16 Jan 2015

When In Florence

Medici Palace, Florence, Renaissance, Vicki Archer

When in Florence, what to do?

There is so much to do and equally I could sit in Florence and do very little at all.

Daydream, people watch, gaze at the architecture, become colour obsessed, taste a thousand delectible bites and drink my fair share of light and fruity Prosecco.

Medici Palace, Florence, Renaissance, Vicki Archer

We took a guide for a few hours the first day and on a quick trip to Florence, I would highly recommend it. I am not always a fan of structure on a holiday but in a city with such an abundance of beauty, history and culture, it is truly an advantage.

Simona had our attention from the moment we met. She was gorgeous from the first smile to our wave goodbye. My attention never wavered and the hours flew by, I wish we had spent longer with her.

There is so much to learn in Florence, the well known is really the merest dabble.

Medici Palace, Florence, Renaissance, Vicki Archer

So, when in Florence, what would I do?

Walk, walk and walk some more and after that, there are the galleries, museums and churches. There are language courses, art courses and cooking courses but whether you are there for a day, a month or a year, there are a few sensations not to be missed.

Taste the cream filled croissants at Gilli, they are without doubt my favourites. Order, then eat and drink at the bar for a fraction of the price.

Savour the pear ravioli at Trattoria 4 Leoni, thank you Gigi and Poppy for the recommendation.

Prefer pesto, Trattoria Casalinga for a family run dose of Italian hospitality.

The sweets, chocolates and nougat from Migone. The visuals are enough if you are strong enough to avoid temptation.

Hot chocolate at Rivoire.

Try a truffle panini with a glass of Prosecco V8 Millesimato 2012.

Medici Palace, Florence, Renaissance, Vicki Archer

Walk the Vassari corridor; pre-booking is essential and is by request and appointment only.

Compare the Fillipo Lippi madonna and child in the Uffizi and the Medici Palace. The two masterpieces are quite different. The madonna in the Medici has an intimacy with her child that is quite moving.

Rekindle a passion for chandeliers.

Don’t ever forget to look up.

Medici Palace, Florence, Renaissance, Vicki Archer

Fall in love with sculpture all over again, especially in the inner courtyard of the Medici Palace.

Napoleon’s bathroom in the Pitti Palace, *sigh*

Search for hand marbleized paper at Signum and at Giannini, I’m not wrapping, I’m framing.

For fashion, there is the one and only Luisaviaroma concept store.

If this sounds all too tiring, the spa at the Four Seasons Firenze; *heavenly*

And for all that walking, a biker boot and a sneaker took me everywhere.

A few suggestions from me and please add to the list, we always need an excuse to be in Florence.

Over to you… xv

A Taste Of Florence


SImona Capelli


Cafe Gilli

Piazza Della Republica 39R

+39 055 213896


PIazza Della Signoria 4R

+39 055 214412

Trattoria 4 Leoni

Via dè Vellutini, 1R
+39 055 218562

Trattoria Casalinga
Via dei Michelozzi, 9r
+39 055 218624

Via Dei Calzailuoli, 85-87

Vasari Corridor

Lungarno Archibusieri, 14R
+39 055 289393

Piazza de Pitti, 37
+39 055 212621

Via Roma 19/21R
+39 055 9064116
Via Silvia Pellico, 9
+39 055 217826

Spa Four Seasons Firenze
Borgo Pinti, 99
+39 055 26261

it was too cold for gelato, so i didn’t taste test; i am sure you have some great spots for the best gelato in florence? summer isn’t that far away… do tell

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Anita Rivera

Good morning Vicki! Oh the opulence that the Italians have gifted the western world. LOVE LOVE LOVE all of these curves, chandeliers, gilt and glory. What to do when in Florence? Stay silent and take it all in.

Wishing you a most happy day Anita


All wonderful recommendations, Vicki. There are so many amazing things to do in Florence and never enough time to do it all in one visit. It’s a city to return to again and again. Revisit old favourites and see new. Agree, just walking the streets is one of the best things. You walk around a corner and there is the Duomo, on a bit further and you’re in the Piazza Signoria.
On our last trip to Florence I’d come down with acute bronchitis and tracheitis (spelling? picked up beforehand) and was so sick could only just totter down to the Signoria and sit half in sun half in shade at a table at Rivoire. We did this every day and they were so kind. Also the staff in our hotel, so kind, at the end sent a porter with us to the railway station to help load our bags onto the train because I was still quite ill and my hubby not wonderful either (he’d picked the same thing up before me, in Cracow).
One place you might like to try, for the shoe-lovers, is the Ferragamo original store. Wonderful place and products – then you can ask to see the museum upstairs. The guide will tell you all the interesting stories about the movie stars who had shoes specially made – they still have the lasts available to see. Also how innovative Ferragamo was in use of materials during WWII when normal shoe materials were hard to get. So interesting. I was the only visitor the morning I went. Also if you like Italian maiolica, hand painted, there’s a fabulous shop, the Machiavelli not far from the Ponte Vecchio, on the corner of the Via por Santa Maria and a small side street the via Machiavelli. The have wonderful hand painted platters etc and will ship. The glove shops nearby and Madova over the bridge have an incredible selection of fine leather gloves in an amazing variety of colours and styles, cashmere lined, fur lined etc.
Best wishes, Pamela

Donna Stokes

We are going to Florence in March. I love what you said about your hotel.
We do not have a hotel booked yet…..which one or ones do you suggest?
Donna Stokes


Donna, I am not that familiar with hotels in Florence… perhaps other readers might be able to make some suggestions?
Any great recommendations would be most welcome?


