Looking back, it feels like all I did in Florence was watch the sunset. It was my favourite part of every day that I was there. Florence, while beautiful, felt overly crowded with tourists to me during the day. I much preferred the evenings, when I’d hike up the stairs to the less busy Piazza Michelangelo to watch the sun set over the city from above. The views from up there on the hill were my favourite way to see Florence: spread out, lit up, calm and peaceful-looking. The view seemed to change every few minutes as the sky darkened and I took about a million photos because it was so beautiful. There was always a guy playing songs on his acoustic guitar, and vendors selling cheap bottles of wine and snacks and touristy things, and the atmosphere was lovely.
One of the nights, I hiked up to the San Miniato church for the sunset and was lucky enough to hear some of the monks who live there singing inside. Once they were done, one of them came out and opened up the little store and lots of locals who had been relaxing (waiting?) outside flooded in to scoop up the fresh gelato made by the monks each day. I bought the “crema” flavour and ate it while looking out over the Tuscan countryside as the sun set. It’s one of my best memories of Florence.
During the days, I walked. A lot. I tried to find restaurants I’d had recommended to me and was alternately frustrated that they were closed (I was in Italy in August, after all) or excited that they were open and that I got to try someone’s favourite sandwich, or gelato, or pizza. I toured the Duomo and climbed the campanile, I took a daytrip to the leaning tower of Pisa (overrated in my opinion, but pretty cool nonetheless), I went to the Uffizi gallery, I shopped and bargained in the famous Mercato Centrale for souvenirs.
My hostel wasn’t too good for meeting people, or maybe it was just a bad week for it, but my last night, I met some great folks, two of whom I saw again a few days later in Rome! We all took the bus up to watch the sunset and had dinner at a restaurant where (since none of us spoke Italian), we struggled to order but had lots of fun anyways, and drank lots of wine and it was nice. On the way home, we got gelato, of course.
While I didn’t love Florence as much as some of the other places I’ve been, I still really enjoyed my time there.
- All’ antico vinao: this little sandwich place is so good I went back three times. It’s all so fresh and homemade and delicious, and the staff is friendly (and often commandeered the choice of toppings for my sandwich, which I allowed because I assumed they knew best – and they did, it was always amazing). Cheap sandwiches and local wine that I always ate on the curb while people watching and laughing at cars try to get around the big line outside the shop and make their way down the narrow street.
- San Miniato church: their terrace and steps are the perfect place to watch the sunset
- Gelateria Neri: awesome flavours, great-tasting, and best of all: on the same street as the sandwich place. ;)
- Le Botteghe de Leonardo: yummy artisanal gelato, however sort of far from the heart of the city
- Gusta Pizza: yummy, generous portions, not expensive. Mine got a bit liquidy/soggy in the centre, but otherwise the tomato sauce was delicious and since I ate it in a beautiful square outside, I was happy.