I just returned from an excellent long weekend in Florence. My main reason for visiting was a wedding (the resultant hangover somewhat re-shortening the weekend) but I took the opportunity to grab a few extra days tourism time while I was over there. It also proved a great way to get some practice with photo spheres! It’s possible, however, I was using this to stop myself spotting places from Assassin’s Creed 2.
Florence is great for a quick visit – the main part of the city isn’t that large and so it’s very easy to navigate on foot and see the sights. Much like Rome, Florence is a beautiful place to just wander around in. The old architecture, endless churches and statues can all be absorbed at your leisure, with plenty of little cafes and shops to take a break along the way. Apparently Florence is the birth place of gelato, so it’s a given that you have to tuck in while you’re there. I just missed the 2014 Gelato Festival but I understand it’s an annual event so well worth keeping an eye out for!
My base for the weekend was the Grand Hotel Cavour. There are a number of central hotels in Florence. I found the Cavour very welcoming and comfortable. It’s just down from Il Duomo, and I could see the bell-tower from my window. It also has a roof bar with a spectacular view of the Duomo and the landscape surrounding Florence.
If you want to go into the many museums of Florence then you really need to plan ahead. The Uffizi (full of magnificent paintings) and the Galleria Academia (home of David) both offer pre-booking and it’s really a necessity to do so well in advance. You can buy tickets on the day from touts, but they sell out fast and are considerably more expensive. You should also expect massive queues for entry; you may be given an entry time on your ticket but it’s only indicative. You can pre-book online, but if you want to organise tickets once in Florence then I can recommend going to this ticket office. It’s tucked out of the way and seldom seemed to have queues.
Queues for the Duomo vary throughout the day. I found they died down over lunchtime. You can get into the main cathedral for free, then buy a ticket to climb the dome and bell-tower, as well as visiting the museum and Bapistry (all on one ticket). I’d recommend heading up the bell-tower early in your stay. It’ll help you get the lay of the land quite quickly – you soon find you navigate your way around Florence using tall landmarks like the Duomo to orient yourself.
I should finish by mentioning the wedding. It was in a beautiful setting – Castello Di Vineigliata, Fiesole. It’s a castle at the top of a hill outside Florence, nestled between a wonderful landscape of olive fields. The castle is beautiful and, while I understand the happy couple had to go to great organisational efforts, it’s a splendid venue for such a celebration.
[Footnote : I’m aware the photo spheres and layout of this post are a bit messed up. I need to spend some time re-tuning this blog and have a look at all the plugins and themes. I’m hoping I’ll get some time to do so next week when I’m travelling again for work]