Insider’s guide: Florence beyond the obvious

I’ll admit, I’m not a true expert when it comes to Florence. I’ve probably been there as many times as you have because even though I live in Tuscany, I’m closer to Rome than I am to the region’s capital. In other words, I rarely make the three hour drive.

But! I have explored the length and breadth of this gorgeous city and I think I can speak pretty authoritatively from one country mouse to another on what to see and do once you’ve already explored the Duomo, Uffizi and nude statue of David!

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I’ve designed this mini guide as a day trip. So Giulio and I arrived in Florence at 10am and were able to do all everything I’ve mentioned by 6pm, when were rested and ready to make the very long drive home!

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no sun never stopped anyone from sunbaking on the Arno River

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because you can’t take a picture of the ponte vecchio without photo bombers

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lampredotto

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fried vegetables

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the beautiful stalls at the Mercato Centrale

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savvy shopping behind the Duomo

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Giulio was on the phone… again! So ample time to photograph my gold loafers!

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so many choices!

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nougat and hazelnut!

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every corner of Florence warrants a photo

See: 

Florence has more than enough to keep you entertained for days, but if you’ve seen all the postcard sights then the best thing you can do is pick a direction that goes away from the Duomo and follow it. I’m not joking. Florence has so many gorgeous palazzos and churches and pretty statues that aren’t on the tourist itinerary, but are completely worth a visit just to get a snap that all your friends don’t already have.

If you’re planning on visiting Florence, allocate a day for just wandering. Florence isn’t as big as you think and you’ll come across heaps of incredible sites like Dante Alighieri’s house or the Medici’s Pitti Palace.

On that note, one of my favourite things to do is walk from the centre of Florence over the Arno to Piazzale Michelangelo. The walk is really nice and goes through some of Florence’s oldest streets and gardens and ends on this incredible terrace, where you can enjoy some of the best views of the city from afar.

Do:

The Boboli Gardens. They’re just behind Pitti Palace and they’re breathtaking. I had never been before and I thought the experience was well worth the €7 entry price. The Boboli Gardens were laid out for Eleonora di Toledo, the wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici. It has a mid-16th century style and is very grand and lavish, even though the garden was reserved exclusively for the Medici’s immediate family.

I admit I loved the statues that are scattered around the garden more than the actual flora. They’re so expressive and are such a lovely feature.

Shop:

I avoid the San Lorenzo leather market stalls like the plague. They may have once sold real leather goods made in Italy by craftsmen, but I’m pretty sure that was a very, very long time ago.

The rule of thumb I use is if a shop is shut from 1pm-3pm, it’s for locals. If it’s open all the time, it’s for tourists. I didn’t buy anything in particular on this trip, but I did stare longingly at Albrici, near Piazza S. Spirito. This historical store stocks antiques and home decor that I wish I had a sugar daddy who could buy them all for me! 

Eat:

In Florence it is almost impossible to eat anything authentic. Sometimes I feel like there aren’t any locals left in Florence. Just tourists. Hundreds and hundreds of tourists.

And while this might not be the most popular recommendation, I suggest you check out the new Mercato Centrale. Giulio and I did and we were pleasantly surprised. The San Lorenzo Market is Florence’s super old fresh produce market. They recently restored the first floor and turned it into this hip food court/gourmet market. Maybe it’s not the cheapest or the most authentic meal you’ll have in Italy, but there is a fantastic selection to choose from.

We had lampredotto – a classic Florentine recipe made from the fourth stomach of the cow and cooked until tender in a lovely vegetable and tomato broth. From healthy to not so healthy, we followed it with batter-fried seasonal vegetables from a stall that I heard had a special technique for getting crispy batter without all the grease.

As for the all important gelato, I only ever go to Grom when I’m in an Italian city. Mostly because I have eaten far too many terrible gelatos and because Grom has seasonal flavours that never fail to excite me. This time it was ricotta and figs!

For dinner, we went to Zeb Gastronomia. This tiny little restaurant excels in lampredotto and while I was iffy about eating the same part of the cow twice in one day, I couldn’t resist. This is our favourite haunt whenever we’re in Florence. It seats about five people and you get to sit at the bar and watch the chef prepare delicious dishes like Ribollita vegetable soup, tripe, roast meats and chocolate and pear tart! Yum!

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