The next stop on my Italy adventure was Florence, an incredibly beautiful city with so much culture and history. I had been warned ahead of time that I would fall in love instantly. Many people praised Florence as their favorite place in all of Italy and now I can see why. I have to admit that my first day there started out a little rocky. I had woken up extremely sick that morning in Rome – literally could not even open my eyes. I completely missed my train and had to get on another one later in the day. Once I arrived at the train station, I walked out the wrong exit with all of my luggage and spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get a taxi to my hotel. I eventually realized that the taxi stand was on the other side. Duh, Naty.
By the time I checked into my hotel it was already in the middle of the afternoon. I hated knowing that most of the day had already been wasted, but I still made the most of it and decided to head out to explore. I could immediately feel a completely different vibe from Rome. Florence seemed to be less chaotic and a bit slower paced, which I totally welcomed. I had been non-stop for three straight days in Rome, so I appreciated being in a city that seemed to be a bit more chill. I did initially wonder if I would meet people here and enjoy myself as much as I did in the Eternal City. And guess what? I did!
I ended up getting lunch with this girl Chanel from Canada, who I connected with via Instagram. We both have a mutual connection and happened to be traveling in Florence at the same time! While we were having lunch, we made friends with these two girls sitting next to us from the Netherlands. The next night we all had drinks together. So fun! I did not get hit on by any waiters here (lol) or go on any dates, but I had such an amazing time.
One of the most defining moments for me was when I made the decision to invest in my first ever designer handbag as an early 35th birthday present to myself. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, then you know I’ve never really worn any major designer pieces, but this is something that I’ve wanted to invest in at least once in my life. The chances of me doing it here in the states were slim. I don’t think I ever would have bought it here at home. There was something about being in Italy on my own though – like this natural high.
The first ever Gucci store was opened up in Florence and it happened to be directly across the street from my hotel. That made it even more special and significant. Purchasing it in Europe actually saved me about $530 so that was an extra added bonus. I decided to treat myself and now my bag comes with an empowering memory and story to tell. It represents so much for me and I will cherish it always.
WHERE I STAYED
I came across my hotel randomly on Trip Advisor. After searching for hours and reading tons of reviews, I decided to go with Hotel Milu, which was located on the main designer shopping street in Florence. The hotel was super modern and in the perfect location. I walked everywhere. I didn’t take any photos of the hotel, just IG Stories, but it was on this street in the pics below. To the right of the monument was the main bridge that takes you to the other side of the city. The hotel room had a complimentary mini bar with non-alcoholic beverages and little snacks. The staff was also super helpful as they gave me tons of recommendations.
Florence Cathedral (Duomo)
The Duomo is absolutely stunning. The best time to see it is early in the morning or later in the day before sunrise when there aren’t as many people hanging out in front of it. I never actually went inside, as the line was always long, but I loved walking past it and hearing the church bells. The detailing and architecture is beyond beautiful.
In this area, you will find tons of restaurants and shops. I actually got lost over here a couple of times. No idea how, but I would literally try to find my way back to the hotel and just kept circling around the Duomo. HA!
This is the bridge that goes over the Arno River. Most of the tourists tend to stay on the side where you’ll find the Duomo, but the other side has much more of a local feel. So happy that I explored it a little bit.
This is the town hall in Florence and it overlooks Piazza della Signoria. There was live music out here with several restaurants to choose from. They have a replica of Michelangelo’s David statue outside. I missed out on seeing the real one! San Miniato Al Monte & Piazzale Michelangelo
I have to admit I stumbled upon San Miniato by accident while I was trying to find Pizzale Michelangelo. They’re pretty much right next to one another, so I would recommend checking out both places at the same time. San Miniato is a basilica in Florence, standing at one of the highest points in the city – hence this incredible view. It also has an adjoining monastery, cemetery and farmacia, where you can purchase little gifts and beverages.
I decided to walk here and no one warned me of the hundreds of steep stairs that I would have to climb, otherwise I would not have worn a denim skirt. Ha! It was a rough trek for me, but definitely worth it in the end to see this incredible view.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a square with a panoramic view of Florence. This area definitely gets way more packed than San Miniato. It also has an outdoor restaurant, where you can soak in the views while eating. I would recommend coming here to catch the sunset!
This is a must! I went here for lunch with a friend and her fiancé. They were also in Italy for my best friend’s wedding and we happened to be in Florence on the same day. There are tons of different restaurants and bars inside Mercato Centrale. It reminded me of the San Miguel market in Madrid. It has a very similar vibe. We purchased several different kinds of food like truffle pasta, cheeses, and pizza – then we shared it all. So YUM!
