Florence. Land of loveliness.

Florence, Italy is a dream. The colors, the art, the Arno River, the hills surrounding every side of this town…Its all just too much for my hopeless romantic heart to bear.

I had a slight suspicion going into our trip that Florence would be my favorite, but never thought I would love it as much as I did. It was an oasis of beauty and calm and deliciousness after a very stressful stay in Rome. It is no wonder that one of the greatest artistic movements in history began here. Its just downright inspiring.

Josh and I stayed in a tiny flat we found on AirB&B that was just south of the river in an amazing little area with tons of local workshops with people creating various things inside. Next door to us we even noticed a man in his workshop building a violin, with his assistant beside him playing one they had clearly just finished. Amazing. Everything was so accessible in Florence. No fussing with buses or metros-just us and our two feet and a million things to see and do.

We brought along a pocket guide that helped us decide where to spend our time and what options we had. Note to Florence visitors: 3 days is not enough time to see everything. But we did manage to pack a LOT into those few days. Here are some of the highlights:

4 hours at the Uffizi Gallery. // The largest collection of Renaissance Art in the world. Booked tickets online a few weeks prior to avoid the line. Once inside we used Rick Steves’ audio guide downloaded from his travel app.

Climbing the Duomo. // 463 steps to the top for an incredible view of the entire region. We bought a combo ticket that got us into the Cathedral and Baptistry as well. Go early to avoid crowds (and heat!)

Taste of Florence tour. // Recommended to us by friends. 4 hours of tasting the most delicious food and wine the city has to offer. A great look inside what authentic Florence is like, underneath the tourism facade. Fascinating and absolutely delectable.

The Ponte Vecchio. // Medieval bridge over the Arno River containing mostly jewelry stores. I have a particular fondness for the bridge, since Josh bought me a new wedding ring here on our trip. Swoon. (note: my original rings were tragically lost in 2011)

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The beautiful Ponte Vecchio

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olive oil and wine tasting

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Another great view of Florence at Piazza Michelangelo

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Tuscany from above

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High atop the dome

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Ghiberti’s uber-famous bronze doors on the entrance to the Baptistry of Saint John.

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Hunka burnin’ David

Nothing went majorly wrong in Florence. I felt we had planned enough, but also left a lot of room to decide much of where we’d spend our time once we got there.  This is the city to eat incredible food  and tap into the art history buff that hopefully is in you somewhere. There is also a huge assortment of designer shopping in this town, which we chose not to take advantage of. Why shop when you could eat? But if you’re into that, you’ll love the many streets lined with the very latest in brands i’ve barely heard of.

Tips:

*We encountered our one and only pick-pocket encounter in Florence at the train station. We were fumbling with a kiosk trying to get our tickets printed, and a girl came up to help us out. We were in such a panic because we were dangerously close to missing our train that we totally let our guard down. She ended up being what the station worker called a “gypsy” and we luckily walked away with all of our possession in tact. So sadly enough, be wary of people trying to help you. Especially when you look like a pathetic lost puppy carrying massive bags at a busy train terminal.  Needless to say, we missed our train that morning.

*My allergies were terrible in Florence. I don’t normal struggle with allergies back home, so I didn’t bring any meds. I was sneezing non-stop and really wished I would have brought some Claritin.

*Don’t miss Florence if you’re going to Italy. It is incredible and I will forever sing its praises.