Road Trip to Tuscany, Italy
Did you know that Florence is the capital city of the central region of Italy, Tuscany?
Road Tripping to Italy was an absolute spur of the moment plan Jerry and I had decided on. For months, we mulled over what we would do over our two-week summer break. Finally, we decided to embark on a budget-friendly road trip to Tuscany, Italy. The first leg of our trip would be to the the region’s capital city, Florence.
Florence: The Birthplace of the Renaissance
Thanks to the influential Medici family, Florence grew to become the cradle of the Renaissance.
It’s hard to question this city’s cultural authenticity when magnificent works of architecture tower above you and around every corner there are piazzas and sculptures that date back to the 14th century.
Upon arriving in this beautiful old city, it was immediately clear that we were about to be immersed in a culture that would have many beautiful stories to tell.
Stay: Hotel Sampaoli
Located right in the heart of Florence’s old town is the charming Hotel Sampaoli. The hotel had a vintage allure that would make any visitor feel connected to the historic city of Florence.
After parking in a nearby parking house and walking only two minutes we found the cute residence for our two-night stay. Immediately we were greeted by a friendly host and were shown our room.
Tip: Call in advance to let the receptionist know your arrival time.
The room was a double bedroom which had a sink with a nearby shared bathroom. Admittedly, I was skeptical of sharing a bathroom with other guests. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the hotel’s cleanliness. The room and bathroom were cleaned daily and the guests too were polite and tidy.
Cost: €57.50/night | Parking House: €22/ night
Go: A Walking City
Most of the old town is easily traversed by foot. In fact, only a few cars were allowed in the heart of the old town centre (delivery vehicles, ambulances etc). Other popular modes of transport throughout the city were scooters (Vespas) and bicycles.
Cost: Free (Walking)
See: Home of Renaissance Art + Architecture
Did You Know that nearly a third of the world’s art treasures reside in Florence?
Florence was the cultural hotbed for art and architecture in the Renaissance period so it’s no wonder that this beautiful city still retains much of the world’s treasured artworks. With a city this historically and artistically rich there is a never-ending list of things to see.
Santa Maria del Fiore + Il Duomo
Architecturally the city is gorgeous. However, by far the most jaw-dropping structure was the Santa Maria del Fiore + Il Duomo. After taking 140 years to be built, the Santa Maria del Fiore now stands out as one of Florence’s most spectacular Gothic structures. It has an enormous presence in the city and features an architecturally stunning Renaissance dome built by Filippo Brunelleschi.
Cost: Requires fee for entry
The first time I walked up to this cathedral the word “Wow” tumbled out of my mouth. The scale of the building is magnificent- not to mention the painstaking details placed into its construction.
Palazza Vecchio + Piazza della Signoria
Walking through Florence it’s easy to tell that piazzas are common architectural features. One of the most memorable is the Piazza della Signoria. This L-shaped square is the political focus of the city and is home of the Palazza Vecchio (Old Palace) which is today used as the town hall.
Cost: Requires fee for entry
Other interesting things to see in this square are the ancient statues, with the most noticeable being a replica of Michelangelo’s David.
Piazzale Michelangelo is an absolute must see in any visit to the city of Florence. Elevated high above Florence, this beautiful piazza offers breath-taking views of the old city. Not only does it give you a stunning vantage point of Florence, it’s also the perfect place to watch the sunset.
In each country I visit, watching the sunset is one of my favourite things to do. It reminds me that despite our geographical and cultural differences, mother nature still puts on a captivating show for all her spectators to see.
Another interesting attraction in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. This unique structure is described as the only medieval bridge to survive the severe damages of World War 2 in Florence. It features multiple cantilevered pastel-coloured buildings which now house jewellery shops.
Urban Street Art
Although this city is well-known for its Renaissance artwork, there was a distinct presence of modern street art. All throughout the city you’ll see artists’ works on street signs and walls.
For Jerry and I spotting them became a sort of game. While enjoying the old city’s relics we would also keep our eyes peeled for the next appearance of these charismatic pieces.
The Red Lily: Florence’s Emblem
The emblem of Florence is a red lily which derived from a popular local flower, the Florentine Iris. This emblem can be seen almost everywhere in the city, from storefronts to souvenirs, you surely cannot miss it.
Taste: Italian Cuisine
I’m no foodie but I could surely appreciate Italian cuisine! Food choices ranged from street pizza and gelato to authentic Italian meals that could be enjoyed while dining in restaurants. Cafes were also quite common to see and were great for taking short stops to re-energize from the heat.
Be aware that dining in this city can be quite costly. However, it’s still possible to enjoy great food on a budget.
Cost: Gelato €4 | Street Pizza €5 (with dining) | Budget Meal €8.50-€12 | Bottled Water €1.50- €1.70 | Coffee €2.50
Experience: An International + Touristic City
Florence is an international + touristic city. Ease your mind a bit in knowing that it’s possible to get around the city with few Italian words (though I would recommend learning some Italian words/phrases). In fact, English was the most common language we heard. Many of the locals in Florence speak English since they must interact with an international crowd
Weather: Cool in the Charming Alleys
Although it was hot in summer, the city created much respite in terms of the heat through its high storied buildings and piazzas. Cool breeze was channelled through the alleys so the Italian summer heat was quite bearable.
Tip: Despite the breeze remember to wear sun cream.
Final Thoughts + Impressions:
In all I’d say a visit to Florence is well worth it. From it’s beautiful art and architecture to its delicious food, Florence is sure to impress even the most skeptical visitor (are there even any?).
Although the city can be pricey, especially with food and attractions, it is possible to spend frugally. There are many free attractions that are equally as beautiful to see and explore as those which come at a cost. Even finding reasonably priced accommodation in the peak season is possible.
Tip: Check out www.booking.com to find deals on hotels (we found a great deal within a short time span).
Florence is a city that has a bit of something for everyone. Do yourself a favour and indulge at least once in your life in a trip to this impressive Renaissance city!
Would you visit Florence? Leave a reply below to let us know what you love about this magnificent old city!