As promised last week in our Rome edition, here are five of our favorite things to do when in Florence. If you’re still looking for other free things to after reading the list, might we recommend this blog?
1. The Ponte Vecchio at sunrise
See those two tiny people in the top picture? That’s us, practically running to meet the sun on our way to the train station one morning. What we didn’t realize is that we were in for an incredible surprise once we reached the Ponte Vecchio. As the morning light spread, the usually packed pedestrian hot spot was still; it was the first time I had ever seen it empty. From the bridge, you can watch the sun come up over the Arno and note the color change as the rays warm the buildings. It’s a great time to enjoy the quiet of the city before it comes alive with people once again.
2. Downtime during the daytime
Have you ever suffered from SSF (a.k.a. sightseeing fatigue)? When I was a travel novice, I would come down with it each time I visited a new city. I would run myself ragged to check off every location in my guide book. It was problematic for many reasons. First, I ended up stuck with throngs of tourists on the same crazy chase. Second, I wouldn’t spend enough time learning about what I was looking at. And third, I was tired and cranky more than I’d like to admit.
Now, Hannah and I have found a good balance between exploring and relaxing, and much of our relaxing happens when everyone else is out exploring! During the peak hours in late morning and early afternoon, take a break from hitting the monuments and look for the back streets instead. In the non-tourist neighborhoods, people will be inside enjoying lunch and siesta, meaning you’re free to wander their alleys undeterred. Then, head for an afternoon pick-me-up, whether at home or inside a swank cafe (hi, Gilli!). Your mid-day break from the crowds and chaos will leave you refreshed for round-two of exploring, without a hint of SSF.
3. San Miniato in the evening
Talk about the journey is the destination – do these views need an explanation? The evening light is ideal for enjoying this perch above town. We took each photo here on our way up to the church, a must-walk for Team FFF every time we’re in Florence. For the full lowdown on San Miniato, including route, map and history, click here.
4. Piazza Signoria at night
There are certain times of day you do not want to walk through Piazza Signoria, as navigating the crowds of tour groups, children and pigeons will feel like a game of chess you’re destined to lose. That’s why we like to visit when everyone else has gone to bed and the statues are lit up in all their dramatic glory. Medusa’s head seems to send stronger chills down your spine at night, and I don’t even want to look at Judith for fear I’ll be next on her chopping block. Plus, because the square is empty, you can spend as much time as you want getting up close and personal with the art. And yes, we’re talking Cacus-to-Hercules personal.
5. Quality time, all the time
A common (and beloved) Florentine trait is dedication to spending time with family. If you’re born and raised, that could mean frequent dinners at mom’s house. But if you’re an expat, it means finding a few good friends that grow to become family. Our Florentine family’s favorite things to do together included hanging out on the steps of Santo Spirito, taking long “talk-it-out” walks along the Arno, and exploring new neighborhoods.
Okay okay, we concede that not every waking moment should be spent with someone else, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy quality time as a party of one. During the moments (or entire trips) you’re alone, a walk around Florence is a great way to get to know even yourself a little bit better.
*We’d like to dedicate this post to four very special ladies, who, now scattered around the world, keep their and our hearts close with thoughts of Florence.
All photos courtesy of stellar photographer, FFF-morale booster and all-around awesome guy Matt Freire