Florence is a gorgeous city for walking, strolling and just taking it all in. One of its real pleasures is that everything is packed into less than a square mile. From churches to museums, from markets to artwork you can see an awful lot of stuff in a very short amount of time. We stayed for three nights, could easily have stayed much longer but managed to see and do all we wanted. A walking city, you can stroll between the Duomo and Uffizi in less than five minutes. The whole of the central historical area is closed to traffic, however that does not include taxis, those with parking permits, Vespas and scooters so still some traffic to dodge as well as countless tourists but a huge improvement from our last trip before the pedestrianization. The pavements are quite narrow at times and the streets are mainly cobbled – comfortable shoes will be your best friend.
No visit to Italy is complete without stuffing yourself at meal times, for us Florence was no exception to this rule. We feasted on the most delicious Tuscan fare – so good with such simple combinations of the freshest ingredients. I loved the bistecca alla fiorentine (beef stew). Husband was not so keen on the ribolitta (bread soup) but he tried it! Children are not left out when it comes to mealtimes – pasta and pizza at every meal followed by gelato, Son was in foodie heaven. He has eaten copious amounts of pizza and pasta in his life, but in his opinion it has never tasted better than when eaten in Florence.
Gelato – what can I say! Apparently Florence invented the stuff, there are so many gelato places you are never more than steps away from one. It is often made in the bar where you buy it, the range of flavours is huge and exotic and every single one we sampled was excellent. Believe me, we did our research very well here and sampled many, many gelato flavours. Son remains loyal to chocolate though, I will stand firm that yoghurt flavour is the best.
Tap water is safe to drink, that was good for Son. The wines are wonderful, that was good for us. We made sure to try many of the excellent wines of the region, chianti stands out, it is very cheap and very good – we can vouch for that too!
Restaurants have separate prices for food to go or eaten standing up versus sitting down. Sounds like a no-brainer but we did spot some people trying to sit at a table after paying for food and being uncomfortably surprised by a yelling waiter. Not an experience I would care to have.
The food is top notch, in all the price ranges we dined like kings. I actually preferred the (very cheap) window stands where they only have 5 or 6 things to choose – the food here is so delicious. We ate mostly outside the historical district – obviously the quality and price is better, but one evening we did have food at a pizzeria in the touristy part and had no complaints.
We strolled at all times of the day and evening. Generally we felt very safe although there are the usual pick pocket and bag snatcher warnings. We did see one episode of the latter, Son was a bit freaked, but it put us on our guard. One area I was not so keen though was around the Santa Maria Novella station – some dodgy characters around, we encountered one right by the ticket machine while leaving. He refused to let us stamp our tickets, insisted on doing this for us and then demanded payment. We felt quite uncomfortable, didn’t know how to avoid him but ended up giving him a Euro and he was on his way. Not a nice way to end our stay in Florence, but a small thing in an otherwise perfect stay in a beautiful city.