No trip to Italy is complete without at least a cursory stop in Florence. Florence, after all, was the creative capital of Renaissance-era Italy and is literally awash in Renaissance masterpieces. It’s not short on Tuscan charm either, and quaint bed and breakfasts in the city are a perfect base for exploring the surrounding countryside with its small villages and wineries after one is done exploring the incredible architecture and history of the city itself. For even more suggestions on destinations or activities when visiting Italy, check out the luxury offerings on Italy from Exsus.
[Also see our travel article “The Four Must-See Major Cities in Italy“]
Breakfast at the B&B
Travelers visiting Florence would be wise to take advantage of one of its many bed and breakfasts, as small houses and buildings across Florence offer some of that Tuscan charm for which the region is so famous. One of the best is the Martin Dago B&B, which is located in the ultra-hip Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood. The star feature of the B&B is its rooftop alfresco breakfast service that features some incredible views of the Florence cityscape.
Early Morning Art at Galleria degli Uffizi
Let’s not waste any time in getting to what makes Florence such a special city, its vast collections of Renaissance art. In general the Italian Renaissance marks the end of the medieval age, and was a time of incredible artistic achievements. Great artists from the period – like Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci – are famed the world over and the Galleria degli Uffizi has a gigantic collection of their masterful works. Visit early in the day and book tickets in advance to avoid the lengthy queues.
A Stroll to Ponte Vecchio
After leaving the museum it’s only a short walk to the River Arno and the iconic Ponte Vecchio Bridge. Of the six bridges in Florence that span the River Arno, this is the only one that managed to escape World War II without being destroyed. The most interesting part of the bridge is that it retains the shops and market-feel that was typical of classical bridges in the city.
Lunch at the Piazza
Back near the museum, Piazza della Signoria is the perfect place to have lunch. Florence’s central square, the plaza is flanked by palaces and historic buildings and has a number of excellent cafés. The Caffe Rivoire is a great choice, as it’s situated right on the square and serves up delish Italian fare. The café is famous for its hot chocolate, so don’t miss it!
Afternoon at the Duomo
The Florence Cathedral, with its giant dome, literally towers over the city at a height of 300 feet. Built in the 13th century, it’s worth a visit to see its impressive façade and mosaic floors up close. Entering the cathedral is free of charge, but those wishing to climb the 463 stairs to the top of the dome must pay 8 euros for the privilege. The views, however, are worth it!
Late Afternoon Art at Galleria dell’Accademia
Because one museum per day is not nearly enough when in Florence, spend the late afternoon at the Galleria dell’Accademia, which is open until 7 pm. The big attraction here is Michelangelo’s David, which is perhaps the world’s most famous sculpture. Its size and intricacy does not disappoint, and the museum also has a ton of other works in its collection from Renaissance artists.
Fine Tuscan Dining at Cibreo
Dinner tonight is back near the hotel at Cibreo, which is a restaurant that many consider to be the best in the city. Make a reservation when visiting this trattoria – and even then be prepared to wait for a table – but know it’s all worth it for some seriously savory Tuscan fare.
Drinks in Sant’Ambrogio
After dinner head to Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, only a few feet from the restaurant, for a nightcap – or two. Caffe Sant’Ambrogio has a nice set up on the square and serves wine and cocktails to a young, hip crowd. Hit the bars early enough and they’ll be serving aperitivo, which is a sort of happy hour that lasts from late afternoon to the evening and sees drink specials accompanied by free appetizers.