Italy has been on our To Visit List for ages. And last year we finally got around to visit there. We picked Florence, Italy for its climate, beautiful landscape and because of the art. The art! Florence breathes art. Of course there are other things: gelato, great food and warm weather. It has a rich and intriguing history and very nice people (who are probably fed up with all us tourists tramping around). But you want to know what we did, right?
We booked a comfortable apartment near the old city centre. We like the freedom an apartment gives us: we can come and go as we like, eat at home or dine out (of course you dine out in Italy. It’d be a crime not to.) and it does feel more like temporarily living in the city we visit. Our apartment was home for almost 2 weeks. The one thing that we really had to struggle with was the small size of the shower! We’re used to small bathrooms, but this was … challenging. It was the only ‘smallish’ room, as the bedrooms and the living room were spacious enough.
From our apartment we could easily walk everwhere in the city centre. Visiting the touristy spots was easy, so we decided we needed to get out of Florence at least a couple of times. To make the most of our time, we used the vacation planning set that I had printed out. It took a lot of the stress away. Before we left we had already booked museum tickets for the big museums. We’d read that it could get quite busy and that waiting in line just to buy tickets could easily take an hour or two. So we we’re all set to see and do everything we wanted to.
On our first afternoon, after we had landed, we mainly walked around to get a feel for the place and to look for a supermarket. We had panini, which we enjoyed while sitting in the warm May sunshine. We found a gelateria five minutes away from our temporary home, which had amazing ice cream (though gelato is not just ‘ice cream’: it’s a true treat). And we bought some supplies for our stay. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine to visit supermarkets in towns and cities we visit: I love seeing what people eat and drink in other places.
Things that you can’t miss in Florence
We were so impressed by the old buildings, which all looked so well looked after. Even our apartment breathed history all around us. One of the first touristy places we went to was Piazza Santa Croce, of course. That’s the same as going to Dam Square in Amsterdam: you can’t miss it. I’ll be honest: I am not that interested in churches and cathedrals. But then, I am from a country that has a Protestant attitude: our churches are functional and plain. Which is fine!
But in Florence and Italy the churches are much more ornate and seem to celebrate craftsmanship and art much more. That difference is what made it so fascinating for me, as a Dutch person. Florence was a much richer town than Amsterdam ever was, I think. And much more appreciative of art and artists. Makes you wonder how a Rembrandt would have done there. Then again: Rembrandt’s work is so Dutch, I don’t know if that style would have gone down well in vibrant Florence. Anyway, our first afternoon showed us that we’d need to visit Florence again, to so all the things we wanted to do, really.
So we did all the things you’d expect to do: we walked in the Boboli Gardens, bought a watercolour of a chihuahua at the Piazza della Repubblica, saw the paintings, statues and other art at the Uffizi, Palazzo Vecchio and the Galleria dell’Accademia. But we also left Florence to visit Fiesole and a museum about an even earlier history there. And we found the best cookies ever in Siena! Taking a bus through the hills and mountains (where they mountains? I’m Dutch: everything that’s higher than me is a mountain) was both beautiful and a bit scary. The bus driver was obviously a good driver, but the roads really wind through the hills and when I say ‘winding’, I mean hairpin turns on the edge of the hills.
In my Etsy shop I have a set of drawings I did of Florence and Italy. You can see them here.
Weather in Florence
Is it worth visiting Florence? Yes. Even if art and cathedrals are not your thing, it’s a great place for good food, great weather and relaxing. We’re ready to go back soon. Just not in the hottest time in summer. April or May is a good time to visit, or September and October. I’m just not too keen on the real summer weather, with really high temperatures.