The hotel where they were so kind to us was the Hotel Calzaiuoli in the Via Calzaiuoli (not exactly sure of spelling) – it’s in a walking street, wonderful location, at one end the Signoria at the other the Duomo. They’d initially tried to book a railway porter to meet us at the station on arrival but could never get through so sent their own porter in the taxi with us. Don’t think they’d normally do this but we were both so sick and they were worried about us. So kind.
Have a wonderful time! Pamela


Thank you Pamela… Donna, I hope these hotel recommendations help.. :)

Carolyn Menadue

We have stayed several times at the Hotel Hermitage which overlooks the Arno and is a stone’s throw from the Ponte Vecchio. Tiny hotel but with a lovely flowered terrace perfect for a gin and tonic after a busy day sightseeing and shopping!


PS There’s a wonderful bitter sweet romantic movie set in Florence in the 60s, “A Light in the Piazza” where the city stars, alongside Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton. Raises a difficult issue – but quite delightful. Worth trying to get hold of it if you love Florence. Pamela

dana casey

happy to have found your beautiful blog. i’m living through these words and am transported to italy today…thanks for sharing. xx, dana

La Contessa

YOU GOT IT DOWN!My only suggestion would be a FLAT SHOE which YOU added at the end…..a walking boot as the “LOOKING UP ” part could make you tumble!I have a few friends there who are tour guides………I will pass this on to them and perhaps they can ADD to your list!Did you do the VASARRI CORRIDOR?When I lived there it wasNOT UP and running……..but a few select people could see……..I would LOVE to go back and walk that.I remember looking for it walking from the PONTE VECCHIO to the PITTI PALACE.LOOKING UP of course!!It’s a BEAUTIFUL city………I was married there so it will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart.XO


The Vasari corridor is amazing… it is open now as I mentioned with prior arrangement… an expensive tour, but worth it for the treasures… :)

Gigi Thibodeau

I love your list, Vicki, and I have added several of the items to my own list for our next trip to Italy. I didn’t get to tour the Pitti Palace last time, so that’s at the top of my to-do’s. I must see Napoleon’s bathroom! My favorite aspect of Florence is just what you said: the walking. We wandered for hours, stopping into churches and gardens that we hadn’t found in our travel guides. We spoke a lot of beginner’s Italian, and people were incredibly gracious about teaching us more. Oh, and when we were there in May, the Palazzo Vecchio was open until midnight. I will never forget walking out onto one of the terraces under a full moon above us and the rooftops of Florence spread below us. Thanks for this beautiful post! xo Gigi


Florence is up there as one of my favourite cities Vicki …….. we have walked the length and breadth of it quite a few times. I also bought a skirt in a little shop which I wore at our son’s wedding ! I’m afraid that I’m not as good as you at remembering the names and addresses of where we ate but, wherever we ate, it was always delicious !! ….. and, as Pamela said, I will never forget the first time that we turned the corner and there was the Duomo in all it’s glory !!! XXXX


The Duomo does seem to pop up… it’s a bit like the first view of The Eiffel Tower… it doesn’t disappoint… :)

Michele S

My family visited Florence about 4 years ago and met with a local artist, Mauro Tacconi, who lives in a small town outside Florence (Grassina). My family was stationed in Germany about 35 years ago and my parents purchased a mosaic from his father Marco so we wanted to see if he was still creating mosaics (I did some internet sleuthing and that’s how I found Mauro, his son, who is also a craftsman). My sister and I both ended up purchasing his artwork. I know you can find mosaics in many of the shops in Florence but his work is superb!


What a lovely continuation for your family and how fortunate to find Marco… well worth the sleuthing… :)

Michele S

Oh, one last note about Maura Tacconi – he sends me and my sister holiday cards at Christmas every year now – they are always images of Florence hand-drawn by him; we look forward to receiving them every year!


