Florence: Travel Guide
I didn't study art history, but Florence can turn anyone into a lover of the arts. I will say after our first visit, I was fascinated by Michelangelo, and went home to read everything I could find (yes, I read the The Agony and the Ecstasy). On our next visit, I dragged my husband around to almost every one of his works - amazing (I thought).
I realize Florence's popularity with tourists makes it somewhat overwhelming to deal with the crowds. Since it is so much smaller than Paris, Rome or Barcelona, this can be a bit discouraging. I'll share some site options that can help to overcome frustration, and hopefully, help you to come to adore this city too.
There are a few sites that are worthy of waiting in line, my top three;
Duomo and Baptistry
if you have the opportunity, I would suggest spreading these out over a few days and mixing in these additional recommendations. The Firenze Card (€85 per person) is an option that lets you skip the line at nearly all of the city’s main sights. Alternatively, you can make reservations for the Accademia which is a good option if you don’t plan to visit many of the museums covered by the card. But the big advantage is the time saving.
Instead of taking in the views at the Duomo or Bell Tower, climb the stairs at Palazzo Vecchio for these views (there were no lines). The Firenze Card does not let you skip the line for the Duomo dome climb – you must make a reservation for that.
You could go to Piazzale Michelangelo for panoramic views, but just below there is the Rose Garden where you can get a garden with your view. Weather permitting, continue down through the Bardini Gardens where you have a fantastic view of Santo Spirito (where Michelangelo is laid to rest). From there you could take in the Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace.
For an off the beaten path museum, check out the Bargello. Before you go, watch a film on the creation of bronze sculptures to appreciate the works. Bargello, Medici Chapels, and Pitti Palace offer reservations, but they are generally not necessary.
As far as where to eat, we had the best and most reasonably priced meal at Osteria dell' Enoteca.
We started with flan ricotta with lemon (lite and delicious), followed by spaghetti pesto with calamari topped with pistachio (delicious). If you are a steak eater, Florentine steak is a must; bone-in, porterhouse, cut from the short loin. You purchase by the kilo and its never cooked more than medium-rare to preserve the flavors. In fact, they will recommend something else if you want it additionally cooked (it was amazing).
Follow this up with an evening stroll to Santo Spirito for a nightcap or gelato and take in the Italian way of life.
I hope this gives you a good taste for Florence. Its a city that holds my heart.