Planning a trip to Italy is no easy feat as there is no time period ample enough or itinerary vast enough to encapsulate all that it has to offer. Veteran travellers have their favourite spots scouted out, but what about first timers? Where do you start?
Rome is an obvious stop with the ancient and religious sites; Venice is so crazy and unique that it has to be at least stopped over in. Florence is the tricky part – of course people have heard of it, but ask anyone what they like about it and you get some vaguely romantic response that compels you to visit but leaves you unsure what to expect. Some stay in hostels, chic hotels and others in Florence apartments. Art aficionados flock to the art galleries, marvel at the architecture or simply bask in the birthplace of the Renaissance, but the rest of us who, well, don’t care, may be stunned to find it still can blow you away.
That is the beauty of Florence.
I was travelling with a group that all but decided prior to arriving there that they were going to look for day trips outside of Florence because it seemed boring. Not five minutes after departing our train at 10pm, they declared it their favourite part of Italy. Say what you want about their decision making process (it’s unlikely you’ll say something I haven’t already… many times), Florence has that power to transform with little more than the aura it gives off.
Getting lost down the streets is one of its greatest attractions – great for the budget traveller on a time crunch. Spend your days wandering into the famous leather shops, checking out markets, stuffing yourself with gelato and continuing from the top. Venture inside the cathedral, master its hundreds of stairs to check out the second best view of the city or simply walk around its outside – Florence’s cathedral looks like a giant 3-D puzzle and cannot be missed. I will say this – the paintings inside the dome, particularly of Lucifer himself, continue to haunt my dreams to this day.
The best view and attraction in the city without hyperbole is at Piazzele Michelangelo. Walking there costs you nothing and from here you can watch the sun go down on this Tuscan gem, made all the better with a bottle of wine between friends. Whether it’s your first day here or your last, only one thought will come to mind: life is good.
Of course there are tons of other attractions depending on your taste, but you won’t feel like you missed out if all you did was walk the streets. Lose yourself in Florence and all that it has to offer. You’ll be glad you did.