Florence, Italy

Florence, Tuscany – Exploring Italy 2018

Our second trip to Italy during 2018 started in Pisa and it eventually took us to the city of Florence. This is the capital of the famous region of Tuscany and is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance. We really looked forward to exploring the city. After all, it was one of the most important cities in Europe during the Middle Ages. Also, we had heard many positive things about it from lyrical friends.

We stayed in Florence for two nights following our first night in Pisa. Florence was going to be the main stop during our short 4-day return to Italy. Actually, it was just a few months after our last visit Italy and the Capital Rome.

Arriving in Florence

The train from Pisa to Florence took barely an hour and we were soon standing at the platform of Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train station.

We were staying two nights at Nonna Lina Rooms directly on one of the tourist streets – the Via Por Santa Maria. It was just a 15-minute walk from the station which was very convenient, especially since we were traveling quite light with only one backpack. Our accommodation was very close to the majority of the attractions in the center, including the impressive Duomo.

A quick check-in later and we were ready to find somewhere to eat a late lunch before starting to explore Florence.

Lunch on the South Side of the Arno

How hard can it be to find somewhere for lunch in Italy? The country of pizza and pasta should have a lot of options, right? Well, for us that usually doesn’t mean anything. We tend to find the wrong streets without any restaurants anyway. It happens everywhere!

Our quest for a lunch restaurant took us across the river Arno to its southern banks. The Ponte Vecchio, with its stalls, was as crowded as you’d imagine. Actually, the crowds took away some of the city’s charm. Once on the other side of the river, we caught the first glance of Palazzo Pitti – the 15th-century residence of the Florentine banker Luca Pitti. Heading towards a smaller square turned out to be our best choice for the day. We finally found a restaurant and some good pasta for lunch at the Piazza Santo Spirito.

Visiting the Giardina di Boboli

What would you do when finding the name “Porta Romana” on a map? If you’re anything like us, you’ll probably head there straight away. So we continued to the south until we reached the Roman gate to the city. The majestic gate was something of a disappointment. It was almost impossible to get a good view of it. Its location with traffic going through it and with construction sites around caused us to look for something else to explore instead. That was when we found out that the Giardina di Boboli – or the Boboli Gardens – were just next door. 

The Giardina di Boboli cost us 2x 10 euros in entrance fees, but it was worth it. The park was filled with green trees and bushes, with sculptures and statues and also a few ponds. Except for all this, it also offered a great view over Florence. It was quite a climb as well, so good exercise.

As we started from the southern edge of the park we made our way up the hills and through the greeen maze towards the top. It is easy to find your way as long as you walk uphill. Once we reached the top we got our second view of the Palazzo Pitti as it was in the center of the panoramic view of the city.

An Evening Walk

We found our way out of the maze of Giardina di Boboli at an exit close to the Forte di Belvedere. From there it was just a steep downhill walk back towards the river Arno and our accommodation.

With a short stop in the room to catch some air and refill the water deposits we were soon once more out on the streets of Florence. It was time for dinner and we did not really know what we were looking for. For once we saw several restaurants and the options eventually became too many. 

Eventually we opted for a small restuarant (or maybe more a bar) that offered a buffé of small snacks together with a drink. So we sat down, enjoying the food and wine as the street got darker. After all the walking during the day, it was nice to sit down, talk and let everyone else take care of the walking for the evening. We did however, make a small detour on our way back to the room. We wanted to see the river when it was dark. The lights around Ponte Vecchio made it look a lot more impressive than during day time.

Exploring the Maze of Small Streets

After all the walking the day before it took us quite some time before once more putting on our shoes. We liked the maze of small streets that we found while looking for some food in the evening, so we headed north to explore them a bit further. The center of Florence really is a big maze and without a GPS we would probably have walked in circles. Even with the GPS on our phones we were just unable to find somewhere for lunch – like always we were ending up on the wrong streets.

We put our bets on the Mercato di San Lorenzo – this is the central market filled with food stands. Probably all local food that you might look for, but it really felt like a tourist trap – which usually means that I’m quite uneasy with finding some place to stop at for food. At least we found some decent coffee there!

We were soon back in the maze and found a pizzeria just a few hundred meters away from the market. Just comparing the prices and cozyness this was a solution with much better value for the money.

A Walk to Fortezza da Basso

An Italian pizza later we were on our way. Our goal was to check out the Fortezza da Basso located close to the main train station. We knew that it was not going to be possible to enter as the fortress is today used as a conference center. We did, however, want to see how it looked from the outside. It is sadly not an impressive fortress and neither is the park – Giardino della Fortezza – next door. At least we took the chance to explore the more modern parts of Florence.

We did at least get a few more kilometers of additional walking done and got to enjoy another gate to the city – the Porta San Gallo at the Piazza della Libertà. The square’s main attraction is, however, the Triumphal Arch of the Lorraine dating back to the 18th century.

Last Evening in Florence

Our last evening in Florence soon arrived and it was time to summarize our visit. We had eaten pasta. We had eaten pizza. The Old Town had charmed us with its maze of narrow streets. And we had for once really just relaxed in a new city. There was no need to run another mile to see that last tower still not seen or to climb the stairs to the right to see if we had missed a square. Although – we did miss one piazza and its fantastic views, the
Piazzale Michelangelo. Our last evening in Florence was our time to relax and just enjoy the nice weather and the atmosphere. A glass of wine and some food was followed by a calm walk along the river Arno.

Heading To Milan

Early in the morning after we had to leave our accommodation and head to the train station. Next stop: Milano. Our two days in Florence had come to an end and we were on our way to Milan for a short stop before continuing to Bergamo for our last night in Italy.

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