Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend a month exploring Europe. This was my first time overseas and it’s easy to say that this was a life changing trip for me. While my love of travel was born long before this particular trip, my time in Europe was a tipping point for me. It was here that I fell in love with the city of Florence, Italy. The beauty and romance swept me off my feet as a teenager and I never forgot the ties I felt to this city.
In fact, in 2012, I seriously contemplated moving to Florence as a expat. However, life has a funny way of happening while you’re busy making other plans. While I was researching my move to Florence, my future husband was working his way into my life.
Suffice it to say, I did not end up moving to Florence, but I was able to recently return to the city I love so much with my (now) husband. We had one free day in our itinerary during our Rome trip. With that in mind I said, “Let me buy two train tickets and I will show you my favorite city in the world.” We took off on an early train with a busy day ahead of us, fully planning to take in as much of Florence as we could in the limited time available. We managed to cover most of the historic city center and the other highlights of Florence.
Because we arrived so early, many things were not open just yet. However, our very first stop was Accademia to see the David. In effort to save time, we purchased our tickets online in advance. This is trickier than it might seem. Getting our tickets involved several contact attempts and finally an international fax, but it was worth being able to skip the ticket line once we got there.
We planned our arrival at Accademia as early as possible, allowing ourselves enough time to get off the train, get our barrings, and walk to the gallery. We were a bit lost at first, but we still arrived before our ticketed entry time of 9:15am. With the advanced purchase, we were able to exchange our vouchers for tickets and permitted to enter the gallery ahead of everyone else waiting in line, even 10 minutes prior to our reserved time. We loved being able to avoid wasting time standing in line. At this point in our trip, we were incredibly “museumed-out”. We quickly wandered through the exhibits and then made our way straight to the David. After lingering for a bit, we exited the gallery made our way back to the main piazza.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
As we passed by this iconic gothic church, they were just opening it up to the day’s visitors, so there were no lines. We spent some time in this beautiful place (although we were also a bit “churched-out” too) and looked up at the beautiful frescoes on the inside of the dome. While beautiful, this church does not have the same level of interior opulence the churches in Rome possess, but the outside is overwhelmingly artistic and colorful.
Because we were watching costs and time, we elected not to climb to the top of the Duomo. After exiting, we made our way to the Bell Tower. While the website said you can climb this tower for free, they confusingly appeared to be collecting money and the line was long, so we decided to pass on climbing this as well in lieu of getting some breakfast.
After breakfast, we made our way passed the Bargello to the Palazzo Vecchio. We also decided to pass on the Uffizi Gallery because, again, we were both “museumed out”. In case you’re wondering why I say this, we had visited nearly one dozen museums in Rome over the course of the 5 days prior. I had visited the Uffizi years ago and the hubby wasn’t interested in going in. On quick day trips like this, it’s really important to pick and choose which things are the most important to you.
From here, stroll through the area and head straight to the Ponte Vecchio to take in the beautifully iconic bridge. We spent some time here watching the locals enjoy the banks of the river before we crossed over the bridge itself, enjoying the shops and vendors.
Speaking of vendors, after crossing the bridge, we found the most beautiful gelato in all of Italy (well maybe not, but still it was gorgeous) and could not help ourselves. From there we wandered to La Piazza de’ Pitti and sat on the steps, soaking in the March sun while enjoying la dolce vita!
From here, we wandered toward the Bobili Gardens. Again, because this was the last day of our trip and most of our spending money had been spent, we did not go into the gardens. However, we enjoyed the views from the street. We continued to wander aimlessly through the streets of Florence, passed the Porta Romana and into the neighborhood streets.
I have no idea where exactly we went, but it was wonderful to get away from the crowds and off the beaten path. We made sure to buy a tasty treat for our dogs at a small local pet shop before making our way back along about half of the Oltrarno walk toward the heart of old town, winding through piazzas and palazzos along the way. The local artist were out and it was impressive to see their work!
After a tasty pizza lunch, we started to wander in the other direction, passing by shops, galleries, churches, and other impressive stops along the way including the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. We made our way into the modern, fast-paced side of Florence and noted the difference just a few blocks can make. We continued walking, and walking, and walking, until we were back in the quintessential cobblestone streets. Before long, it was time to start heading back to the station for our return trip to Rome. Along the way, we stopped at a cafe for a drink. We also visited a local market to pick up some snacks for the ride home. It was a great, jam-packed way to spend our last day in Italy!
- Our train arrived at Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station at 8:51am
- The train to return to Rome departed at 5:24pm
- Fitting all of this in to one eight hour day takes 31,737 steps, or just a shade over 14 miles. And, I was in flip-flops, which gave me tendonitis in the bottom of my feet thanks to the cobblestones!
- This is not a leisurely-paced day. If you plan on doing the same, be prepared to hustle!
- Florence’s historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.