Nestled amongst rolling vineyards of the Tuscan countryside, and with an abundance of authentic eateries, stunning architecture and great wine, for us, Florence really is a must visit destination.

pic1

The city has obtained so much of its authentic charm and history from the cosy trattorias and aperitivo bars, to the narrow cobbled streets leading past beautifully presented leather, shoe and jewellery shops.

pic2

pic3

Here’s our list of top recommendations on what to see and where to eat, from our very recent visit:

From every point in the city, the Duomo cathedral – Florence’s focal architecture – offers reassurance that you’ll always find your way back to the centre. The building itself is breathtaking, with a Gothic façade and peacefully uncluttered interior.

pic4

We recommend climbing up the 400 or so steps up to the top of the dome, or neighbouring bell tower, where from the top you’re rewarded by 360 degree views over the surrounding area (including the snow topped mountains in the distance), as well as the satisfaction that you’ve definitely earned your next meal!

Which brings us on nicely to Gusta Pizza, a speedy lunch time hub for locals and university students, located just off the Santo Spirito Square, offering the freshest pizza prepared simply and cooked in minutes, in a traditional wood fired oven.

And the result?  Mouth-wateringly good pizza at a very attractive price of just €7.

pic5

If the weather is good, it’s definitely worth visiting the stunning Boboli Gardens and neighbouring Palazzo di Pitti, which contain a combined eight museums, showcasing art and the history of luxury fashion in Florence. No wonder each year ‘Pitti, is fast becoming a fashion event not to miss.

The perfectly preened walled gardens lead you past statues, orange trees and fountains to yet more breathtaking views over the town – this really is a secret garden.

There’s a small entry fee of €7 to enter the gardens but it’s well worth it for this…

pic6

Florence is home to an impressive school of leather making; we walked in and saw men and women of all ages practicing the art.  This leads us on to visiting the workshop of legendary shoemaker Stefano Bemer. The smell of leather and watching the meticulous craftsmanship confirmed the love and dedication to leather in Florence.

pic7

There are so many restaurants, trattorias and aperitivo bars in Florence you really are spoilt for choice. Here’s a few of our top spots:

 Trattoria Giovanni

Just minutes’ walk from the Santo Spirito Square, we stumbled across this hidden gem. Open for almost two years, this restaurant has an authentic charm of old Italy, with a modern twist.

We recommend to start, the selection of mixed bruschetta – including fresh tomato with garlic,  Lardo di colonnata (pork fat) and iron-rich velvety liver pâté toppings.

To follow, the Chianti braised ox cheek stew with homemade pasta and; Spinach and ricotta stuffed ravioli with cavalo nero with generous helpings of pecorino, are both hearty warming dishes (pictured below).

pic8

We couldn’t resist their velvety smooth tiramisu with a kick of coffee for dessert!

All of this went beautifully with a fruity Tuscan wine at €12 a bottle.

 Buca Mario

pic9

A great spot for a family meal. The entrance is very simple but once in the door its has all the characteristics of an old school family-run restaurant including loud, friendly Italian waiters who stop to welcome you inside.

Try the wild boar pappardelle (pictured) and Florentine T-bone steak – served rare and carved at your table.

pic10

For a treat, il Santo Bevitore restaurant and its sister aperitivo bar il Santino are trendy spots serving authentic Florentine dishes and produce, with modern finesse.

Dishes include; a soup of onions, potato, white truffle, croutons and duck stomach.

pic11

Beef carpaccio with pecorino, ruccola and fresh ripe Italian tomatoes.

pic12

Nduja (spicy pork sausage) with Fusilloni and pecorino.

pic13

Pappardelle with chinghale (wild boar) served with redcurrants – offering a nice sweetness that cut through the richness of the meat.

And if that didn’t leave you salivating, the café’s and gelateria’s in Florence are a must-visit…

pic14

We stayed at  Hotel Orto De Medici, located very centrally on the Via San Gallo, with  rooms overlooking the hotels beautifully kept garden and terrace.

For a truly local stay, we recommend searching on Airbnb for a studio or flat.

There is so much to discover in Florence! We hope you can visit soon.