Welcome to Florence, Italy

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The crowning glory of Florence - the Duomo
The crowning glory of Florence – the Duomo

Welcome to my world of travel! I figured there was no better place to start a travel blog than Florence, Italy. Wasn’t it recently, maybe in the last two years, voted the number one city to visit in the world by Conde Naste Traveler readers? There are so many reasons why the city of Florence tops the list of so many travelers. And now, there are so many reasons why it tops mine. 

I had one week to experience Florence and some of the surrounding hill towns. It was February, and I hoped that would work in my favor with fewer tourists and shorter lines. When I arrived, I just had to walk across the street from the train station to my hotel, drop off my bag, and I was ready to explore this beautiful city.

There was just one thing standing in my way. A chocolate festival. Across from my hotel. I couldn’t believe my luck. I had to make a pit stop for some chocolate before dinner. What if it closed while I was in a restaurant eating pasta?

Uffizi Gallery in Florence as seen from the Oltrarno
Uffizi Gallery in Florence as seen from the Oltrarno

Firinze Museum Card

I spent a week exploring Florence and the hill towns of Lucca and Orvieto nearby. To get the best deal and make the most of my time in Florence, I bought a Firenze museum pass for 72 euros and had 72 hours to make the most of it, which is exactly what I did. My approach was different than most people. I decided to visit as many museums as I could, just hitting the highlights of each one.  

The  Firenze Museum Card is a great money saver, but it doesn’t allow you to skip the line at The Uffizi. So I waited. For two hours. But it was worth it. The Uffizi showcases Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera, so I headed to those rooms first. Then I roamed around the rest of the Uffizi seeing the highlights like the Medici family collection in La Tribuna and Michelangelo’s Tondo Doni which is as brilliant and vivid as it was in 1506.

One thing I wish had done in Florence was take the time for an actual tour of the Uffizi. I think it would really be worth it, if for no other reason than to not have to wait in such a long line. If you click this Viator link and purchase the tour, I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you and it will help me keep this site running and improve it. I’ve taken other Viator tours and was very happy with them.

View of Duomo in Florence from a window in the campanile
View of Duomo from a window in the campanile

Florence Duomo

Let’s not forget the most famous museum of all, the Duomo, or main cathedral of Florence. A visit to the cathedral itself is free, but if you want to climb the cupola, campanile, or visit the baptistery, museum, or crypt, you’ll pay 15 euros for all. I had the Firinze card and went pretty early, around 9:00am, to pick it up at the tourist office next to the Duomo. I have to give these lovely women kudos here because their advice was spot on. 

It was a beautiful day outside and they said to climb the cupola now to take advantage of the view. Not only that, but there was no line for the cupola or campanile! Two hours later, there was a very long line! If you use the Firinze card, which I highly recommend, you’ll have only 48 hours to visit all the Duomo attractions, but 72 hours for everything else. To find out more about the Firenze Museum Card click here Firenze Card. I don’t make a commission on your purchase of a Firenze Card. I just think it was really worth it.

Florence
The infamous Ponte Vecchio and its many jewelry shops

Florence is a Walker’s Paradise

Florence is a walker’s paradise. In winter anyway. One of the first places many people flock to is the infamous Ponte Vecchio lined with its many jewelry shops. The lesser visited side of the Arno, called the Oltrarno, is not to be missed. Great restaurants, cafes, shopping, and photo opps are plentiful here. I spent an afternoon in Il Borghetto with a 1/2 carafe and ravioli, updating my journal and watching the dogs walk their humans outside. The shopping in Oltrarno is premium and it took all my willpower to walk away from the many beautiful boots that were calling out to me.

Florence
Palazzo Pitti – yet another reason to cross the Arno

Florence Palaces and Galleries

Florence is in Europe, so of course there are palaces to see! The Pitti family built Palazzo Palace in 1458, as rivals of the Medici clan. The piece de resistance is the Palatina Gallery which houses a huge collection of 16th to 18th century art owned by the Medici and Lorraine families. The paintings are almost on top of each other. The Reali apartments and the costume gallery are also worth seeing. I passed on the modern art gallery as I was on museum overload at this point.

View of Florence from the Pitti Palace's Boboli Garden
View of Florence from the Pitti Palace’s Boboli Garden

I took this picture from the top of the Boboli Gardens, which is also part of the Pitti Palace. This photo encompasses so many things that I saw in Florence and so many that I didn’t. The Bargello Museum is a favorite of mine. Even the Ferragamo Museum, which is open till 7:30PM in winter, is worth a visit. I was impressed with the many basilicas, especially Basilica di San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapel attached to it. The basilica was the Medici family’s private parish church and more than 50 Medici are buried inside. The chapel is the mausoleum for the Medici clan and burial place of the Medici Rulers who are guarded by some of Michelangelo’s most beautiful sculptures. I arrived at the chapel at 8:15 and had it all to myself. Here’s a photo to prove it.

Florence
Michelangelo’s Dawn and Dusk in the New Sacristy of the Medici Chapel

Florence. I am in love with Florence. The food, the wine, the sights, the architecture, the museums, the food, the wine, the streets, the food. Did I mention the food? It’s too much to write about. Too much to photograph. You have to see it for yourself. Whether you walk there, ride there, or fly there, I hope you are as enchanted with this city as I am.

Mary Lyons
I have had incredible travel opportunities since moving overseas eleven years ago. I created this blog to share my experiences, what I've learned, and my mistakes and frustrations, in hopes of entertaining readers and helping people to create and plan their own travel opportunities.

I would love to know your thoughts!

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