THE ULTIMATE FLORENCE GUIDE

Firenze! One of the most beautiful and historically significant cities in the world. Founded in the first century BCE, the birthplace of Renaissance, this Italian city has an abundance of historical aesthetics and attractions, rich in culture, food, people and well preserved monuments. This quaint city attracts around 10 million tourists a year is a UNESCO World Heritage site and every inch of this city has a rustic aesthetic etched in the walls and cobblestone streets. Florence is a MUST when you are visiting Italy & I’ve got the perfect guide for you.

WHERE IS IT?

Located in the heart of Tuscany, Florence sits in north central Italy right in between Rome and Venice. It is a 1 hour and 30 min train ride from Rome and 2 hour train ride from Venice.

TRANSPORT ME HERE!

Florence is a relatively easy destination to get to. Because it is the most populous city in Tuscany, there are many ways to get here! 

FLY 

Amerigo Vespucci Airport is located directly in Florence- how convenient! From the airport, you can reach the main central station within 15 minutes by taking the T1 Tram. Average one-way ticket costs 1.5 EUR ($1.80) 

Galileo Galilei International Airport is located in Pisa. Flights into Pisa are less expensive, so this could be an option if you’re on a tight budget. A high speed train takes around 50 minutes from Pisa to get to Florence. 

TRAIN

Personally, it is the best form of transportation in Europe- comfortable & cost-effective! Opt for the train if you’re coming from other parts of Italy. The train will take you directly to the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station, which is located in downtown Florence. It’s only a 2 hour ride from Rome or Venice. Book through Trenitalia or Italo for the best deals.

DRIVE

Driving into historic center Florence is a bit tricky for tourists. Not only are you driving on the opposite side of the car, but also there are restricted traffic zones, which means the center is closed to car traffic and ONLY residents, buses, & taxis can use the streets. Without a special permit, you could be fined for driving into zona a traffico limitato (ZTL) One option is to inform your hotel in advance so they can arrange a special permit for you!

GETTING AROUND FLORENCE

Easiest way is to walk! I promise you will easily get your 10,000 steps in by noon everyday. The cobblestone streets make it a bit more difficult, so wear a solid pair of walking shoes. There are buses that you can take, but Florence is truly a work of art in every corner- by walking  you’ll discover so much more in every little corners and streets. 

Avoid driving in Florence. Parking is hard to come by. Leave your car parked at the hotel and get your lazy butt up!  

SIGHTS TO SEE IN FLORENCE!


PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO

Address: Piazzale Michelangelo, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

Ohhhhh you will want to come here every single day because the panoramic skyline of Florence is unreal! Highly recommend coming during sunrise to have the whole place to yourself & watch this historic city glow up! Check out the photoshoot we did here (if you recreate the same pose, be sure to tag me so I can give it some love on Instagram!)

It is around a 25 minute walk from city center. There is a steep hill you’ll have to climb (great butt exercise) If you’re feeling lazy, you can take a bus or drive to the top. Click here to find the right bus line that takes you here.

Giardino Delle Rose

Stop and smell the roses- take a moment to yourself & appreciate how lucky you are to be in Italy! This gorgeous rose garden is located right below Piazzale Michelangelo & it’s completely free! Who doesn’t love a free attraction? This garden was created in 1865 with over 400 varieties of roses.  

THE DUOMO & CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE

Address: Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

Did you really visit Florence if you didn’t get a photo in front of the Duomo? Hands down the most iconic landmark in Florence. The Duomo is part of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore and dates all the way back to the 13th century. The dome is an architectural feat and built without scaffolding! Now take in the grandness here because it is considered one of the world’s marvel! 

Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore:

Free entrance. I highly recommend going in and exploring the underground area called The Crypt of Santa Reparata.

The Duomo

There is always a huge line that wraps around the corner so make sure to buy the Grande Museo Del Duomo ticket, which allows you to climb up the dome, bell tower, museum & Baptistery. You will get admission to all 5 monuments in Piazza Duomo. This must be reserved in advance online with a specific time slot. Time slot cannot be changed so choose wisely. Click here to buy your ticket- the pricing is 20 EUR ($24) for adults

Personally, I do not think it is worth paying a fee to climb up to the top of the Duomo. All you see from the top are terra cotta rooftops of the whole town, while Piazzale Micahengelo gives you a much better view for FREE. FYI there’s 463 steps… each way..

PONTE VECCHIO

Address: Ponte Vecchio, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, translation means the old bridge and actually the very first bridge to cross the Arno River. The bridge was once filled with butcher shops and they’d toss the unwanted  leftover meat into the river, but nowadays, it is home to souvenir/jewelry shops.

PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA

Address: P.za della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

This L-shaped square in Florence has a reputation of being the center of political focus of the city since the 14th century! There are important buildings in this palazza- a fortress like city hall that dominates the square, the David statue by Michaelangelo was placed outside here as a symbol of the Republic’s defiance of the tyrannical Medici and Loggia Dei Lanzi, an open-air museum showcasing famou Renaissance sculptures. You will be sure to find lively events going on every night from beautiful orchestras, fashion shows, art installations or street performances. 

MERCATO CENTRALE 

Address: Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Via dell’Ariento, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

Can’t decide what to eat? This is the place to go to! This central market has options galore! The first floor is an open marketplace where you can buy all your groceries. They have fresh meat, cheese, truffle, seasonings, anything you can think of! The second floor has SO many vendors that can whip up a quick bite for you. There’s sandwiches, pasta, ice cream, juices, salads, etc. Mercato Centrale can feel a bit overwhelming if I’m being completely honest. Sometimes when there’s too many options, it’s tough to make a decision. Avoid coming here right at peak lunch/dinner time!

PHOTOBOOTH

Address: Piazza della Stazione 56r Florence, ITA 50123 or Via dell’Agnolo & Via Giuseppe Verdi

You’ll see some old school photobooths spread out all over Florence (see if you can find all 5!) Hop in one to capture some silly memories with each other. B&W, 4 per strip, €2.00

PITTI PALACE & BOBOLI GARDENS

Address: Piazza de’ Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy

Pitti Palace

This palace was the symbol of the Medici Family’s power over Tuscany. Originally built in 1457, the famous Medici Family purchased it in 1549. This palace is divided into 4 museums: the Treasury of the Grand Dukes (ground floor), the Palatine Gallery and the Imperial and Royal Apartments (first floor), the Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Costume and Fashion (second floor) 

Regular Ticket Fee: 16 € /  Closed on Mondays 

Boboli Garden

This garden sits behind the palace. It is a historical open air museum with tons of statues, fountains and lush landscaping. It has been said that Boboli is what inspired the gardens at Versailles Palace. As you explore, there is a space that houses a little pink building- from there, you can see a panoramic view of Florence and the countryside. You can also stop by the Grottos, which has sculptures and fresco painting amongst stalactites. It’s the perfect space to roam around and get lost in! 

Regular Ticket Fee: 10 €

UFFIZI GALLERY

Address: Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

This gallery is home to priceless works of art! It is the second largest museum in Italy and houses a large collection Renaissance art gifted by the Medici family on the condition that these pieces never leave Florence. The name Uffizi translates into ‘offices’ and the museum is actually housed in a 16th century government office. Buy tickets ahead of time to skip the long lines. Click here to buy your tickets online!

Regular Ticket Fee: 20 €

WHERE TO EAT

All’Antico Vinaio ($): craving a panini? Check this palace out! Those on a tight budget, this spot is for you- SO cheap. No seating-  I recommend taking it to your airbnb or find a bench and have a picnic!

Il Nutino ($): Cozy, 1950s venue with frescoed decor & wooden beams. I had the BEST Linguine Vongole (Spaghetti with clams) and I still crave this dish soooo much.

Trattoria Toscana Gozzi Sergio ($): a local’s favorite! If you want an inexpensive, authentic Tuscan meal, this place is for you! There is outdoor seating along the side of San Lorenzo Basilica. The pasta with ragu, Pepeso- slow cooked beef with pepper and red wine sauce here is unreal. They are only open for 3-5 hours everyday so I recommend getting there before opening to get a seat before it fills up.

La Prosciutteria Firenze ($): who doesn’t love wine and an epic cheese plate? Come here for an impressive charcuterie board and a cute vintage sidewalk set up.

 Trattoria Mario ($$): family run eatery with unique handwritten menu on the wall. Get in here before noon and be prepared to share a table with other parties. Popular order here is the Florentine Steak & you can always ask what they’d recommend or look around to see what other people are ordering

Trattoria Sostanza ($$$): The history of the Florentine steak is as old as the Italian city of Florence. The steak is cut from the veal loin and in Tuscany, the animal has to be a Chianina breed- the oldest breed used for heavy work by the Romans. Food here may be pricy, but cooked to perfection!

