On a recent press trip to Venice, I decided to make the most of the Dolce Vita and explore another part of Italy…. Florence! Just a 2.5-hour train ride away, I opted to take the earliest train there, and latest back to give myself a full day in the historic city. Brimming with culture, history and cuisine I spent a fair amount of time researching before heading off for the day. With just a few hours in Florence, I knew I needed to make every second count. I’ll be sharing some highlights and must-sees from my glorious day under the Tuscan sun.
I arrived in Florence around 11 am and as if by instinct (and without google maps!) followed the buzz of the city to the Duomo. Impossible to miss, it peaked out atop quaint buildings along the cobblestone streets. The Duomo du Firenze, as it’s officially known is world famous for it’s terracotta tiled roof, interior frescos and being one of Italy’s many historic UNESCO world heritage sites. Pressed for time, I opted to skip out on the long lines to see the inside of the cathedral and carry on exploring the city-centre. I also decided to skip out on the Accademia Galleria (the museum which holds Michaelangelo’s David) and instead visit its replica (without long lineups or museum fees!) in the adjacent Palazzo Vecchio.
Nestled just beside Palazzo Vecchio is The Gucci Museo. A tiny museum which is also home to a mini-screening room, cafe and of course, Gucci store. The museum charts the storied Italian fashion house’s history, from inception as a luxury luggage maker through to present day. Rooms are dedicated to house icons like flowers, the horse-bit loafer and even their red-carpet Premiere line. Here you’ll find the actual dresses worn by stars like Julianne Moore and Halle Berry with no glass or barricades between you and 1000s of hours of beadwork and couture! Newly opened within the museum is a gallery dedicated to the work of Tom Ford, who famously revived the brand in the 90’s – one could easily spend a whole afternoon in this room just admiring every detail of Tom’s work.
Once you’ve wrapped your tour of the museum, you may have found you’ve worked up quite an appetite. Luckily the museum has both fashion and food on offer, with a mini Gucci boutique and restaurant on the main floor. If shopping the latest collection isn’t in the budget, I suggest getting a table in the cafe! Those in a rush to see other sights can have a quick espresso, which comes complete with interlocking double – G sugar cubes or a full on meal. I opted for the latter (when in Rome… err Florence!) as my day trip was all about treating myself.
I started with the Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio, topped with mint and local berries it was both inventive and satisfying in the flavour pairings of sweet and savoury! Had I known it was going to be so filling I would not have already ordered a secondi (2nd course as the Italians, call it!) of Tuscan Caesar Salad. Filled with charred chicken and fresh parmigiano it was easily one of the best, and BIGGEST salads I’ve ever had. Having eaten at my share of “designer” cafes and restaurants, I must say I was blown away by the portion size here (being a 6 foot guy forever on the move – I know how to eat!). The meal was as much about presentation as it was about flavour and serving size, which I’ve come to realize is the Italian way!
5 Other Must-Sees in Florence
- Climb the Palazzo Vecchio for panoramic views of all of Florence, and the best vantage point for pictures, which include the iconic Duomo!
- Visit the Four Seasons for a cocktail and light bite to reward yourself after climbing all those spiral staircases. Here I tried a Chianti and Chambord cocktail (both native to the area) and root vegetable crisps with pickled mini peaches – another Florentine speciality.
- Cross the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge colluded with actual houses and shops which serve as a mini market over the water.
5. Just a short walk from the Duomo, sits the lesser known but equally beautiful Santa Croce, a basilica which is a primary example of exquisite Italian Gothic architecture
6. Lastly, head to Osteria Santo Spirito, a tiny but authentic restaurant which appeared in a number of trip advisor’s I read. Follow my lead and try the 5 Cheese gnocchi before retiring for the night (or dashing to the train station as was my case!). It certainly won’t disappoint!
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