Academia GalleryGreat museum, I would put this above the Uffizi if I had to choose. Not too big, it's not overwhelming or tiring. Mostly Italian 1300-1700s paintings and sculptures, but on the second floor was a small exhibit of illuminated texts and some variety of other art. However, the main reason people flock to the Accademia is to see Michelangelo's original David. Now you might see the copies at Piazza del Signoria or Piazza Michelangelo and think you've seen it; you're done. But if you have even the smallest appreciation or love of artwork, I beg if you to pay the museum entrance fee, maybe stand in line (definitely something to buy tickets beforehand during the tourist season), and look at the real thing. I was warned by a friend, yet still taken aback when I turned a corner and found myself amid half-finished sculptures before glancing down the long hall and seeing him. Magnificent. Every detail is perfect, every vein and muscle from any angle. As a tour guide near me pointed out, the veins on the back of the hand hanging down are much more visible than on the hand by his shoulder--because if the gravity and the tension in the lower hand. Just wow. I could have walked around him, sat there, sketched, gazed, studied all day long.
San Miniato/Piazzale Michelangelo You'll probably hear about Piazzale Michelangelo, a parking lot on the outskirts of the city with a great view. However it is swarmed with tourists and street vendors and even then it is still a parking lot. I suggest you skip it altogether and head up a little higher to the church of San Miniato. It is less crowded, more beautiful, and you can buy cookies made by monks. If you go at the right time you can hear the monks singing Gregorian chants (rely only on the official website--we missed them before of some misinformation). Also there is an absolutely charming sculpture garden on the way up that contains modern sculptures, a multitude of rose bushes, and a little stream. Look for an open door in a stone wall as you climb up the hill of the main street leading to the Piazzale, for a great little corner to enjoy the view and write some postcards.
La Bussola Pizza This was the best pizza we ate in Florence by a long shot. Arrived for a late lunch/early dinner and chatted with the friendly staff. It is somewhat upscale, but not too expensive. Ordered a margherita pizza and a sheep's cheese, pear, honey, and walnut pizza to share. The first was pretty good, but the second was amazing. I wouldn't have minded eating here twice.
Museo Davanzati A house museum that exhibits the daily life of an upper-middle class household. It was interesting to see things not just featuring the Medici's and the like. Highly recommend planning one or two hours here. Check the website for times they give tours of the third and fourth floors which are not otherwise open to the public. Even so a few euros is worth the painted rooms and detailed furniture on the first two floors, plus a beautiful little courtyard. Focusing on the quirks and habits of the people of the Renaissance, you will be intrigued by artifacts like shoe-shaped hand warmers.
Uffizi The Louvre of Florence, though not really as large, it is definitely a big museum. Plan to go in the morning or when you have time and are not too tired. Gallery after gallery of gorgeous art, and amazing sculptures and interiors in between. The ceilings. I think my neck hurt all day from craning it upwards constantly to admire the details of the frescoes.
Pitti Palace We tried to do the Pitti Palace in the same day as the Uffizi and it was rushed, sometimes skipping galleries because our feet hurt and our eyes drooped. Here you will find the apartments of the Medicis and exhibitions containing modern art (1700s-present) and more. The imposing stone palace is a good look at the powerful oligarchy; however, it should be noted that if you have visited many palaces and fancy, historical apartments, this one does not quite stand out.
Boboli Gardens We appreciated these expansive gardens more than the palace. Simple, but elegant even as the winter sets in. There are many statutes and hidden little pathways among the evergreens. This is the ideal place to spend a few hours out of the city and tourist rush.
Giulio Giannini e Figlio Right on Palazzo Pitti is the sweetest bookbinding shop, filled with more amazing hand-printed papers. More distinctly it contains many leather-bound notebooks of excellent quality.
Maria Pace Creative Clothing Stumbled across this boutique on the way to the Boboli Gardens. If you are looking for unique women's fashion, this is perfect. The sewing machine shuddered away as we entered, the owner working on a new garment. All the clothes are sewn by her and by hand. The designs are mostly coats, sweaters, and skirts with modern lines and heavily textured fabrics. The prices are quite good for the quality and individuality of each item.
Tamerò pasta We randomly decided to eat dinner here one night when nothing else was open at 7pm (Italian restaurants start filling up around 9pm). What a great find. Right on Piazzo Santo Spirito, the window filled with rolling pins and chefs making pasta show its the real deal. Our pasta was fabulous, my hesitant choice of pumpkin and amaretto sauce ravioli paying off. The former parking garage had a fun vibe, with a crumbling hole in the wall, slick artwork, and loose graffiti. As we left, the DJ was setting up for later in the night and the pasta chefs were busy rolling trays of gnocchi, spaghetti, and more.
This wood carvings shop is a specialty of Florence--mostly because it makes traditional Pinocchios, the wooden puppet whose story originated in this city. This colorful shop has many playful goods, perfect for a child's gift or just looking around.
Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella A gem tucked away by the church, this is a shop full of skin and bath products smells heavenly. Originally run by the monks of Santa Maria Novella, who made and sold their medicinal and beauty goods. Today you can buy perfumes, hand creams, potpourri, and the famous rose water, many of which are made from centuries-old recipes. Many products run a little on the pricey side, but still the delicate scents and sparkling interior are worth a visit.
Gelataria la Carraia We visited this gelataria on the left bank of the Arno twice. It was that good. Especially creamy and well-flavored. If you like dark chocolate, you must try their rich, cold, and not-too-sweet version. Though you will probably never find a seat inside, you can sit on the bridge outside or walk along the river.
Vivoli Hidden in the quieter streets near the Basilica of Santa Croce, the neon sign casts orange vibrations on the cobblestones, calling you in. This was the first gelato we had in Florence and we greatly enjoyed it. Like many traditional gelato shops, you pay first and then order at a separate counter. My favorite flavor I ordered was eggnog, but the crèma (a simple custard with egg and milk) was delicious. Definitely the best I tasted was my mother's caffé gelato--that imbibed a frozen, sweet, and milky espresso.
Perché-no! A bit touristy, with a location a few streets from the Duomo, but still quite tasty. The sorbets were a nice break from the gelato and I was surprised to really enjoy my chocolate sorbet. Other than when I was handed my gelato and the cone crumbled leaving me with a handful of melty sugar (which the staff replaced) this place was perfect for an afternoon snack amid sightseeing.