La Terrazza Rooftop Bar ($$$): I don’t think there is any other bar that can top this location- rooftop floor of the medieval Consorti tower surrounded by impeccable Tuscan views. You’re def paying for the view… its steep in prices

GROM – Il Gelato ($): One of the best chain gelaterias in the world. Endless mouthwatering flavors to choose from and high quality ingredients.

WHERE TO STAY 

Florence has an abundance of Airbnbs AND hotels to choose from. Luckily, a couple of the Airbnb’s even have epic rooftop views of The Duomo from the living room! I’ve listed the ones that are on my bucketlist for the next visit . There is a huge range in prices- you can easily find budget places for $50/ night to $500 luxury hotels. Depending on your budget, there is a space for everyone!

BALCONY DUOMO VIEW ($)

MODERN ARTSY AIRBNB ($)

ROMANTIC ITALIAN SPACE with PARTIAL DUOMO VIEW ($)

MODERN SPACE WITH DUOMO VIEW ($$)

LUXURY DUOMO VIEW ($$$)

DAY TRIPS FROM FLORENCE

Florence is an excellent city to use as a homebase. Feel free to go on epic day trips/ weekend getaways! Trains are so accessible in Italy and is the perfect transportation to take for day trips. Check out the list of day trip ideas!

PISA : Read my A Day In Pisa guide here!

CINQUE TERRE– I’ve got a whole guide on the 5 coastal towns here! You MUST visit here on your trip!! Click here!

TUSCANY: SO many Tuscan towns to choose from- I’ve listed my favorites that stand out!

  • SAN GIMIGNANO: the postcard village of the Tuscan hill towns! Whole town is surrounded by 13th century walls and in the heart of San Gimignano is filled with museums, churches, small local shops. Honestly, we came here for the world famous, award winning gelato shop: Gelateria Dondoli. It tasted like any other gelato in Italy… haha still very delicious! However, we stumbled upon the cutest meat and cheese shop with created by the most passionate & kind butcher! Despite the language barrier, he gave us an interactive one on one experience that was unforgettable!

Dine at Da I’ Mariani ( Address: Via di Quercecchio, 19, 53037 San Gimignano SI, Italy) The charcuterie board is absolute perfection here! Also, buy a bottle of Truffle Honey- it’s soooo worth it!

  • BOLOGNA: Only half an hour from Florence by train, Bologna is one of the most underrated cities in Italy. The cuisine is one of the main reasons to visit Bologna, and it’s well worth taking a food tour  here. You can even tour a Gelato Museum and MAKE your own!!! HOW COOL. Piazza Maggiore is the main square and one of the top Bologna attractions. Here you’ll find the Basilica di San Petronio and a 16th-century Neptune Fountain built by Flemish sculptor Giambologna.
  • SIENA: This city is well known for its gorgeous architecture and beautiful main square – the Piazza del Campo. Explore the medieval streets and admire the premier examples of Gothic churches and palaces. You must see the magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta that was constructed in the 13th century, Palazzo Pubblico, & Biblioteca Piccolomini. I personally had a blast at the Torture Museum ( Opening hours: everyday from 10 to 7om / Tickets: 10 € )

Dine at Ristorante Tar- Tufo- restaurant that specializes in TRUFFLE. Need I say more? If you’re going to splurge on one meal in Italy, this is the place to go for luxury dining. They put a lot of effort into the presentation of the dish, the flavors are on point and the lovely outdoor terrace has a beautiful view of Siena.

  • MODENA: Modena is the home of balsamic vinegar! Visit Acetaia di Giorgio, a family run business that’s been making vinegar for the past 130 years and the tradition is passed down each generation.

Dine at three-Michelin-star Osteria Francescana– owned and run by chef Massimo Bottura. It has been named as one of the world’s best 50 restaurants! This restaurant has been featured in Chef’s Table and Somebody Feed Phil for those interested in seeing what they serve before making a reservation (Netflix shows!)

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XO, Soph

THE ULTIMATE SATURNIA GUIDE

HISTORY
INFORMATION
TRANSPORT
WHAT TO BRING
TIPS
WHERE TO STAY

Saturnia di Terme… also known as Cascate Del Mulino, the mythical landscape you’ve most likely seen in magazines wondering if it’s actually a real destination. I’m here to confirm that this natural Tuscan bath is very much a real spa town that does not disappoint and the pictures don’t do it justice!  

RUMOR HAS IT….

SATURN

This hotspot (see what I did there 😉 ) dates all the way back 3,000 years ago! According to the Etruscans and Romans, Terme di Saturnia was formed by lightning bolts thrown down by Jupiter. Two mythological deities were in the middle of a violent quarrel when Saturn had thrown bolts down and missed, causing the formations at this hot spring. 

