Perhaps one of the top tourist destinations in the world, Florence, Italy has a hidden charm just waiting to be discovered. While many visitors feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of art, history, food and architectural sights, the key to enjoying this city is a mixture of flavor, observation, and relaxation. Take your time to see the classic sights, but allow yourself the opportunity to sit in a café and take in the true Florentine experience. La Dolce Vita is not just for the Italian born.
For a taste of Florence in one day, start your visit off in the center of the city in front of the symbol of Florence, the Duomo. Large and imposing, this cathedral strikes a powerful image as it brushes up against the sky. Stand before it, craning your neck up in wonderment as long as you please or move on to the golden doors of the Baptistery beside it. When you are ready, head away from the Duomo and onto Via Ricasoli. Follow the throngs of tour groups as they make their way down the same street, towards the Academia Gallery, where the statue of David currently lives. As you walk down the street notice the shops on your right, full of soft leather jackets with iconic made in Italy labels stitched inside. On your left is a sporting goods store, stocked with Fiorentina jerseys and other football (soccer) paraphernalia. Stop inside the Gallery for a brief viewing of the David, and then keep walking down the street.
Towards the end of Via Ricasoli you will find a supermarket, Il Centro on your left. Pick up some picnic essentials here for lunch. You will find freshly baked baguettes, local cheeses and wine for one euro. (Yes, the wine in Italy is cheaper than the water). At the end of the street you will find yourself in Piazza San Marco. You can pick up the #20 bus or if it’s a beautiful day, continue to walk. If you decide to walk, take Via Camillo Cavour straight up to Piazza Liberta. From there, walk along the narrow sidewalks on Via Bolognese until you reach Villa La Pietra. Home to the NYU in Florence study abroad program, this is estate actually houses 5 different villas, complete with gardens, rolling hills and an olive grove. Take your time to stroll around the grounds, just taking in the Florentine countryside views. As you find the perfect picnic spot, take your time to admire the surrounding lemon trees and the hyacinth lined valley path that connects the two sides of the property.
Once you’ve eaten your fill, and taken in the entire scenery hop on the bus back to Piazza San Marco. Walk back towards the Duomo and down Via dei Calzaioli heading towards Piazza della Repubblica. Quite different than Piazza San Marco, this city square does not allow cars to drive through it and its surrounding restaurants form a square perimeter. Each eatery has a huge outdoor seating area, where you can sip on a glass of vino bianco and nibble on the appertivo, little snacks that are often included in the price of your drink. Sit outside for as long as you please, and enjoy the perfect opportunity for people watching. When you are ready, head towards the central arch and walk straight through. There you will find a kiosk selling tickets to the local Fiorentina football games. Pick up a ticket for a future game and head back to the Duomo as the evening sets in. Backlit against the lights of the city, this iconic monument cuts an imposing figure against the dark sky.