Of all the European countries, Italy is by far the most fun and
friendly to visit. Sorry France, Switzerland, even
Ireland which is a brilliant island
with delightful people and pubs at every corner. But nowhere do I feel more
welcome than Italy – the people are beautiful, the food is legendary and
lives up to its reputation, and the wealth of sightseeing in this small
country is extraordinary. In a word: bellisimo.
So for our girls’ getaway, a mother and daughter college graduation celebration in our case, Italy was the choice. For our itinerary Florence was a must for museums and history, and Tuscany with a night in Siena for the classic countryside, Cinque Terre for the Italian Riviera – to relax on our otherwise busy touring agenda, and finally Milano – the fashion capital since my daughter is a fashion designer textiles grad.
Florence - Must See and Where to Eat on a Girls’ Trip to Firenze Italia:
Climb the Duomo when it opens at 8:30 am – ahead of the crowds. Its 463 stairs to this crown of Florence in bright sienna colored tile, for an amazing view of the city and the hills in the distance. On your trip up and down you walk inside the circumference of the Dome to see Brunelleschi’s amazing ceiling fresco as well.
The Mercato Centrale is a must, this market of fresh flowers, gorgeous produce, local wine, pecorino and parmesan cheese, whole fish and squid, smoked meats is a multi-sensory extravaganza. Procure picnic provisions, or just sample the Italian vendors’ delicious goodies. Outside the market are carts selling leather bags, belts, silk scarves and more – we bargained and benefited.
Visit the designer resale shop Street Doing on Via dei Servi 88 between the Duomo and the Academmia. Loaded with vintage Prada, Gucci and Pucci - this fun boutique is a fashionistas' fantasy, clothing is sorted by occasion and era, with reasonable prices given the fabulous labels.
The Gucci Museum located in Piazza Del Signoria is a $7 Euro ticket to see the brilliance and beautiful people of Gucci through the ages. The Ferragamo Museum in the basement of the flagship store on Piazza Sant Trinitia is not as good as Gucci so just browse the fabulous Ferragamo store.
Date with David -Michelangelo's David is the 17’ tall man of marble at the Accademia. Buy your time slot ticket in advance - this place jams – everyone wants to see this gorgeous carving from a cast-aside block of marble, now perfectly positioned in his own dome. The rest of the museum is a snooze – but David is big and beautiful.
Stroll the Ponte Vecchio, past the many jewelry shops. Imagine you are the Medici family who had a secret passage over the bridge. In those days the Ponte Vecchio bridge was full of fish markets – today’s gold watches and pendants are far less smelly.
Art lovers- go to The Uffizi - home to masterful Italian artists Giotto, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, and Titian. Botticelli’s “Birthplace of Venus” is the best, a beautiful ginger in a clam shell (but I am biased). Aside from the paintings, mostly Jesus & Mary, wandering this grand palace is worth the price of admission. Reserve your tickets in advance, and don’t miss the outdoor terrace bar for a cappuccino or vino at the end for great views.
The Piazza della Signoria is great people watching, with grand statutes like Neptune on guard, near the Uffizi, but beware of pushy vendors.
The Pitti Palace, on the Oltrarno, is the grand home to the beautiful Boboli Gardens outside, and the lavishly decorated Medici family home inside, plus a tasteful costume gallery that spans centuries. Your chance to see how the 1% lived and dressed in the Renaissance to today.
Splurge at Gelateria La Carraia on the Arno River near the namesake Ponte Alla Carraia, west of the Pont Santa Trinita and the Ponte Vecchio. Delicious gelato with a view!
Shop at La Rinascenti, Italian Macy’s, and head for the 7th floor rooftop terrace for a cocktail - the views of the Duomo are fantastic.
Find the bronze pig in Pizza della Republica and rub his shiny snout for good luck while you are in the ‘hood.
Stroll the Via de' Tornabuoni in the evening, for the "passegiata". From Piazza de la Republica down to the Arno River this fashionable avenue is beautiful at dusk as the locals come out to see and be seen... a classic tradition.
Our favorite places to Dine in Florence:
Apertivo at Open Bar Golden View is chic, and relatively cheap. For $10 Euro you get a cocktail of your choice, and a spread of wonderful happy hour snacks from pizza to pasta and dessert. Florentines make a meal out of it - get a table with a view of the Arno River and Florence – fabulous!
Trattoria 4 Leoni’s in Oltrarno – try the pear ravioli or the spaghetti con vognole (clams). Mamma Mia, its delicious- ask for an outside table in the piazza.
Il Latini is a traditional trattoria on Via dei Palchetti. From the big jug of self-serve Vino Rosso on the table to the family that runs the place - its old school authentic. Go for lunch when its locals and less busy than dinner.
For a girls getaway, or a family visit to Firenze, we recommend two or three nights
in Florence, also we highly recommend visiting Tuscany, Siena, the Cinque Terre,
in your Italian trip.
See more of our Italian Travel Reviews:
Monterosso in the Cinque Terre
Touring Venice Italy
A Photo Tour of Venice Italy
Cruise the Adriatic aboard Azamara
Adriatic Cruise Photo Tours