A BIT OF HISTORY

Hot springs are heated by geothermal springs- heat from the Earth’s interior. The water in the ground comes into contact with hot rocks or magma and it seeps through the cracks/crevices of the Earth’s crust, which leads to hot springs like Saturnia!

So what is heating up Saturnia? Meet Amiata volcano, which also doubles as the tallest mountain in Tuscany. This volcano sits 80km south of Siena and is actually considered “extinct” because there has not been any recent activities in the past 200,000-300,000 years. 

INFORMATION

The best things in life are free: family, love, & SATURNIA’S NATURAL TUSCAN BATH! We all know how instagrammable spots have turned into huge money making businesses with entrance fees, life jackets, parking fees etc, but thankfully, this spot has remained generous and FREE all year round. You heard that right. Open 24 hours for 365 days!

WHERE IS SATURNIA?

Located in Tuscany, halfway in between Florence & Rome sits Saturnia. It is in the province of Grosseto, north central part of Italy.

Saturnia Di Terme coordinates: Latitude: 42.648; Longtitude: 11.513

TRANSPORT ME HERE

Easiest way to get here is by renting your own vehicle and driving through the hills of Tuscany. We rented from Hertz: started our trip in Florence and ended our road trip in Rome. The roads are well paved with clear markings and signs. Definitely use your GPS/ Google Maps to get around. Screenshot directions ahead of time because cell reception is a bit poor in some spots in Tuscany.

PARKING

As you approach the destination, you might see cars parked alongside the road, DO NOT stop or park there. You will get a ticket! 
Drive to the end of the road, make a right following the blue parking sign. The lot is pretty spacious & that is where you can park for free all day long. The area is safe, but don’t leave any valuables visible in the car- throw it in the trunk.

WHAT IS THAT SMELL?

Ever wondered why hotsprings smell like someone is cooking up dozens and dozens of hard boiled eggs? 

The water heats up due to the earth pressures and proximity to the core. As it comes through the surface, the warmth dissolves the rich mineral deposits (sulfur in the surrounding rocks/soil) and this chemical reaction creates that eggy smell. The hotter the water, the stronger it’ll be. The smell is actually caused by the bacterias eating up the sulfides in the water. The smell is pungent at first, but you get used to it. 

HEALTH IS WEALTH

The thermal waters have a temp of 37.5 °C and brings therapeutic and relaxing properties. The water helps with skin elasticity, psoriasis, relaxes the muscles/aches, rashes, circulation, supports respiratory and many more conditions! Nature truly heals!!!

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Spring! This place attracts locals and tourists from all over the world. Summer crowds are often big and the weather is wayyyyy too warm to soak in a hot bath.

WHAT TO BRING

  • Water shoes/flip flops: the pebbles and sharp rocks sitting in the springs is no joke. Couldn’t handle the pain so I ended up having to wear my Birkenstocks (totally destroyed my shoes!)
  • Towels: dry yourself before you destroy the rental car with the eggy smell and get fined for it
  • Biodegradable Sunscreen: there’s minimal shade here so protect your skin and make sure the sunscreen ingredients won’t harm the mineral deposits here
  • Water: hot springs dehydrate you, so bring/ drink plenty of water
  • Camera: don’t forget to capture some memories here to look back on! 

TIPS

  • Visit during sunrise: you will have this magical place to yourself! 
  • No changing rooms: come dressed in your bathing suit 
  • Wear an OLD bathing suit: the eggy smell will linger even after MANY washes…. I made this mistake and wore a brand new bathing suit… 
  • Remove all jewelry: the sulfur can tarnish silver
  • No lifeguard on duty: although it is shallow, always be extra careful 
  • LEAVE NO TRACE: preserve the beautiful land and keep it clean

!WARNING!

Saturnia’s OG tenants- itty bitty red worms….. No one warned me about this- I learned the hard way. As I was relaxing, soaking my body in the springs, I noticed  little worms swimming around me & YES I freaked the fuck out! They’re actually harmless, but yuck! This is just an FYI so you don’t get scared. Still totally worth going in and I have no regrets! 

WHERE TO STAY

Luckily, there are plenty of options from luxury spa hotels nearby to authentic Tuscan style airbnbs. Below are my recommendations!

SATURNIA TUSCANY HOTEL 

TERME DI SATURNIA  RESORT

ELEGANT TUSCAN VILLA AIRBNB

FARMHOUSE AIRBNB

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XO,

Soph