After we said goodbye to Venice, we were excited for a heavy dose of culture at our next destination — Florence! Art history has always been a huge passion of mine, so I was beyond excited to visit the birthplace of the Renaissance, and to stand in front of so many masterpieces I'd learned about in school. Not to mention the other obvious highlights: Food! Leather! Wine! Tuscany!
We stayed in the city, near the Duomo, which gave us great proximity to walk to everything. As we headed to our hotel, we walked past the Cathedral and the sheer size of it took my breath away. This is a massive, gothic masterpiece situated in a small city square; you can hardly get a good look at it without falling over. It's incredible. I loved hearing get church bells ring every hour — you can almost imagine how this city felt when the masters of the Renaissance walked these streets centuries ago.
On our first night, we went to the rooftop bar at the Continentale hotel, which has an incredible view of the Arno. I definitely recommend this spot for pre-dinner drinks and catching the sunset — and try to arrive as soon as the bar opens (I believe it's at 6:00). They only let so many people up to the roof at a time, and you have to be keyed into the elevator by hotel staff, so there's no sneaking up there either. As with all good things though, it's worth the wait!
We followed up with a pair of pizzas from much-recommended Gustapizza, and took them to go since the the place was packed. We bought a bottle of wine and found a spot to eat in front of the Pitti Palace and had a late-night pizza picnic...so fun.
The amount of museums and architectural sights in Florence is astounding, so we decided to prioritize the Accademie and the Uffizi. I definitely recommend booking your museum tickets in advance (on the official museum websites!), as all of our friends suggested. We had no problems with long lines and that helped us maximize our time.
We started the day at the Accademie, and booked tickets for the first slot of the morning. It was totally worth the wake-up call — were second in line when the museum opened and we got to marvel at Michelangelo's David in utter silence. It was like a church. By the time we left, the room was full of tour groups and packed shoulder to shoulder — so I cannot stress it enough: GO EARLY. After a quick sandwich and some self-serve wine from All'Antico Vinaio (mmm prosciutto!) we were ready to move on to the Uffizi.
The Uffizi itself is almost as impressive as the collection it holds. The ceilings are covered with frescoes and the halls are lined with sculptures and busts. We took our time going through it — there's sooooo much to see and it can definitely get overwhelming. I made mental notes of the pieces we absolutely needed to see: lots of Caravaggio, the Botticelli rooms, and of course his Birth of Venus)!
On our last day, we took a Vespa tour to the Chianti region and it was one of the highlights of our entire trip. We don't typically do organized tours, but I would highly recommend booking something like this if you'd like to see the countryside. Our guide was super funny and knowledgeable, and we stopped along our route to take in the amazing views as we climbed higher into the hills. The scenery was insane — rolling hills, Cyprus trees, olive groves and wineries as far as you can see. I definitely had a pinch-me moment on this ride...like are we riding Vespas through Tuscany right now? What is happening?! ;) When we reached Chianti, we stopped at the tour company's villa and they brought out healthy portions of wine, snacks, and pasta before we headed back to the city.
Florence is so rich and robust, I know we only scratched the surface but we still managed to do and see A LOT, more than I can even capture here. The culture and history here is incredible, we just really enjoyed being among all of it. Our next stop was a change of pace, as we packed up and headed to the Amalfi coast. See you soon for our Positano + Capri recap!