by corinne iaia

October 29, 2015

A GUIDE TO FLORENCE, ITALY

View of Florence and the Arno River from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as Il Duomo.
Basilica di San Lorenzo.
Ospedali degli Innocenti.
Basilica di Santa Croce.
Florentine rooftops from the Palazzo Vecchio.
Florence is my favorite city in the world and one I have spent quite some time visiting, and living in, in the past. I am headed back for a visit this December and I really can't wait for my feet to be planted back on the golden Tuscan ground. There's simply nothing like the glow of the Florentine sun cast upon the cobblestones and terracotta buildings - it brings me a feeling unlike any other. 

As you know, Florence is a city steeped in rich history, so much so, that the entire city center has been named a UNESCO world heritage site. The city was built on the site of an ancient Etruscan village (59 BC), and became famous for establishing itself as the banking capital of Europe during the reign of the Medici, and was the birthplace of the Renaissance that took place during the 14th through the 17th century. 

One of the best ways to learn about the city, or to visit it for that matter, is to break it down into the 4 Quarters of Florence. The Italians call it the "Quartieri di Firenze" and it is broken up simply by the 4 historical districts of the city: Santa Maria Novella, San Giovanni, Santa Croce, and Santo Spirito. (This website breaks them down simply.) Through touring the city by district you will learn so much more about the way of life in each of the Quartieri, what the original purpose was for each, and who the nobile families and artists of note were. I would love to go in depth on each quarter, but for now, I wanted to share with you my favorite restaurants, shops, and spots in the city so that you may grab a delicious and authentic meal and live like a true Florentine during your visit. I could go on forever in these lists, but keep in mind for length purposes I'm narrowing it down to my few favorites.

For Dinner: 
Trattoria ZaZa - A cozy, legendary trattoria located near San Lorenzo that has attracted famous tourists from around the world. The homemade pasta is to die for and the desserts are a must-try.

Il Latini - Family style service restaurant for a true taste of Florentine cooking. The chef will often surprise you and the wine and drinks flow plentiful throughout your meal. 

Coquinarius - A very quaint, and hard to find restaurant nestled on a side street right off of Piazza del Duomo. It's one of my favorite restaurants in the city for the fantastic, personalized service and the delicious Pear ravioli. 

Ristorante Buca Mario - Another warm, welcoming restaurant that cooks up Florentine specialties from a menu that changes seasonally. 

For Lunch: 
Gusta Pizza - For around 6 or 7 euro you can get yourself an entire pizza for lunch, and it will probably be the best you've ever tasted. Be quick to grab yourself a wine-barrel table though, as space is limited in this popular pizza shop. 

I Due Fratellini - My favorite place to get a sandwich, for 2 euro, mind you. This is the definition of a hole in the wall and locals gather around the sidewalk outside of this window-only shop to enjoy their deliciously simple lunch with a glass of wine.

Pizzeria O'Vesuvio - This pizzeria transports you straight to Naples, and yes, the cast of the Jersey Shore did "work" here during their time abroad.

Gelato:
Vivoli - Ask anyone where to get gelato in Florence and they will tell you here. It's for good reason, and each flavor is made fresh daily in this family owned and run gelateria. Try the Crema flavor, trust me.

Grom - A popular Italian gelato chain, but delicious nonetheless. You'll find it flooded with visitors constantly, and they seasonally change their offerings to include delicious hot chocolate or granite.

Gelato Santa Trinita - Probably a little less known, but this chic gelato shop offers fresh and fruity varieties of your favorite flavors. You can also pick up some local specialties in the attached wine shop. Not to mention, the walk over the Ponte Santa Trinita (bridge) to get here is quite spectacular itself.

Shops: 
Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella - One of the world's oldest pharmacies, first founded in 1221 by the Dominican Friars who made herbal remedies to use in the monastery. The ancient pharmacy is still open and they make some of the most beautiful and natural beauty products I've ever come across. 

Coin - A very hip and modern Italian luxury department store located on Via dei Calzaiouli, the main street connecting the Piazza del Duomo to the Piazza della Repubblica.

la Rinascente - Italian luxury department store, with quite a beauty department if I do say so myself. The store is located in the Piazza della Repubblica and attracts quite a few interesting visitors. It also boasts a rooftop bar that makes a great place to enjoy Spritz O' Clock.

Hopefully this mini guide helps you to eat make your way through Florence, enjoying every bite.
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