Overlooking the Arno River © Emma Sparks
Florence is a compact city – all narrow streets, cobblestones and hidden piazzas, sun-blushed buildings and peeling paint. The soundtrack is a symphony of click-clacking designer shoes, zippy motorbike engines and the chime of distant bells. It’s the perfect weekend getaway, with the right combination of history, beauty and of course, sigh-inducing food and drink.
So, if like me you plan your days around mealtimes, here’s some inspiration for how you could spend 48 hours in Florence.
Start off with a light breakfast, since you are pretty much going to be stuffing your face from here on in. Fresh fruit, a small pastry and coffee on the go - you couldn’t be more European, bella.
Uffizi (Piazzale degli Uffizi) - The culture bit. Get there early to avoid the crowds, or so they say. I CONFESS - my two friends and I didn’t make it here, mainly because the sun was shining gloriously and a certain member of our trio refuses to wear reasonable clothes, let alone go indoors, when the tanning-potential is high. But I had to put something in this blog that looked vaguely cultural, and I’ll be going there one day when I revisit, I’m sure.
Pizza. It’s what you came for, right? Do heed the warnings your wise friends and guidebooks give you: not all pizza in Italy is orgasmic. You have to find the right place. I turned my nose up at at least three neon-lit counters of grey-looking slices before we discovered Yellow Bar (39 Via del Proconsolo). Oh Yellow Bar. Primarily a sit-down restaurant, the kind matriarch at the counter sorted us out with a box so I could salivate over my lunch on the sunlit steps of a nearby square. Perfect.
Duomo (Piazza del Duomo) - You’ll need to burn off lunch somehow, and I can think of no better way than to climb the Duomo’s 463 steps. The queue happened to be relatively short that late-afternoon (approx 35mins wait) and the views from the top are well worth the effort.
Rooftops galore in Florence © Emma Sparks
South of the river away from the hordes is ideal for a care-free evening stroll. Imagine my
greed delight when we happened upon Osteria Santa Spirito (19 Piazza Santo Spirito), just a five minute amble from the Ponte Vecchio. I now understand what al dente really means – delicious!
My first meal in Florence… pasta, of course! © Emma Sparks
GELATO - I know this is controversial and I’m not known for my conventional taste in food, but I’d give up a thousand tubs of pistachio gelato for one scoop of fragola. It genuinely tastes like it’s good for you! Available on pretty much every street corner and I recommend trying them ALL.
Optional, considering the food-fest of yesterday and what you’re about to eat for lunch! Munch on the way to…
Boboli Gardens (Piazza Pitti) - €7 entry. I wouldn’t normally pay money to walk around a park. But this is pretty spectacular. Wide hedge-lined pathways and vast open spaces, quirky sculptures and a killer view of the Duomo. After the narrow lanes of the city it felt liberating to be in the open air.
Need some headspace? Go to Boboli Gardens © Emma Sparks
Again, I’m recommending a place I didn’t manage to visit, but this time, not for lack of trying. Trattoria Mario (2 Via Rosina) is recommended by Lonely Planet and I could not wait to get my jaws around one of their steaks. Alas, we arrived to the prospect of a two-hour wait, which my stomach could not bear. Whether this was an example of the ‘Lonely Planet effect’, or a testament to Trattoria Mario’s excellent food I don’t know, but the smells wafting from the kitchen as I begged for an earlier table suggested the latter. Aim to get here early.
Markets - Once you’ve woken from your food coma, have a wander around the nearby San Lorenzo markets. It’s quite touristy, but let’s face it, you’re not here for the leather goods, and if you walk in this direction you’re getting ever so close to…
Rinascente department store on Piazza della Repubblica - not somewhere you would go as a traveller unless you’d lost your plug adaptor or needed a new bag to transport your many bottles of limoncello and packets of novelty pasta back home - has a secret. A roof-top restaurant and wine bar. Although not cheap, it is nowhere near as expensive as it could be and the views are priceless.
Once you’re suitably tiddly, you are going to need… food of course! Il Ristoro (48 Borgo San Iacopo) is a gorgeous little place, right on the river with views of the Ponte Vecchio. My friends had had enough gorging for one weekend and opted to share a cheese board and a salad, while I enjoyed a sizzling lasagne.
My first Italian adventure over, it’s time to start dreaming of the next and all the culinary delights it will bring…
Apologies for the lack of inspirational foodie photos - I don’t hang around when there’s food to be eaten.