As anyone who has ever been fortunate enough to live in Florence can tell you, it is both a world-class city and a small town. While no short visit can come close to the experience of a months-long stay, a willingness to explore can lead to an approximation of daily life in this unusual city—while seeing the sights. So grab (or click on) a map, log on to www.theflorentine.net and follow me around town for an insider’s ‘24 hours’ in Florence.
1. Make a pre-dawn visit to a secret bakery
There are several bakeries around town that sell goods in the wee hours, while they prepare their daily orders. Just off piazza dei Peruzzi, Pasticceria Vinci & Bongini (via del Canto Rivolto) opens around 3am. Look for the ‘Please be quiet’ sign on the sliding glass door, line up with the locals and get a delicious cornetto con Nutella just out of the oven. (For more ‘secret bakeries,’ see www.theflr.net/secretbakeries.)
2. Take an early-morning walk
Choose a section of the city and simply walk, watching the city come to life. Step into a church. Head to one of the markets, such as Sant’Ambrogio. Seek out the city’s tabernacles or the monuments in TF’s ‘Monuments and More’ column by Deirdre Pirro. Or take one of the circular bus routes (ATAF 12 or 13) and stop at piazzale Michelangelo for an early-morning view of the city. (To use the city transit system, see www.ataf.net.)
3. Get an early start at a museum
The city is home to more than 70 museums, including churches and former convents with cenacoli and other frescoes. Many, large and small, open early, between 8.15 and 9am (there are others with late afternoon hours only, too). Along with the Bargello and the Uffizi, see the museums listed at www.theflr.net/overlookedtreasures.
4. Make a mid-morning stop
In piazza San Firenze, you can enjoy views of the magnificent Bargello while sipping a cappuccino and snacking on a cornetto alla cioccolata at Cafe La Badia. Or head to Trattoria Gusto Leo on via del Proconsolo for a delicious 3-euro coppa di frutta and a view of the Badia Fiorentina (which is also open to visitors).
5. See street art
Head to the Oltrarno side of Ponte alle Grazie, to via dell’Olmo 8, to the art studio of Clet, who famously revises street signs. Afterwards, lunch at one of the several nearby restaurants such as Osteria Antica Mescita (via San Niccolò 60r).
6. Explore San Niccolò
Along with artist studios like Clet’s and artisan workshops, this residential area has churches and museums to explore, including the Rodolfo Siviero house museum and the beautiful Bardini gardens (more great views and a dual ticket to the Boboli Gardens, which has an entrance across the street) and museum.
7. Take a passeggiata
Join the locals in a late-afternoon stroll and window shopping. One popular route runs between piazza Beccaria and piazza della Repubblica.
8. Learn the art of the aperitivo
At early evening, all around the city, bars and cafés offer aperitivos. Buy a drink—try the classic cocktails such as a spritz, Bellini or Negroni—and enjoy the complimentary selection of items on the buffet table or bar. There are also many nonalcoholic choices for travelers like me. (Read our article about the Italian aperitivo.) Whether you decide to mingle or just people watch, head to a neighborhood café or a place like Colle Bereto in piazza Strozzi (adjacent to the Odeon Cinema).
9. Take in a concert, lecture or movie
In Florence, evening programs tend to start between 7.30 and 9pm. Check TF event listings and The Florentine Weekly not only for movies and concerts, but also lectures, such as those at the British Institute, TF’s networking events and book presentations.
10. Say ‘buona notte’ with a gelato
Take an evening stroll to a gelateria such as Perchè No (via de Tavolini). Want to know how to maximize your gelato experience in Florence? Read this.