I’ll admit that on my first trip to Italy I didn’t really have any expectations of Florence, mostly I was just excited to be visiting Rome and Venice. But now speaking from experience I can say that Florence is a place that shouldn’t be overlooked. Maybe it doesn’t have as much of a draw as Rome or Venice but it’s a wonderful place to spend a couple of days and I still maintain that it has the best gelato of any Italian city I’ve been to (and believe me, I’ve sampled A LOT of gelato).
Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square)
Piazza del Duomo is probably the most recognised area of Florence and is located in the heart of the city’s historic centre. Here you will find the Florence Cathedral, Giotto’s Campanile (the bell tower) and the Florence Baptistery. You can climb to the top of the campanille and I definitely would have done that had I not visited in the scorching hot summer. Unfortunately there is no elevator and I just couldn’t deal with climbing 414 steps in the heat. You can also climb up to the cathedral dome but I have heard this draws a bigger crowd that the campanille.
Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square)
Even though I skipped the climb up the bell tower, I did get some fantastic views of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo. We were dropped off here by coach but it’s also accessible via stairs. I went at sunset and at night and both were fantastic!
Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence and is best known for the many shops built on the bridge. Butchers were the original occupiers of the shops but nowadays you will find jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. You’ll also get some great views of the Arno River from this bridge.
Wine tasting in Tuscany
I’m not much of a wine drinker (with the exception of sangria and mulled wine of course) but I figured if I was going to do a wine tasting then Italy is probably the best place to do it! The Tuscan countryside is only a short drive from Florence and there are loads of half-day or full-day wine tasting tours to choose from. Unfortunately the tasting didn’t really change my opinion of wine but we got to sample different cheeses to accompany the wine and I rather enjoyed that part.
I didn’t spend a lot of time in Pisa, just long enough to grab some gelato and take a few forced-perspective photos (I’m quite proud of this one I took of my sister, I think I lined up the shot quite well!)
Obviously loads of tourists flock to Pisa to see the famous leaning tower and because of that there are loads of street sellers trying to flog tacky souvenirs and anything else you might need. These guys are very opportunistic - if it’s sunny they’ll be selling hats and if it starts raining the hats will disappear and they’ll start trying to sell umbrellas! If you hop off a tour bus they will start flocking towards you so be wary - they can be quite persistent. Pickpockets also thrive in this city, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories. I recommend only taking essentials with you and keep your belongings secure.