I fell in love with Florence at a ripe age of 20 years old, when I studied the Italian language and Dante’s Inferno in a summer study abroad program – even though what I actually did was eat my weight in gelato and run around the city with spritz always in hand.
My obsession for this magical city never died, and I always had my eye on the prize (pizza prize, to be exact) of returning to this carb filled, art centric city. Returning back to a familiar spot was a blast, especially since I already hit all the popular hot spots, and focused on hitting all of my local favorites.
What I did
Explore the oltrarno
First things first, Florence is divided by the “arno” which is italian for river. I like to think of this as Florence’s undiscovered side. This side of the river feels a bit more authentic and less crowded. The next three spots listed are located in the oltrarno.
My newly discovered favorite place on earth, and that’s not an exaggeration. This tranquil place was a private garden which is an extension of Boboli gardens. Every part is breathtaking, but the best part was Wisteria Lane, a tunnel of honeysuckle flowers. This spot is a great place to relax and picnic.
Have apertivo in Santo Spirito
Italians go crazy for aperitivo, and I can see why. The best way I could describe it is happy hour on steroids. It’s a light bite style buffet, accompanied with drinks. For a traditional style aperitivo, a light (usually dry or bitter drink) is consumed, including: Campari, Vermouth, Negroni, Aperol Spritz and Prosecco – but anything goes really. Apertivio is typically between 6-9PM, and offers one drink with light style buffet between 7-10 euros. As far as where to go, Santo Spirito is a square which has such a local feel, and always feels alive.
My favorites apertivo spots in Santo Spirito include: Volume, Popcafe and Tamero
Eat Gustapizza at Piazza Michelangelo
Gustapizza (yes, it’s one word) is arguably the best pizza in Italy, and IMO the world. After your pizza comes out of the brick oven, grab a bottle of wine and a taxi and head up to Piazza Michelangelo. It’s about a ten minute drive or a thirty minute walk up hill. The views from this square are one of the best in Florence. Amazing pizza + breathtaking views = the best combo. Go a bit before sunset to get a good seat.
I present to you, Gustapizza chefs at their finest
What I get: margarita pizza (not typically a margarita pizza type of gal – but this one can’t be beat. Also – if you’re a pesto fan, order their pesto pizza even though it’s not on the menu.)
A man who could be mistaken for Einstein himself. He’s the bartender and owner of an eclectic bar steps from the Duomo. The bar is open at 11am, but he typically arrives around 9:30PM(or whenever he feels like it) to create his liquor art concoctions. His signature words are “Vai vai vai” as you down shots on fire.
What I get: Request the house favorite, anything with nutella, or shots on fire if you’re feeling adventurous
Make pizza from scratch
Airbnb Experiences is an experience or other activity designed and led by local hosts. Hosts give guests unique access into places and communities in their city. Airbnb Experiences is currently in beta and has rolled out Experiences in about 15 cities, and lucky enough – Florence was one of them!
We made pizza from start to finish at Ristorante Toto, which is a restaurant that’s been passed down for four generations. Piero, who is currently the owner of the restaurant, was a sweet Italian man who briefed us on the history of the restaurant, and exactly how to create the perfect pizza. This was an unforgettable night, and would recommend it to anyone.
Climb Giottas Tower
414 steps up…you gotta burn off that pasta somehow, right? Turn that fitbit on because these views are more than worth it.
Eat your weight in gelato
Need I say more? My favorite gelato spots: Santa Trinita, Grom, Gelato la Carriaia
I fell in love in Italy….with a man who creates and sells leather purses and jackets. Florence is known for leather, and there’s even a whole market dedicated to it (Santa Croce). But the question is – are those stands selling real leather….? Probably not. His leather shop a side street off of Santa Croce, La Borga Noce specifically. He was recommended to me four years ago, and his bags are still in perfect condition and still some of my favorites.
Indulge in truffle
Truffle pasta, truffle pizza, truffle cheese – eat it all! Truffle items are a lot more reasonably priced in Italy.
Please enjoy this video of four cheese truffle gnocchi at Osteria Santo Spirito – brb currently drooling
What I learned
There are no Ubers or Lyfts, so put your phone away and put your hand up to flag a taxi
Eat all the carbs you can see, Italy is not the place to keep up with your gluten free/keto/atkins/whole 30 diet
Florence is extremely walkable
What I didn’t do this time around but recommend
Visit the Gucci Museum and enjoy an espresso on their patio after.
I’m a real sucker for rooftop bars, and the department store, la Rinascente, has an amazing rooftop bar with views of the city and close up to the duomo.
Art museums galore – Ufittizi Gallery and Galleria dell’ Accademia are my favorite.
I can’t wait to return again, if you have any questions or any of your favorite spots – comment below!