One of my favourite things about Florence – and one of the reasons I think it makes the perfect weekend getaway destination – is that the central city itself is actually very compact.
In the entire time we were there, not once did we have to hop on a metro, flag down a taxi, or navigate the bus systems. Nothing was too far that you couldn’t walk there. And somewhere as beautiful as Florence, why wouldn’t you want to walk?
It’s also a great comfort to know that if you do find yourself suddenly feeling a little confused and lost, there are two great landmarks which tower above the city to help you find your way. Just look upwards and you should be able to spot from somewhere the vast Duomo di Firenze with its impressive dome and beautiful bell tower, or the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio.
This rather odd shaped building dates back to the 13th century and has been used for all manner of things, from a palace for the legendary Medici family, to the official seat of government, and finally, its current use as the Town Hall and a museum.
The square around the Palazzo Vecchio is always bustling and filled with tourists trying to get their snaps of all the beautiful statues.
One evening we were lucky to catch a beautiful performance put on by an orchestra right outside the gates.
After experiencing enough of the ground, we decided it was time to take things up a notch.
The bell tower next to the Duomo is open to the public and gives the most fantastic views of Florence.
A little warning though! This is a very popular attraction and there’s often a very long queue snaking its way all round the corner, so I recommend trying to book tickets in advance or turning up at around 4/5pm when it starts to die down. There are also a lot of steps to climb if you want to reach the top, sometimes through a very windy, tight space, so if you get a bit claustrophobic I would consider avoiding this!
If you do make it up the billions of stairs though, you will be rewarded! Just look at these views…
You really do get such an amazing full view of the entire city, everything from the Palazzo Vecchio and the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella (photo above), to the rolling hills in the distance.
Me looking very happy, but slightly sweaty and disheveled after all those stairs!
It really is worth all that exercise, I promise you!
Plus, we now felt like we really deserved a stonkingly good Italian meal.
Taking the recommendation of our taxi driver again the night before, we headed to a restaurant just down the road from our hotel. It was one of those lovely family-run restaurants, where the wine comes in jugs and they insist on showing you where they make the fresh pasta every day.
I had a mouthwateringly good dish of veal escalope, served with a tomato, caper and anchovy sauce and crusty bread to mop up.
What I love about Italian food is it doesn’t bother will all the frills and fancies! This just looked like a slop of sauce casually thrown on to my plate, however, the flavours! Oh my, they were truly delicious. The tomato sauce was as rich as can be, and it was perfectly punctured with the salty taste of the anchovies and capers.
Lucy on the other hand, decided to give their freshly made pasta a try.
She plumped for a simple dish of ravioli stuffed with ricotta and basil, accompanied by a tomato sauce. I had a sneaky little bite, and I can tell you, the pasta was the airiest, fluffiest, lightest pasta I’ve ever tried!
After such a long day, and with such a good meal inside of us, we headed to the rooftop terrace of our hotel.
We stayed at the Hotel Grand Cavour, which was absolutely fantastic, I couldn’t have asked for a better stay! The location was so central, and to top it all off, I’m convinced we had the best free view in the entire city.
We topped off our first day in Florence with a pair of peach Bellinis, and watched the sun disappear over the hills.