24 Hours in Florence

If you're taking a Backroads trip through Tuscany or Umbria, your pick-up city will be Florence. Before you meet up with your fabulous Backroads leaders, we strongly suggest that you take a day (or 2 or 3!) to acquaint yourself with this timeless city. With a perfect blend of cuisine, culture and charismatic Italians, you may never want to leave!

Coffee done right! An espresso coffee machine in Florence, Italy7:30 a.m.
Start your day off in true Italian style with a trip down to the local caffè. You've left the land of Starbucks and paper to-go cups many time zones behind you, and should now slow down to properly savor your morning espresso with a little people-watching and a pastry. There's no better way to overcome jet lag and kick start your vacation than with a caffeinated immersion into the Italian lifestyle.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can even practice your Italian and order like a local. A word of caution to avoid standing out as a tourist--che vergogna!--Italians tend to not have milk in their coffee after breakfast, so indulge in your cappuccinos and lattes before noon!

9 a.m.
The mornings are the perfect time to start crossing museums off your list. If you have your heart set on seeing Michelangelo's David at the Gallerie dell'Academia (Via Bettino Ricasoli, 60), then it's best to get there early. During the summer, lines can wrap around the outside of the museum and are up to a few hours long! Don't waste away your precious day in Florence waiting in line, get there early--some hotels even allow you to purchase museum entrances ahead of time.

11 a.m.
After being wooed by artistic masterpieces, stretch your legs and take a stroll down by the river Arno and up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. Traveling around Italy with a loved one? What better place to declare your love than by adding your own "love lock" to the collection that lines the railings!

Backroads leader Jillian Parlee with a heart shaped Gusta Pizza in Florence, Italy1:30 p.m.
Now that you've worked up an appetite, time to head upriver for some classic Italian cuisine. Is there anything more Italian than a freshly made pizza?! When it comes to pizza in Florence, there are two very distinct styles: Florentine and Neapolitan. A traditional Florentine pizza has an extremely thin and crispy crust, almost like a cracker, that breaks apart as you dig in. The Neapolitan (my preferred pizza) has a more substantial, softer crust. When in Florence, you must try the famous Neapolitan pizza at Gusta Pizza (Via Maggio, 46R). Run by a trio of charming Italians, the wood-fired brick oven is constantly churning out freshly made pizzas!

Italians don't order pizzas by toppings like we do in the states. Instead, pizzerias feature a menu of pizzas with varying names depending on what assorted toppings they boast. For example, a pizza margarita is the classic cheese pizza, while a capricciosa has olives, artichokes, ham and mushrooms.

Gelateria Santa Trinita - where to get Gelato in Florence, Italy

3 p.m.
Your Italian lunch experience wouldn't be complete without some gelato. The Gelateria Santa Trinita (Piazza dé Frescobaldi, 11-12R) is poised perfectly on the waterfront, just behind the Ponte Vecchio--the medieval stone bridge lined with small jewelry and artisanal shops. Gelato in hand, make your way back across the Ponte Vecchio, and enjoy the window-shopping along the way.

Clet Abraham's sign art in Florence, Italy


5:30 p.m.
As you amble back to the center of town, be sure to take note of the traffic signs you pass along the way. Beginning in the summer of 2010, a local artist named Clet Abraham began decorating signs, perhaps his most notorious is that of the red no-entry sign that has the shadow of a man sneaking off with the white, horizontal bar tucked under his arm. Clet has made many other variations over the past years, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled to see how many different versions you can spot!

The Duomo at twilight in Florence, Italy

7 p.m.
I love visiting the Duomo (or Florence Cathedral) at twilight. The lights illuminating its intricately painted façade make it look like a fairy tale come to life. One of the best-kept secrets in Florence is the story behind the white circle behind the Duomo. In the year 1600, a bolt of lighting struck the copper ball atop the dome, knocking it from its high perch to the street below. The white marble circle marks where the ball struck the ground that night.

Trattoria Mario in Florence, Italy -the best place to get Bistecca alla Fiorentina

9 p.m.
After such a thorough day of exploration, it is time to end the adventure in style. Break out the Chianti and prepare to indulge in some delicious Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) at Trattoria Mario (Via Rosina, 2). Seating is extremely cozy in this small trattoria, so the waiters seat small parties with others at larger shared tables. The casual setting, mouthwatering aromas and boisterous conversations will make you feel right at home. Celebrate with those at your table and, as you savor your Italian wine, enjoy the knowledge that your Italian vacation is only just beginning!

8 Responses

  1. Richard Wong

    This is great Jillian! I’m hoping to visit Florence for the first time next year for my 1st anniversary.

    • Jillian Parlee Jillian Parlee

      Congratulations, Richard! I wish you safe travels and happy adventures. Please be sure to have some gelato for me, baci!

      • Richard Wong

        Thanks Jillian. Gelato is the best! We went to Rome in April for the honeymoon and had it everyday. The blood orange was my favorite flavor.

  2. David Leland Hyde (@PhilipHydePhoto)

    You did quite a lot in one day, Jillian. I was there for two weeks in 2003 and could have stayed for months or even years. I met one young lady from the US who had decided not to go back home, but to stay in Florence indefinitely.

    • Jillian Parlee Jillian Parlee

      I completely understand the sentiment, David! Florence is such a vibrant and welcoming city… it is hard to say goodbye!

  3. Denise Wilkinson

    What about hotels in Florence. Any suggestions?

  4. If you were to tack on another backroads bike adventure after Tuscany, which one would you choose?

    • Hi Jean,

      Italy offers so many different landscapes and cultural pockets, it can be hard to choose! For a great compliment to our Tuscany Bike Tour, you can head to the Dolomites for challenging climbs and stunning mountain scenery, skirt the coast in Sicily for a completely different ‘world away’ feel from that of the Italian mainland, or cycle in southerly Puglia amid historic sites along the Adriatic Sea.

      If you’d like to speak to one of our knowledgeable trip consultants to help you decide based on your interests and our trip offerings, please call us at 800-462-2848; we’d love to hear from you. Happy Travels!

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