Yes the sneakers were a saviour, but my bikers were pretty good too… no problems at all… heels would not have worked for me though! I did take a pair for the evening, but after all the kilometres walked, the biker boots won out every time… :)


We were there this summer and are already dying to go back! One of the more unique experiences we had was hiking to San Minato al Monte just outside the medieval walls. It’s an 11th-14th century Romanesque basilica standing on the grounds next to an Olivetan monastery. The friars run the church and have a shop next door where they sell their goods like wine, honey, and soaps. So many things about this adventure made it worthwhile. We walked through the city and across the river up and past the medieval walls to the Piazzale Michelangelo. From here, there is an incredible view of the Tuscan city and surrounding country side. We kept going, however, up the steep climb to San Miniato, and though it’s quite a hike, it was absolutely worth it (I do think they also run a bus, but I was okay with working off some of that pasta and gelato we had been eating). I believe this is the highest view point in Florence, and it was an incredible way to take in the city. We then toured the church and bought some monk-made wine, and before heading back down, we stayed for the 30 minute week-night mass, where the friars gather in the crypt and conduct the mass with traditional Gregorian chants. It was a tremendously beautiful experience. We finished out the afternoon by stopping back at the Piazzale Michelangelo on our way down for a spritz while watching the sunset and listening to a local busker with a guitar. If you get a chance to go when the weather warms up, I would highly highly recommend it!


Thank you for this insight, Dianna… I would so enjoy this hike, I know and the rewards at the top… :)

Sandy M.

I loved the Santa Maria Novella pharmacy.
Enjoyed all your beautiful photos. Now I want to return to that beautiful gem!


Florence weaved her magic on me many years ago Vicki – now she is part of my soul – my very being.
In his book ‘The Flaneur’ Edmund White mentioned the farmacia attached to Santa Maria Novella as being in business since the 17th century. Sadly it wasn’t mentioned in the travel book I used!
A good local guide is invaluable.
I dream of visiting Florence again one day – who knows what tomorrow might bring!
Tell me more Vicki – I’m enthralled!

Shane x


That’s the wonder, isn’t it Shane… we never know what is around the corner… and hopefully, Florence!!

Crawford O'Brien

Dear Vicki
I spent a fabulous week in florence last year with my son. In addition to a complete immersion in all the cultural activities. I learned of an American woman called Marin who has a website called florenceshop4it. It was the best 3 hours shopping I could have had. She is a personal shopper and knows all the best and authentic places to shop. Back in Australia i compared the cost of a necklace I bought with her and the cost here and I saved 50%. She is excellent
Regards Crawford


La Bussola for great pizza and traditional fare, only a couple of streets from River Arno. Marie


I’m so glad you visited the Vasari Corridor. It was absolutely the highlight of my recent holiday in Florence. I have been to Florence several times but this trip was unique because my husband was attending the SACI university which gave us the opportunity to stay in an amazing apartment. This meant we could cook with the wonderful produce from the Mercato Centrale. “Truffles”, do I need to say more. We also dined at the wonderful family run restaurants where we were made to feel so welcome, and the more upmarket restaurants like “Golden View” which has a wonderful view of the Ponte Vecchio. I would highly recommend staying in an apartment when staying longer than a few days. Your photos are magical and make me want to return. If only I didn’t live so far away …….


Janice, don’t even get me started on truffles!

Maybe I will write a post and we can all mention our favourite ways to eat them… What do you think? :)


Another wonderful place to visit and to maybe have a prosecco is the Villa San Michele just outside of Florence in Fiesole. My husband and I had our 42nd wedding anniversary there. It is spectacular with a lovely terrace restaurant and a magnificent view of the Duomo in Florence. Lovely gardens and a wonderful staff!


I really wnated to get there but we simply didn’t have enough time… ALl the more reason to return.. :)


Ciao Vicki
I guess you may have returned from magical Florence by now…..your memories will be with you for ever and ever. To me it was like finding Narnia, with each step I took and each corner I turned… and as you say look up, up…there is exquisite beauty above you.. everywhere
I have only visited once, and my best recommendation to anyone would be, do not queue too much at only the famous places, just one or two per visit if time is short. One can experience Florence so well by exploring and absorbing the magic, the food, la dolce vita that is there

A wonderful place indeed…… I am so glad you enjoyed.

Linda C

We spent 12 days in Florence last June, and I must share two recommendations. First is Neromo, a classy little restaurant with a fabulous young chef – our favorite in Florence! See their website. Also, La Divina Encoteca, a family-owned wine shop where you can stop in for a glass of wine/salumni, cheese plate, paninni, etc. They also will host a customized wine tasting for you and fellow travelers.

Judy Lambert

We were there in September 2013, sadly for just one night. We were sorry we couldn’t stay longer! We took the all 4 bus tours to see as much as possible which were terrific. They did overlap some areas but helped to familiarize us with the city. We went up to Fiesole twice, the second time we missed when the bus left and so spent the hour wandering and then sitting in the sun in the piazza. It was heavenly. We didn’t want to leave! The pont de vecchio was a fantastic walk with incredible prices on the jewelry. We wandered through the streets back to our hotel and then discovered some lovely shops just around the corner-literally! And for dinner that evening, a fabulous Mom and Pop place in the street including violin music and roses! So romantic. A 40th anniversary that we will remember forever!


I am unashamedly a Francofile!! I will be in France again in May and was persuaded to go to Italy.
I reluctantly agreed. After reading your blog and comments I know I am goin to enjoy it. Thanks to all


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