From the Cathedral to the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence has the architecture. From the Uffizi Gallery to the Ponte Vecchio, Florence has the beauty. From Michelangelo to Dante, Florence has the history. All these things make Florence a must see on anyone’s list, but we didn’t really connect. Florence, and more importantly Tuscany, holds its real charm in the surrounding towns and villages. Set upon vast hills with incredible views and surrounded with culture and charm, we found our true place in Florence.
The birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence, or more so the Medici family, commissioned works from Botticelli, Michelangelo and Da Vinci. You can visit the home of Dante, which is now a small museum (for free) or wander around to the market place at one of the cheapest markets we have been to in Europe. We started with the obvious choice Santa Maria Del Fiore with its incredible green and white contrast. This area is rather busy most year around, but the surrounding streets are rather charming indeed. Next the Ponte Vecchio bridge, covered in designer shops, the expensive pass in Florence. The view from the bridge is nice, but the bridge itself is mainly for the shop fronts. If you tilt your head upwards you will see above the designer windows the actual character of these buildings. The ancient buildings have been slightly ruined by the Rolex and Omegas of the world.
Next, our favorite part inside the main city, the Piazza della Signoria. More specifically the Loggia dei Lanzi where you will find many sculptures depicting the Medici lions and many renaissance sculptures portraying famous characters and stories. We spent almost an hour here, a very nice area to sit, drink and relax. In between the Christian Dior and Michael Korrs shops at the Piazza della Repubblica, you will find an old school carousel and many small stalls and food huts. The carousel in the center makes for a wonderful photograph but, sadly as we were there, construction was taking place.
The Sant’Ambrogio Market was the cheapest market we have been to. We got two bum bags and a purse for 5 euros here. The food section is inside for various fish, meats and specialties. All prices here are crazy cheap and if your planning on staying for a while or just fancy cooking for yourself in what is otherwise a rather expensive city, this is the place for you. The bars in this area are also rather cheap, but nothing in comparison. We went to Malborghetto where the house wine is 1.50 euros, a bargain on anyone’s budget.
Fiesole, a long climb to the village that overlooks Florence city. Centered by the cathedral and the area for the Harvard university renaissance study. The views are a spectacle, especially the one at Monte Ceceri, but be prepared to work for it. You can take the number 7 bus from the city and climb or descend to the spot, depending on your preference. There are bars and restaurants here, vastly different in prices. Stick to the four bars in a row in the square and you will be tipsy and well fed.
All in all, we found the main charm of Florence in the surrounding villages. Authentic little areas with places to drink and relax before our huge three-day trip to Langkawi, Malaysia. Including sleeping in the airport.