Welcome to Florence, or as the locals call it, Firenze (say that with the accent, it rolls off the tongue)! This is the city that inspired artists like Michaelangelo, Da Vinci and Botticelli. This is the capital of the Italian region of Tuscany, and the place where the Medicis first came into power. Florence is a big city compared to the sleepy countrysides of Tuscany, but it doesn't lose its charm at all. As far as Italian cities go, Florence is surprising, beautiful and almost endless in the way the streets twist and turn. Read below for a walking guide and photo diary!
il Duomo - Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral
One of my favorite experiences during my Europe trip was walking along the small, crowded streets of Florence, and suddenly coming into a near collision with the breathtaking facade of Il Duomo. All cliche words apply here. There's a reason why I added such a closeup photo of the cathedral--save some of the magic for your trip!
Just when you thought the Duomo had all the wow factor, you duck into little roads again only to find...a castle. The age of some of the structures in Europe just continue to boggle the mind. The Palazzo Vecchio, still used today as the Florence's City Hall, is worth a walk through for the pretty portico inside. It's on the leftmost side of Piazza Della Signoria, a massive open space in the middle of the political center of Florence.
Don't miss the Fountain of Neptune up front--the iron statues look even more creepy after the rain. And the David you see in front of the entrance is a replica of the original Michaelangelo.
Loggia de lanizi - the portico
Just beside the Palazzo and the Uffizi gallery is an interesting looking garage filled with statues. I only say garage because it looks like a carpark next to the massive castle next to it. But this portico is lines with wonderfully detailed statues. Benvenuto Cellini's statue Perseus With the Head of Medusa greets everyone at the entrance, but my favorite is The Rape of the Sabine Woman.
Heading through the narrow roads behind the Neptune Fountain is a blink and you'll miss it store--Signum. This is the only place in the world where I've seen wonderful leather bound notebooks--made in the way they used to in the 15th century. They're being sold at insanely high prices, but everything else in the store is worth a look too. For all the notebook addicts out there, this is a place worth checking out! Be careful of the finicky owner though.
Borgo de Grechi STREET
Walking down the street has a lot of blink and you'll miss it stops, and this street in Florence had quite a few. Everyone talks about how you should buy leather and gold here, but we found ourselves looking at a Pinocchio themed store, a street called Via Filippina, and the Ristorante Francescovini--easily the second best meal we had the entire trip, with cute waiters to boot!
Before you stumble upon the Santa Croce, take a detour to Vivoli first! The gelatos are creamy and smooth, and any flavor you get is just...amazing. We didn't even mind the rain!