Wine Tasting at a Villa in Florence
I connected with City Wonders on Instagram during my stay and was able to book a wine tasting and dinner tour at a beautiful villa for my last night. This ended up being a perfect and unexpected addition to my time in Florence and I am so happy that I did it. A huge thank you to City Wonders for hosting me! I highly recommend taking a couple of tours, especially when traveling solo, as it really gives you the opportunity to meet people.
It had been raining during the day, so we weren’t able to hang in the vineyard for too long or eat outside and watch the sunset as initially planned. The villa was beautiful though and we still enjoyed ourselves inside. We tasted several different wines and had a delicious Tuscan meal. Our tour guide was so lovely. She shared so much history with us about the villa and the wine. We even got to meet the villa owner!
I think my favorite part was when we went around a long table to introduce ourselves to the group. There were about 20-25 of us and literally everyone was a married couple, except for me and one other girl who were there alone. When my turn came to intro myself, I mentioned how I had been traveling solo in Italy and that this was my 5th country I had visited alone. I ended up receiving a round of applause from everyone and I can’t express how amazing that felt! Not everyone understands or accepts the idea of a female traveling by herself, but there in that room – in that moment – they all understood it.
I also really connected with a woman who was traveling in Italy with her husband. They’re from New York! She is a recent cancer survivor and shared her story. I just felt so drawn to her spirit and energy. We sat next to each other and talked all night. Such a wonderful memory.
A couple of people recommended that I get cocktails here at sunset. I didn’t make it in time, but ended up going for a few drinks my last night with all the girls I met in Florence! You can see a great view of the city from here. Also, I love how I didn’t get the all black memo and I of course, was the shortest. lol!
This is across the river and definitely worth checking out for a little bit. The scenery is beautiful and the atmosphere is great for both the day or the night. There’s several restaurants, bars and little markets. It’s great for people watching. There’s also a famous church in the piazza too. You will get way more of a local vibe here.
Borgo Antico – This is a great spot for pizza. I came here for lunch on my first day and sat outside taking in the views of Piazza Santo Spirito. It’s on the opposite side of the bridge and felt much less touristy. Just remember that when ordering pizza, you get an entire pie that you have to cut!
Trattoria Za Za – This had been recommended to me several times, so I decided to come here on my first night for dinner. I got the truffle gnocchi and it was amazing! This place gets packed, but there’s several different indoor and outdoor sections where you can be seated.
La Ménagère – I came here for coffee and a light lunch with Chanel, the girl that I met from Canada via IG. This place is super cute! It has a bistro section, a full restaurant area, a flower shop and of course, cocktails.
This is a little gem of a place and definitely much more local than the other restaurants I went to. I came here for dinner with my friend and her fiancé. So happy we ate here! I absolutely loved the atmosphere. Our server was so friendly and sweet. I took a break from all the pasta and pizza and decided to have steak. One of their most popular dishes is of course, Steak Florentine. That’s a popular dish in all of Florence!THINGS TO NOTE
- Museums are closed on Mondays in Florence. Unfortunately, I had saved the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace for my last day without knowing this in advance.
- The shopping scene in Florence is amazing, especially if you are looking to invest in a designer piece. I received a 12.5% tax refund at the airport for my Gucci bag!
- Leather is a huge thing in Florence. You will find a ton of little outdoor shops selling all kinds of leather goods. I’ve heard that prices at the outdoor markets are negotiable.
- The best way to get around is on foot! Really, no taxis needed.
- Don’t let any street vendors put a bracelet on you. They will demand money for it if you allow them to do it. This happened to one of the girls I met.
- Of course, beware of pickpocketing here too, especially near the main tourist spots.
- I generally felt very safe, even at night.
This was supposed to have gone up over a week ago as well as all my other Italy posts, so I apologize for the delay and for dragging these out. I’ve just had a lot going on personally and it’s been difficult for me to sit down and focus on one thing at a time. I promise that the rest are coming ASAP. Hopefully what I shared gave you a good taste of some of the things that Florence has to offer. It truly is a wonderful, medieval city.
All in all, I had a wonderful time and experience here. The most challenging part was navigating the streets, but I always found my way. Florence definitely gave me some incredible memories in such a short amount of time and I will forever hold on to them. I hope to visit again one day in the near future and do all the things that I missed out on.
Next up: Venice – one of the most picturesque places I have ever been to in my life!