studying abroad in Florence for four months, I was sure to tell my friends and
family to visit. But, although I knew that having visitors was possible, I was
not very confident that the bank accounts, availability or courage of most of
my friends and family would result in a commitment to travel to another
they quickly proved me wrong. Suddenly I
had the duty of entertaining four sets of visitors. My playful suggestion had become a burden.
reaction was a mix of excitement and fear. When my best friend since preschool,
Lisa, announced that she would be here for a week in March, I both panicked and
rejoiced. Honored that she would choose to spend her spring break and
hard-earned money with me, I had to figure out a way to share Florence and a little bit of Italy in only five days. What began as a burden, I
realized, was a blessing. Not only did I have an opportunity to see some of Italy in a short time, but I was lucky enough to share it
with someone I have known all my life. Florence has become my city and Italy, my home, so sharing it was like sharing a piece of
The result of this challenge is
the following guide for conquering Florence
and some of Italy
in five days. Though it is impossible to capture the many facets of Italian
culture in so short a time, this range of museums, locations, food and culture
provides a nice balance for the anxious tour guide or clueless tourist.
DAY 1: Catch the Ataf shuttle bus from the airport
back to the station right beside the Florence Santa Maria Novella Train
Station. This option is preferable to a cab depending on the amount of luggage
the visitor needs to lug through the city.
Depending on age, home-stays are
the most preferable accommodations. This living arrangement is perfect for
younger visitors as it places them with other students rather than isolating
them in a lonely hostel. For example, my host-family provided breakfasts and
dinners, and my roommates provided directions and hair-dryers.
Use the first day to visit a few
essential landmarks, such as Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato al Monte,
the Duomo, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria, and the Ponte
Vecchio. The Opera dell’Duomo Museum,
is an appropriate choice for any tourist as the museum gives visitors a new
appreciation of the massive masterpiece. For interest and orientation, be sure
to show your guests a major sight closest to their accommodations. In our case,
Santa Croce was an easy indicator for ‘home.’
DAY 2: Follow the first rule of Florence:
take advantage of nice weather when you have it. For the dedicated traveler,
start with an early visit to the Duomo, beating the lines, take a quick train
to Pisa for the tower, baptistery and museums, and shoot up to Lucca for a bike
ride around the walls to complete the cloudless day (for the less dedicated,
pick and choose your battles).
DAY 3: Start the day early to beat the lines at
Museo dell’Accademia, then visit nearby San Marco, tour San
Lorenzo and finish the morning with the
Cappelle Medicee. You will end near the San
Lorenzo market, making it a perfect opportunity
for souvenir hunting and a hearty bowl of ribollita. This extremely
authentic Tuscan and more specifically Florentine dish is an essential on the
‘must-try’ food list for any visitor to Florence.
Then visit the world-famous
Uffizi, making your way in quickly thanks to a reservation. If you are planning
a visit to the art gallery, this is the best way to ensure a spot. Waiting in a
much shorter line is worth the small charge for the reservation.
After five educational visits in
one day, relax and enjoy some true Italian culture with a personal wine tasting
lesson at Santa Croce Wine Co. on via Giovanni da Verrazzano 10r.
DAY 4: Venture across the
river to GustoPanino for a 3-euro lunch of the best panini in Florence
and stop by a local fruit stand for some unbeatable apples and grapes. Then
catch the 3.30 Eurostar train to Rome and be there by 6pm.
After checking into a hostel, go to the Coliseum, then dinner.
DAY 5: Be sure to get a good night’s sleep before
tackling the Vatican Museum
early! Get there by 7.30 and wait (even if it’s raining!) until the doors open,
thus avoiding the massive line that will
wrap around the block only a few hours later.
After the Vatican,
Saint Peters Basilica is a must, followed by Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the
Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps: all an easy walk. Take the Metro to the
Forum, enjoy a walk through the ruins, savor a meal, and take the train; you’ll
be back in Florence
If you are given the opportunity
to share Florence,
or any city, take my advice: get up early, try to do as much as possible, but
do not stress over lines, money, tickets or tourists. Enjoy every minute and
take more pictures than you can count because it is not about where you go. It
is about who you are with.