discover the quaint streets of Florence.
A must is walking around aimlessly with a gelato in hand.
8/ Eat Bistecca alla Fiorentina
I’m drooling just thinking about it. When this steak is ordered, servers usually won’t ask how you want it cooked — it comes out perfectly charred on the outside and medium rare on the inside.
It’s best to get it for at least two people.
The bistecca alla Florentina is a T-bone steak and it’s one thing you must eat when in Florence. This juicy Tuscan steak is made from a breed of cattle that’s from the region and they’re known for their flavor. It’s unlike any steak I’ve had in the US.
9/ Walk Along the Arno River at Night
It’s pretty safe in Florence, so after dinner a stroll along the Arno river is a must while taking in the Ponte Vecchio bridge at night. (With a gelato, of course.)
10/ Go on a Day Trip to Siena
OK, OK, so this isn’t something to do IN Florence but something to do while visiting Florence.
I always like to take a little day trip to other smaller Tuscan towns and Siena is my favorite, having gone three times.
It’s really easy to get there from Florence. Book a bus ticket from the bus terminal and it’s an hour and a half ride each way. You’ll see the lovely countryside of Tuscany on the ride.
The bus drops you off right outside Siena. Read about my day trip to Siena.
Renting an Apartment in Florence
I prefer staying in apartments instead of hotel rooms when I’m in Florence. (I’ve stayed at this three-bedroom literally right next to the Duomo on a previous trip.)
On one of my trips to Florence, I rented a two-bedroom apartment instead of getting a hotel room for about the same cost, but with MUCH more space.
I did a little research and found Windows on Italy. I looked for two bedrooms that had availability for the dates I was traveling, not too far from the Arno, and within my budget. The apartment White Home fit those requirements.
All payments were made about a month before and once we landed at the airport, I contacted the apartment greeter who met us outside the apartment doors.
Up a long flight of stairs (not an easy feat with a heavy suitcase), we got to the tiniest elevator I’ve ever seen. It took a couple of trips to get upstairs with our suitcases. Yes, you had to go up the staircase to reach the elevator.
The doors open to the kitchen with a dining table with seating for four. Our greeter gave us a tour of the apartment and showed us where everything was.
One of the first things I like to do is to put in silverware, plates, and cookware I think we’ll be using for the next few days into the dishwasher and run the machine, so I know everything we’re using is super clean.
Next to the kitchen is the living room, with a couch and a chaise. During the day the apartment is flooded with light, but in the evening, it was too dark in the living room to do much of anything since there weren’t enough lamps.
The master bedroom was a good size with a lot of room.
The bathroom was on the small side, but really, it’s bigger than the bathroom in my Manhattan apartment. We were told not to get the floors wet when showering since the water will drip to the apartment downstairs. This didn’t seem like an issue until I tried using the shower curtain. It was almost impossible not to have the curtain stick to you when showering, which was not comfortable at all.
Since plenty of giant towels were provided, I laid them out on the floor surrounding the tub so the shower curtain didn’t have to be used. I did find a temporary solution, but I didn’t like having to be so mindful and worry about it every morning.
The second bedroom is smaller than the master but still comfortable.
This apartment had a washer but no dryer and it was on the balcony (weird, right?) so I only did the wash once, hanging the clothes to dry inside.
It rained a couple of days and I had wished the place came with umbrellas, like the apartment in Paris.
Unlike hotels with concierge and a front desk, there isn’t a person you can call to ask questions at any time of the night.
For example, the WiFi didn’t work one night and I emailed the rental company but we never got a response. Thankfully, we were able to figure it out after a while, so that was a relief. In those types of situations, we were left on our own.
But of course, there are wonderful things about renting an apartment like late breakfasts with warm, toasted scones (leftovers from an afternoon tea) and giant mugs of tea in a place that feels like a home away from home.