TRAVEL DIARY: THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE, ITALY
It was back in October that we visited Florence and I've only just gotten around to writing this up as I sit somewhere in the fog between Xmas and NYE. We fancied a last little blast of sun our our skin before we headed into winter in the UK, so the three of us and my mum booked four days in Florence, staying at an incredible Airbnb right next to Pitti Palace. Here's what we got up to!
PONTE VECCHIO FOR ALL THE GOLD
On our first full day in Florence we walked out past the palace and up the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge over the river Arno.
The Ponte Vecchio is incredibly busy at times, but get up early enough and you can stroll along before it packs out. It's most known for all of its boutique jewellery stores. Trust me when I say this is some of THE BEST gold jewellery I have ever seen. Now I know it's there the next time I go back I am gonna save up then go there to splurge.
Marley also loved the buskers and the love locks around the statues, we didn't do one ourselves but this could be a fun thing to do with a little one!
UFFIZI GALLERY FOR JESUS PAINTINGS (A LOT OF THEM)
Next we headed to the Uffizi Gallery, as had heard that it was THE place to go and see the best of Florence's art collection.
The gallery is packed full of renaissance paintings with some incredible pieces. I have to say though, it's not a great place to take kids - our daughter Marley is 5 and whilst she found some of it interesting there were only so many times I could play 'spot the baby Jesus'. Let me tell you, there are a lot of baby Jesus paintings in that spot, and not much else. It's defo one for the adults!
TIP - We booked our tickets in advance so we didn't have to queue. This might sound like a small thing but the queues are HENCH. I'm talking like three hour waits. I mean I don't know who is that desperate to see 500 painting of Mary and baby Jesus but you know, whatever floats your boat.
BITTER BAR FOR NEGRONI MAKING
On the second day mum was kind enough to take Marley out for pizza, gelato and a wander whilst hubby and I headed to Bitter Bar for an Airbnb Experience to try our hand and making (and tasting) Negronis for the first time. Bitter bar is a cute little speakeasy decorated in vintage 20s style and run by the amazing Cristian, an incredibly passionate cocktail master with an exquisite taste for creating drinks.
His bar is seating only - so you won't ever turn up and be huddled around the bar. He designed it so only the exact amount of people to seats can be in there at any time. This guy had serious attention to detail and wanted to create the most amazing experience for his patrons.
During our super intimate 90 minute class (it was just me hubby and another guy who we quickly made friends with), we learned the history of the negroni, watched Cristian as he made us each the perfect one and then learnt how to make them ourselves. Equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and bitters is how it's done, with ice to chill the glass to just below zero, then finished with a rub of orange peel around the rim which plops into the glass as a garnish. I'd never tried Negronis before but it's now one of my go-to drinks to order when I'm out as you can slowly sip it. It feels grown up and cool.
After making our own we then had Cristian create us a bespoke 'twist' on the negroni based on what our own preferences were. I like sweet and sour things so Cristian made me a negroni with hazelnut syrup and mint plus he smoked it with black tea I think. It was INSANE! I can still think of the taste right now. I always say when you can remember the taste of something even months later it must have been damn good.
TIP - follow Bitter Bar on instagram here and check out the Airbnb experience if you want to try this class, I'd HIGHLY recommend it.
BOBOLI GARDENS FOR STUNNING VIEWS
On day three we visited Boboli Gardens, the gardens behind the Pitti Palace, which was just a stones throw away from our Airbnb.
Let me tell you if you go to Florence and only do one thing, let this be it. The gardens are breathtakingly stunning at the top. I couldn't quite believe that it wasn't a painting. I stood, listened to the birds chirping and watched Marley throw little rocks into the fountain at the top of the gardens and make wishes, which will be a lovely memory of mine.
'I wish for ten cats'.
'I wish I could have a new hat'
'I wish the scratch on my head would go away'
and other such important wishes.
TIP - again I suggest you book tickets in advance as it can get very busy. take a camera, you won't want to miss the stunning views at the top. On a sunny day you could be lost in here for hours, it's that beautiful.
SHOPPING FOR VINTAGE DESIGNER BARGAINS
After Boboli we went for a wander as I had realised there were quite a few vintage shops around where we were staying. I picked up and incredible vintage dress which I have since realised is four sizes too big for me (I was under its spell and bought it anyway).
Then we wandered the luxury Via De' Tournabuoni full of designer stores and high end boutiques.
TIP - head to Via Maggio and look for the shop that looks like a complete junk store. Everything is piled on top of each other. Don't take pictures - the lady doesn't like that, but go in and have a rummage. She has designer gems buried in there and I got my designer vintage dress for 30 euros. Absolutely crazy little place.
DID A FASHION SHOOT IN OUR AIRBNB
Completely normal, right? You can see the whole thing here! If you want to book it then the link is here but word of warning - the wifi wasn't great for us when we were there which was kind of annoying but hey I guess it means you have to have real life conversations instead!
LE VESPE CAFE FOR HIPSTER MUNCHIES
On our last day we had time to take a bit of a walk to the other side of town to visit Le Vespe Cafe which served incredible French toast and pancakes that I'd seen raved about online. This place felt quite different to the rest of Florence, less traditional Italia and instead the cool young things. Maybe we had found the Shoreditch of Florence?
WALKED AROUND AND OGLED THE ARCHITECTURE
You just can't get bored of it really!
GENERALLY HANGING OUT DOING ITALIAN THINGS IN THE SUNSHINE
Eat gelato, hang out on terrace, soak up sunshine etc etc.
THE ANTIQUE CAROUSEL FOR PONY FUN
Just before we headed for our train back to Pisa airport we had time to ride the beautiful antique carousel in Piazza della Republica. Unlike your typical scummy carnival ride this one is steeped in history and was an absolute favourite of Marleys - I think we rode it 5 times in total. Perfecto.
They also had some street entertainers here blowing big bubbles which all the kids loved!
We had such a lovely time in Florence and whilst it's probably not the MOST child suitable place in Europe traditionally we still had a great time and Marley loved it.If you're up for helping the kids find interesting things in the architecture, paintings and scenery then you'll have a great time. Here's a little video from our adventures.