In August I was lucky enough to have a trip to Florence courtesy of my Nan! I have been to Florence before and absolutely loved it, and Florence is a place my Nan has always wanted to visit, so she kindly asked me to go with her and I gladly accepted the offer!
We went from the 31st August to the 4th September and also took a detour to Pisa as part of our trip. We flew from Luton Airport using Vueling Airlines and I couldn’t be happier with their services. I normally fly with budget airlines like Ryanair or Easy Jet but Vueling worked out the cheapest for the outbound flight and I’d never even heard of the airline before. Their seats and legroom were bigger and more spacious than normal budget airlines and their in flight food services were so good! I had a snack of olives on the flight which beats the generic Pringles on Ryanair…
We had an early morning flight to Florence and so managed to get to our hotel in Florence at about 1PM. When we landed in Florence we found out that you could get a shuttle bus from the airport to the city centre for €6 each. The bus comes every half an hour so we didn’t have long to wait, and the bus drops you at the main train station in Florence which isn’t far from most hotels. It took us only 5 minutes to find our hotel; the B4 Astoria Firenze.
The hotel is 4*, located perfectly for all of the main attractions, especially the Duomo. The room we had was a standard double room with twin beds and was very spacious. We paid (my nan paid…) £60 per person per night and this included breakfast. The breakfast was OK, nothing amazing, but the amazing features of the hotel definitely made my breakfast expectations less of an issue. The hotel had a roof top bar that looked out over Florence and the views were incredible. We sat up here one night for drinks and it was just so beautiful.
On the day we arrived, we had already pre booked the Accademia Gallery where the famous David statue resides, sculpted by Michelangelo. We had pre-booked in advance as it can be known to have lots of queues for tickets, however there didn’t seem to be a queue in sight when we were there! I loved seeing the David as this was one thing I didn’t get to do when I travelled Europe last year as I only had 24 hours in Florence. My only issue with this museum was that we really didn’t spend that much time there as the main reason for visiting was the David. Maybe it would have been different if we were more interested in the other pieces of art in the Accademia, or if we had a tour guide!
On the other hand, we visited the Uffizzi Gallery on our last day and this was the best museum experience I have had to date. We spent over 4 hours in the museum and purchased an audio guide to help us understand the art. This was possibly the best thing we could have done as it was a lot better to have guidance on what the art meant and who painted it. We both came away from the Uffizzi Gallery shocked at how much we actually enjoyed it, and with a richer understanding of art! We even got to see a famous piece by Leonardo Di Vinci which would only be in the museum until the end of September…
During our time in Florence we did A LOT of walking. This included walking all the way to the top of the Duomo. This was my second time climbing the Duomo, but it didn’t phase me as the whole experience is just fascinating. My nan did so well to climb to the top, even if we had to have multiple pit stops for her to catch her breath! The whole way you are climbing staircase after staircase, going round and round in circles so becoming dizzy was inevitable. The journey to the top was also made more interesting with many peep holes in the walls where we got to see snippets of the city (and take a break!)
When we got to the top the views were amazing. Even though I had done the climb before, the views were still just as beautiful. It was over 25 degrees though and getting shade up there was impossible, I was just thankful that we had pre booked a time slot to climb the dome at 11am before the heat peaked!
On the way back down we were able to take in the significance of the Duomo by admiring the amazing paintings that feature on the inside of the dome, and we revisited the dome on the last day to visit the church, light some candles and explore the foundations and history of the building.
As we had already climbed the Duomo we decided not to climb the Bell Tower. We were able to view it from the top of the Duomo, and I had already climbed it when I visited Florence last year. Instead, we decided to spend the afternoon mooching around the Biboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace!
The Gardens were very pretty and were perfect for an afternoon stroll, however, the heat was crazy by the afternoon and again, finding shade proved pretty hard. We had walked over 19,000 steps on this day so we were absolutely cream crackered by the evening. The gardens had lovely views over Florence, lots of statues and some great green spots to chill. If we had more time I would have explored the museums inside the Palace, one of which was a fashion museum.
During our walks in Florence we also got to see a host of markets including lots of leather markets and food markets. It’s crazy how much competition each market stall has considering every stall is selling exactly the same products. I’m absolutely kicking myself that I didn’t purchase a leather bag though, as I fell in love with a small cross body bag that had engraved into the leather “Made In Florence”. That would have been an amazing keep sake of my trip but oh well… I’ve got plenty of memories and photos to look back on instead!
One of the most iconic moments of our trip to Florence was the evening that we spent at the Opera. We visited St Mark’s Church to watch their Operatic performance of Carmen and it was definitely a night to remember. We weren’t permitted to take photos or record the performance for obvious reasons, but I did take this cheeky photo of the cast.
As you can see, the church was very small. It was a very intimate performance and the vocals were on point. My nan pointed out that she had seen an Opera before and because of the intimate setting, it made it much better being able to see the facial expressions and acting to go alongside the singing. During the interval we were also given some Prosecco and able to have a break outside the venue. In the break I was lucky to have spotted some the Florence street sign art which I had seen previously online!
Another highlight of our trip was when we left the Opera. It was absolutely p*ssing it down!! There was a huge thunderstorm with lightning lighting up the sky over the Ponte Vecchio, and we pretty much legged it back to the hotel laughing our heads off the whole way. Neither of us thought to even jump in a taxi, we just used our cardigans as hoods!
I bet you’re thinking “how can she write a post about Italy and not mention the food” Well I wanted to leave the best until last of course! The food was obviously incredible and I had to go on a diet when we got back because of the carb overload. *rolls eyes* One thing I do regret is not taking pictures of my food…
We found that most restaurants would be offering the same food for the same price but they were very limited on seats. Every restaurant could seat up to around 20 people and even then you were tightly packed but we didn’t mind because the experience was what we were there for. We had some great food whilst we were away including cannelloni, spaghetti bolognese, bruschetta and of course; PIZZA!
On the night of the Opera we decided to grab a quick dinner (because we were running fashionably late)… and we came across a local square full of people drinking outside bars and eating pizza out of boxes. The pizza cost us €5 and it was the best pizza we had the whole time we were there!
Gelato Gelato Gelato… every corner you turn there is a gelaterie and they are all amazing. Our favourite was the one that is directly next to the Duomo with an outside seating area. We also had our fair share of Aperol Spritz whilst we were away, with my nan being an Aperol virgin before she took me to Italy! Shocking right?
We had a truly lovely time in Italy and I can’t thank my nan enough for taking me. To fully display how much of a good time I had in Florence I have made a YouTube video from the footage I captured on my GoPro. This can be seen below!