Florence is an incredible city. I read a lot of books that took place in Florence leading up to our trip so it was neat to see the places mentioned in the books. Unfortunately, out of all the cities we visited, Florence is the one we had the least amount of time in. I wish there had been more time to explore, there is still so much more to see!
We stayed in Airbnb’s the majority of the time we were in Italy and I’m so glad we did! I love feeling like I’m living the life of a local. This is the home we stayed in and it was huge, it felt like it took forever to get from the front door to the kitchen. Their master bedroom closet is what dreams are made of…
We spent two nights at the AirBnb in the Florence city center and then headed to a little town in Tuscany called Barga. We stayed at the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa for two nights.If you were following my stories on Instagram throughout the trip— this is the hotel I got lost in! The views were absolutely gorgeous! The double occupancy rooms all had twin beds, which from my past experience in Europe is normal— it kind of feels like you’re back in college. Even my parents had to sleep in twin beds because the hotel messed up their reservation with a king bed.
While this hotel was beautiful, it was really far from everything. If you’re going with the intention of relaxing and you don’t plan on leaving the resort often, it’s perfect. Since we had so much to see we didn’t have much time to take it easy. The last day, which happened to be my birthday, we had a few hours to hang out by the (freezing) pool before heading to Rome.
We had a bunch of tours planned while in Florence which is one of the reasons why we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the city.
Climb the Duomo. We toured the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (also known as the Duomo) through DoTravel and chose the “Climb Duomo Florence Tour“. Fair warning, there are 463 steps to climb to the top— it’s quite the workout! How our tour guide climbs the stairs and talks through it 3 times a day is beyond me!
While climbing to the top there are areas that are quite tight, so if you are claustrophobic, climbing The Duomo might not be the best option for you. If you are able to climb to the top you will be rewarded with an incredible view!
Pro tip: If you’re climbing The Duomo, skip the long line to see inside the Cathedral— you’ll see it as you climb!
The Duomo is so large it’s impossible to get a photo of it in it’s entirety but it is absolutely breathtaking. It’s such a work of art on the inside and out.
Galleria dell’Accademia: We toured the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. This was probably my least favorite tour, not because of the museum itself, but because of our tour guide. We booked through Get Your Guide, and while I’m sure there are great guides within this company, we just happened to get someone who wasn’t the most bubbly. If I were to do it again I would use The Rick Steves Audio Europe app which offers self-guided walking tours covering Europe’s top sights. I didn’t find out about this app until the end of the trip, which is such a bummer— but you can use it! If you do, let me know what you think!
Get to cooking! When I was looking at tours in Florence, I found a Tuscany Pizza and Gelato Cooking Class in the Chianti countryside. It was one of the most fun tours! There were 10 other people in the class from Australia, New Zealand, and NYC. Everyone was really cool, we had a blast getting to know our “classmates”!
Our first stop was at an olive garden where we learned how olive oil was made. The machines pictured below are still used today to press the olives.We tried their olive oil straight out of a plastic cup. I much prefer dipping bread in the olive oil! We learned it takes 11 pounds of olives to make one liter of olive oil!
From there we went to Diadema Cooking School where we made our own pizza dough, and pizzas. I would share the pizza dough recipe but the translations are tough! After we put the pizza in the oven we started making stracciatella GELATO from scratch! Holy moly…I’m going to be making it at home.
1 cup of whole milk
7 ounces of low fat cream
7 ounces of sugar
- In a large pan heat up the milk and cream together. Make sure to keep the mixture between 140F and 176F. Basically— don’t let the milk boil!
- Put the sugar in a separate bowl.
- Pour the milk and cream into the bowl with the sugar. Mix until sugar is melted.
- Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat it up until it boils. Keep mixing to avoid the mixture from sticking to the bottom. Then turn the heat to low and cook it for three minutes
- Pour mixture into gelato maker, or ice cream maker— the amount of time it will take to freeze the gelato will be dependent on your machine.
*If you don’t have a machine it’s okay! This is what you should do: Pour the mixture into a bread pan. Put your pan into the freezer. Whisk the gelato every 30 for 4 hours, or until it has the consistency of frozen yogurt. Once it’s reached that consistency it can remain in the freezer until you’re ready to eat it.
There are so many different flavors, so shake it up. Add some chocolate chips, coconut, or lemon—you pick!
Pietrasanta is an adorable city northeast of Florence with a name so very close to my my own last name. We spent half the day exploring the little town, it is so quaint with very few tourists. It was really neat to window shop, grab some gelato (of course!) and eat one of the best meals we had while in Italy.
Lucca is an old walled city, which back in the day the walls were built as a defense mechanism. It’s really cool to see a city that has expanded but still managed to keep the walls and charm intact. We loved walking around this city and all agreed that it would have been nice to stay there instead of in Barga. This city felt very much like Venice to me since there weren’t any cars.
Caffè Gilli is the oldest café in Florence– it has been around for over 270 years! We stopped here for a quick bite before heading to our Pizza and Gelato Class. The cute outside seating area is what drew us in and the food didn’t disappoint! I ate caprese with 95% of my meals in Italy— it’s so delicious because of all the fresh tomatos and mozzarella. Not only was this one so pretty but it was yummy! Would strongly recommend this for a leisurely lunch.
Florence is known for their Bistecca alla Fiorentina (steak Florentine) and a woman in my Italian class recommended Antica Trattoria da Tito dal 1913. She was taken to this spot by a friend who lives in Florence and said it was one of the best meals of her life. She also suggested the tiramisu for dessert. I found out while in Italy that tiramisu means “pick me up”, so there’s a fun fact for ya!
I read about the secret bakeries of Florence in a book and was really upset I didn’t make it. There are several, check out this article to find the one closest to where you’re staying. These bakeries work all night to provide coffee shops with fresh pastries in the morning. Plan to be there somewhere between 1am- 5am. The cornetta con nutella (chocolate croissant) is supposed to be AMAZING. I’ll just have to go back!
We walked past Ristorante Quarantuno and saw people eating seafood risotto and that pretty much sealed the deal! We also got into the habit of eating dessert with every meal! We ordered a dessert to share and ended up ordering a second because it was so good!
Someone recommended Ristorante Buca di Sant’Antonio to us and we tried to eat there but they were fully booked for the night. We were really bummed because it was such a cute spot with outside seating, of course!
Instead we ate at L’oste di Lucca while in Lucca and unfortunately it was not a good meal. I ordered the gorgonzola gnocchi and while mine wasn’t the worst out of the meals we ordered it wasn’t great.
My sweatshirt dress is from Peach and it is on sale right now! It’s one of those dresses you put on when you want to look cute and be comfortable! I always wear these shorts under my dresses because let’s be real, chafing is a thing and there is nothing worse than walking around all day in pain!
Hope this post is helpful for you when planning your trip to Florence and Tuscany! If you missed it, check out my travel diary from Venice, Italy.