Hi Travel Junkies,
Today I want to introduce you to Preedee Chenhansa, an avid traveler and longtime reader of 10xT. Preedee sent me a wonderful “5 Thoughts” piece after a recent trip to Italy that was too good not to share with the rest of the 10xT community.
So I asked him to share it with all of you here on the blog, complete with a few amazing photos.
Take it away, Preedee.
Florence is my favorite city in Italy and I don’t mind going back there year after year, even if I haven’t explored other cities in the country. Florence is one of those charming cities that simply puts a smile on my face, similar to Portland, Oregon. I have nothing but good memories from there. Here are my 5 thoughts of Florence:
1. Florence is underrated when compared to Rome and Venice – Florence doesn’t have the same name recognition as Rome, Venice, and Milan. Rome has The Colosseum, Venice has the famous canals, and Milan is known as one of the fashion capitals of the world. But what comes to mind when you think Florence? Before I visited Florence, I had no idea what to expect. Now, I think of a big town (not to be mistaken with being a small city) with lots of culture, great food, beautiful sites, and deep Italian history. I’ve spent time in Florence both by myself in hostels and with friends, both of which were very positive experiences, so it’s great for solo travelers, as a couple, or in a group.
2. The views at Piazzale Michelangelo are breathtaking – Piazzale Michelangelo is a must visit square/plaza with the best views of Florence. I recommend looking up the sunset time during your trip and going there at least 30 minutes prior just to sit and soak it all in. You’ll see multiple bridges that cross the Arno River including the famous Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, the Badia Florentina bell tower, and the rest of the town. It’s a great way to start your trip by looking for neighborhoods of interest, or to culminate your trip and enjoy the moment. There’s also a wide and long set of stairs that provides a nice stadium style seating area to just hang out, and there will mostly be a live musician – think the singer/songwriter type.
3. Day Trip to Pisa was touristy, but fun – I was reluctant to go to Pisa because I heard from Florence locals that there’s not much there, but if you’re already in the area, you may opt for a photo opportunity with the famous Leaning Tower, or at least witness other tourists striking their best pose. From Florence, the city of Pisa was only an hour away by train, and cost less than 20 euros for the roundtrip ticket. We were lucky to have great weather when we went there so it was a nice day walking through the city, checking out the mom and pop shops, and eating local sandwiches. I recommend getting a cold cut sandwich at L’Ostellino, and the ragu sandwich at Gusto Giusto. If going to Pisa is too touristy for you, other local cities are Siena, Bologna, and San Gimignano.
4. You should visit at least one museum – Florence is the heart of the Italian Renaissance period, with the history on display everywhere throughout the city. It seems like every street corner or plaza has a famous statue or sculpture. To go deeper into the art, the two most popular museums are the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery. The Uffizi is home to the Venus and Primavera, and the Accademia is home to the David statue. Museums aren’t my first choice of things to do when I travel, so I visited each one on different visits to Florence just to spread it out. While the Uffizi is more popular, I enjoyed seeing the David statue at the Accademia much more. To see it in person and hear the story was very impressive. Regardless of which museum you choose, buying a ticket beforehand is highly recommended as it is normal to wait over an hour to get into these museums.
5. Of course, the food – a trip to Italy has to include the delicious food. This is not unique to Florence as you can find delicious Italian cuisine anywhere in the country. The best one stop shop for food in Florence is Mercato Centrale. The ground floor is a food market, and upstairs is the food court, but it doesn’t have Sbarro Pizza and Panda Express like many food courts in the United States. This is actually an upscale food court with all different kinds of Italian food! Even the style and decor is unique and impressive. There’s authentic pasta with shaved truffle, an Italian bakery, pizza, Florentine steak…you’ll have too many options to choose from. Another honorable mention is Osterio Santa Spirito on the other side of the river. It’s not on the top of TripAdvisor’s list of restaurants, but I enjoyed it every time. The gnocchi is amazing.
Bottom Line: when planning your next trip to Italy, be sure to include Florence if it isn’t already. Flight options to Florence are relatively limited, like flying to Indianapolis, Indiana but it’s an easy train ride from any of the other major cities – Rome, Venice, or Milan. I hope you feel the charm and fall in love with the town like I did!
If you have any questions, you can reach Preedee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks Preedee!