Italy by Rail (Part 2: Florence)

I’m completely head-over-heels in love with Tuscany! It’s beautiful, clean, the local wines are a little taste of heaven, and Italian food is simply scrummy. A stay in Florence gives you easy access to Tuscany, and is a good base if you want to explore the region independently. It’s a few hours from Rome – depending on the type of train you take – and Firenze train station is smack bang in the middle of the city, which makes it super-easy to navigate. If you fancy visiting Florence for a weekend, you could fly to Pisa (Easyjet fly there) and take one of the regular buses or trains to Florence. It’s probably the city I’ve felt safest in when inter-railing, and I’d happily visit alone – If I were to do so, I’d stay at Academy Hostel, this is my go-to base in Florence: super-cheap, friendly, secure and they give you free breakfast and a snack in the evening!

You can meander Florence’s intricate streets for hours and get totally lost gazing at the architecture, but if you want to make the most of your time in Florence, there are some must-dos!

Buy lunch at the market and delis… Florence’s central market is the perfect place to put together a picnic, while trying out your Italian. The food is fresh and the traders are friendly. The Boboli Gardens makes a perfect spot for lunch – You can enter via the garden entrance or Palazzo Pitti – but remember your insect repellent!

Watch the sun set from Piazzale Michelangelo… and grab a cold beer from the hill-top bar while doing so! It’s worth the uphill trudge – This viewpoint is one of the top-rated Florence hotspots for good reason. You can see the whole of the city from here: terracotta roofs, the Duomo, and stunning architecture. Remember your camera, but don’t just see this sight through a lens.

Pose on the Ponte Vecchio… you can’t visit Florence without drooling over the gold in the shops lining the bridge, and joining the crush to take a selfie over-looking the Arno river. Go on…!

Stay up all night at a Jazz club… Florence has some amaaazing jazz clubs (who knew?!) and the locals know how to party!! It’s vibrant, friendly, and ‘grown-ups’ aren’t out of place, so fill your boots!

Sip prosecco on a sun-kissed terrace… This indulgent pastime is a beautiful way to spend an hour with someone you love… mwah! Or for an ultra-romantic evening (with yet another view of the city), go for an intimate candlelit dinner on the roof of the Hotel La Scaletta – Booking essential!

Check out some art… any art you please! I won’t claim to be arty, I prefer being outdoors, absorbing the atmosphere and soaking up some Vitamin D, however Florence is chock-full of culture and it would be a shame to miss out! I recommend a wander through the exhibits at the Palazzo Pitti, a Renaissance palance on the south of the Arno, however there are plenty of famous works of art to see around the city.

Joint the locals at Osteria dei Centopoveri… I was introduced to this brilliant restaurant a few years ago by a girl working at Academy Hostel (incidentally, she was also the jazz singer who showed me Florence’s hidden night life!), and if the locals eat there, it must be good right?! I’ve eaten here more than a dozen times now, and if I could I’d eat here every day for the rest of my life – and I’ve recommended it to lots of friends who have all loved it too (so it’s not just me, honest). Don’t be put off by the paper tablecloths on the close-together tables, the food is incredible! A carafe of local wine is super-cheap, the food is hearty and authentic, and you can finish it off with a shot of Limoncello. MMMMM!

Climb the Duomo… yes, more exercise (sorry!). Trust me, it’ll help to counteract the copious quantities of local wine you’re enjoying, and the view is fab!

Learn to cook… at Giovanni’s Italian Cooking Class. Upgrade to a small group “VIP” class in a villa in the Chianti region, scour the market for your ingredients, learn how to make fresh pasta (you’ll be adding a pasta maker to your Amazon wish list by the end of the day), a boozy tiramisu, and relax in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Your Italian chef will extol the virtues of extra virgin olive oil, and slather it over everything in sight. Blissful. (www.florencecookingclasses.com)

Can you tell I blooming love this city?!

 

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