Why shouldn’t you go to Florence before reading this? Because these tips about the city are all from locals, not from someone who wants to sell you something, so here you might find one or two ideas of things to do. Tuscan people and “fiorentini” themselves love Florence, and they are pretty good at enjoying life. Here are some of their favorite spots, and I give you a warning before you start planning your trip: in Italy you will always experience peaks of excellence, and moments during which you’ll think “how can they be so badly organized?” Relax, you didn’t wish to go to Italy for its organisation (which in some cases is even good), you are not in Germany and you are not in the USA.
Keep an open heart and don’t be afraid of being an outsider. You will fall in love.
So let’s start with serious matters: food. If you want a meal with an experience too, try the Alle Murate restaurant. The owner started to renovate it in 2005 and found some lovely frescoes featuring the most antique documented portraits of Dante. The local authority told them they couldn’t just go on with the renovation, because the art inside the restaurant was too important and had to be considered human heritage.
A long, bureaucratically complicated, Italian style discussion followed, until the two parts settled with the following solution: the restaurant would be a museum too, it would open only in the evening, and the staff would be trained to show the art to all the guests who wish it.
So the renovation started again, and while digging the wine cellar, guess what? Some Roman ruins were discovered! The work stopped again and another discussion followed. Finally the owner could finish up, the restaurant is now open, the food is very good, the staff is exceptionally friendly and well prepared, and you will get a tour to see the real Dante’s face, and the Archeological site in the basement. Absolutely beautiful.
If you want something easier or a typical trattoria, Gargani in via del Moro can be a good idea. It is the exact opposite of minimalism. Cheerful, warm, colorfully decorated, tucked away on a side street, it offers flawless food, a cozy atmosphere and it is well priced.
Entertainment needed? The owner of Il Cibreo, another Florence classic (but more upscale) opened Il Teatro Del Sale, as the name suggest a very theatrical place. One sits at communal tables and the food comes out with loud announcements, for everybody to share. There is enough to fill a regiment and the quality is excellent. A fun, lively place where someone can at times enjoy music and standup comedy too. Check the program online here.
Between one meal and the other you might want to enjoy the city too; you are a tourist after all. From July to September the Galleria dell’Accademia will be open at night too, every Tuesday. Admire the David by Michelangelo in this special atmosphere.
Or are you a fashionista? Go to the Ferragamo Museum for shoes and famous feet galore. Or to the Gucci Museum, which features a Gucci caffe’ where one can even have a Gucci designed gelato. It is in Piazza della Signoria, one of the most beautiful squares in the world. It is always full of tourists, but no amount of tourists can make Piazza della Signoria boring.
If you like European, Oriental, Islamic and Japanese arms, armours, artefacts and opulent environments, visit the Stibbert Museum, a beautiful villa surrounded by an enchanted garden with fountain, statues, temples and with most of its walls covered in tapestries and leather. It’s a place full of romanticism and esoterism and has an incredible collection of eclectic items. Although Harvard Professor Robert Langdon didn’t visit the place in Dan Brown’s Inferno, he probably would have loved it very much.
If you have time for an Aperitif (and I mean you do have plenty of time, because the drinks are handmade slowly and the place is packed with locals who hang out here and make the whole process even slower), try the Art Bar for the prettiest cocktails in town. Rumor has it that Kate Middleton used to be a regular here when she was a student back in 2000. Excellent quality worth the wait and, if you go before 21h, it is happy hour so you get cheaper cocktails.
A final word about the Uffizi Gallery. The queuing up is horrific, so better buying the tickets online – this also requires at least 10/15 minutes of queuing up for security control. But It is one of the most beautiful museums in the world, so I would warmly recommend to see it, if you happen to be in the city.