Our only full day in Florence was packed to the brim with things we wanted to see and do, and because of time limits we had to pick a few things that we’d be happy to see but would only go inside and explore if we had the time. After enjoying breakfast on the rooftop terrace of the hotel, we were on our way to the other side of the river on the hunt for amazing panoramic views of the city.
When we were given a map by the hotel on check in, the receptionist was kind enough to point out some ‘must see’ things for us in Florence. One of these was a square that would afford us the amazing views we were after. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t quite realise the layout of the land, and after trekking through the steep back streets we popped out by Fort Belvedere. Although this was our intended destination, we didn’t realise there wasn’t much to do here, and so figured we’d head over to the square while we were at this height.
How wrong were we that it’d be that easy?! After the workout of climbing the steep streets, we actually had to descend on a super steep road, before climbing what felt like a million steps to get back up to the square. To say I was tired would have been somewhat of an understatement. Thankfully there was a pit stop on the way up the steps in the form of a rose garden, which has some great taster views. Plus, there was an adorable dog there we could aww over, which helped raise my tired spirits. Finally making it to the top of the stairs to Piazzale Michelangelo, I was sold – it was definitely worth all the stairs, though it’ll be a while before I can admit that it was worth the initial trek to Fort Belvedere too…
With my camera nicely warmed up, a few shots later and we were on our way back down the hill to the river. After all the climbing we’d worked up quite an appetite and a real need to rest our legs for five minutes. Ending up at the little pizzeria we’d bought some cannolis at the night before, we took a cramped seat at one of the three tables and enjoyed a drink and a slice of pizza before continuing with our exploring.
A trip to Florence isn’t complete without a stroll across the famous Ponte Vecchio, and after a brief introduction last night we were able to get the full tourist experience with a crossing in the middle of the day. Unlike the previous night, all of the stalls were now open, tourists were milling about and selfie sticks were swinging wildly as people tried to get their perfect insta shot. Not quite my idea of fun, but it was interesting to see the epic amount of jewellery in all of the stalls, do a bit of window shopping and take a few more photos.
Just around the corner from the bridge is Uffizi Gallery, which is housed in a stunning building. As we were short on time, we made a note to come back if we had some time later, and continued to walk towards Palazzo Vecchio and the crazily old statues in Loggia dei Lanzi, an open building next to the palazzo. With some dating back to the 1500s, I find it fascinating to think how different things would have been in that time, and whether the artists ever thought their work would still be standing over 500 years later, being admired by people from all over the world. Absolutely fascinating!
Time was against us by now, and we still had a fair bit on our to-see list for the day. Making our way to the Duomo, we passed the boar that apparently brings luck if you rub its nose. So of course, we stopped and rubbed the nose, and dropped some coins from its mouth into the dish below. Anything for a bit of luck, eh?
A long queue awaited us at the cathedral, though thankfully we were in and wandering around fairly quickly. Although a very impressive building, there were no places to sit and admire the detail, and it looked very bare without all the seating laid out. I was totally underwhelmed, as I’d read so much about this stunning cathedral that attracted people to Florence. Making our way to leave after a few minutes, we noticed groups of people disappearing down a set of steps. Ever nosy, we followed them and found a really interesting ‘museum’ that walks you through the history of the cathedral and lets you see some original features like the first flooring laid in the original church, with a mosaic detail thanking people who had contributed funds to the building.
The ticket we’d bought for the museum of the cathedral also gave us access to the baptistry and the campanile, both of which were on our to-see list. However, as we left the cathedral the queue for the campanile greeted us and immediately made it clear we would be coming back later. As the baptistry was closed for a couple of hours, we made our way to a nearby market to grab a bite to eat, stopping off at San Lorenzo for a tour of the church and courtyard on our way.
I’d read about the market online, and wasn’t sure if it would still be open so late in the day. It wasn’t far, so we had a quick walk through the outdoor market, which is pretty much the same as the other markets in Florence and crammed full of leather goods, and made our way into the indoor market. Unfortunately, we’d obviously left it too late in the day as there were just a few stalls with lights on, and only because they were still clearing up. Looking to use the toilet when the opportunity presented itself, we followed the signs upstairs and instead found a huge food hall! Bustling with life, full of people, food and screens showing football, we’d hit the jackpot.
Taking time to walk around and seeing all the different food on offer, we picked a couple of dishes we wanted, took a seat and watched everyone coming and going. Well, I did while my boyfriend watched the football, but happy him, happy me!
After refuelling and grabbing a sandwich to eat later, it was time to go back to the baptistry. One of the benefits of visiting later in the day was the tiny queue in comparison to earlier in the day, and we weren’t crammed in like sardines once inside. The inside of the baptistry is a complete assault on the senses – in a good way…- as there is so much to see and so much detail to soak up. Taking one of the few seats available, we sat for a bit and just tried to take note of as much as possible.
Taking a second chance with the campanile, we found absolutely no queue. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t decide if this was good news as it meant I now had to climb the 414 steps to get to the top. Thankfully there were only a handful of other people up the tower at this time, and we made it to the top in about 15 minutes. Although not a massively easy climb, the views are more than worth the trek.
Making it safely back to the bottom of the tower, we managed to fit in a bit of shopping before going on the hunt for some dinner. After all the walking and climbing, we were shattered, and decided we’d find a take out for dinner and chill out in the hotel. Wild, I know. A bit of a trek and a slight hurdle over the language barrier and we’d scored a couple of slices of pizza and a box of gnocchi to enjoy. Of course, we’d burnt a few calories today so felt it was only right that we enjoy a couple of Italian pastries too, so picked up some cannolis and mini lobster tails. Yum. Plus, when we got back to the room, I found the sandwich in my bag we’d picked up at the market earlier. Yes, we definitely replenished the calories burnt today, but it was so worth it!
Up early the next day, we were packed and on our way to the train station – we had a day at the spa in Pisa to look forward to!