Well, can you believe it’s September already? I am rather excited though, as September is a special month for the brand (as the name suggests!) & I’ve got what I think is a great theme for this months range. I’m pretty fortunate & get to spend a reasonable amount of time in Italy. I love it there, in my mind the food, architecture & history can’t beaten. So this month I thought I’d share some tips for travelling to Florence & give you a sneak peek of what’s in store for this months ‘Italian Romance’ collection.
So, Florence. The perfect long weekend getaway. I had 4 full days there, saw so much & came away very inspired, but could definitely have stayed longer. There are so many things to do in Florence & for the most part I stayed away from the ‘typical’ attractions, partly to avoid the crowds & partly because I had a few hidden gems in mind! Here’s a few of my travel tips;
- I stayed on Via San Gallo in the San Lorenzo district, which was the perfect location. I was a 15 minute walk to the train station & the centre of Florence, but far enough away to enjoy a ‘local’ experience, with inexpensive & authentic restaurants nearby, so I’d definitely recommend this area.
- One of my favourite blogs that I’ve been following for years, A Pair and a Spare, did a blog post on Scuola del Cuoio (Florence leather school) & I’ve had it on my mind ever since. Geneva, the blog’s founder spent a day learning traditional leather techniques which you can read about here. I opted to do a private tour of the school, which was the best thing I did in Florence, it was right up my street, learning about leather craft, architecture, a bit of fashion & even a feel good story made it a perfect visit. Benedetta, my guide was fantastic & I couldn’t praise her enough. In short, the tour covered the history of the school, which was set up in the war years to teach a group of orphans skills that would give them a better life. Now the school takes students from around the world & I was able to watch them work & learn about the techniques. They offer short classes as well as longer courses, I’ll definitely be taking a class next time I’m in Florence & I can’t wait.
- Through a friend I learnt about the perfumery at 16 Via Della Scala. It’s only small, but really worth a visit. You can treat yourself to some lovely beauty products, enjoy the architecture & history of the building (there’s some stunning ceiling paintings here) & relax with a cup of tea & slice of cake in the picture perfect cafe.
- Head up to the outskirts of the city. If you drive up to Piazzale Michelangelo, or the slightly less crowded Fiesole, there’s stunning panoramic views of the city. If you don’t have a car, there’s a hop on hop off bus that runs regularly there from the central train station.
- Other favourites worth a mention are the Gucci museum. It’s set up beautifully & explores Gucci’s foray into cars, board games & picnic sets, as well as their more famous exports such as fashion, luggage & accessories. Bilbao gardens were also fantastic & there are some pretty shops on the walk down from the centre.
I could easily write an essay on this section, the food is absolutely stunning in Italy & I’m hungry thinking about it, but I’ll keep it short with a few must see’s!
- Eat hazelnut ice cream. All the ones I tried were great (& I tried A LOT in 4 days!), but my favourite was the ice cream shop on Via San Gallo, the one with the decorative bike outside. It was such a bargain at €2 for 2 scoops!
- If you’re looking for a healthier option, Symbiosis Organic Pizza on Via De Ginori is a fantastic little place to get delicious organic food. I had the freshest caprese salad you’ve ever seen & a veggie pizza - with the most perfect thin crust.
- Osteria Del Cingihale Bianco on Borgo San Lacopo was recommended to be by a friend & I really enjoyed it. It’s located on the ground floor of a 13th century tower, so you get a great sense of history & nice ambiance when dining here. They’re well known for fantastic meat dishes, traditional of the area & are very popular, so be sure to book!
- Vinaino Cicalone on Via Delle Belle Donne, was one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever eaten. And I eat a lot. It’s really unassuming, which is what I love about it, it’s not posh or fancy, it’s just great food & the best wait staff in Italy. It’s run by a family, from what I could gather & their efforts & love for food really shows in the friendly service. I stopped off for a quick lunch & ended up staying for 3 courses, plus coffee! So definitely a must visit!
- Find your accommodation at air bnb. Generally speaking, hotels seem to be expensive & not the nicest I’ve seen (unless you go all out with the budget!). Air bnb had some fab options - I was spoilt for choice. The place I ended up was perfect, it even had a small outdoor area where I could enjoy breakfast in the sun every morning. It was also great having a local contact who was happy to chat about the places they like to go.
- Get off the beaten track. I had an amazing time in Florence & didn’t do too many of the obvious tourist activities. The queues can be huge for the big museums & Cathedrals. I’d much rather spend my time exploring than wasting time in a queue.
- Look up! If you’re into art & architecture, definitely look to the ceiling. Many of the ceilings, especially in the older buildings have intricate carvings and/or paintings well worth a look.
- Get caught in the tourist trap. Everything is so much more expensive if you’re immediately by a tourist attraction. As an example, an ice cream can set you back €10 near one of the attractions, we walked 3mins down a side street & the same thing was €2. Keep this in mind, especially if you’re on a budget
- Get tricked into buying a fake leather bag. Florence is known for it’s leather & on most streets you’ll find a huge range of options. Just keep in mind if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure you take time to properly check the quality of the bag. Often cheap leather goods have been made from offcuts of leather, that have been compressed together & rolled out to make a sheet, which is then painted over & over to make it more rigid. While legally this is ‘leather’ because it’s an animal product, it’s not going to be the quality that you are expecting & it’s likely the item will rip easily. The leather school had some amazing options, if you can, I’d advise buying from them.
- Get a cab to the airport, especially if you’re flying into Pisa. There are two inexpensive bus services that pick you up from the airport & drop you off at the central train station. You don’t need to book, you can get tickets from the staff at the airport or Florence train station, who speak English.
I hope that’s given you a good taste for what Florence has to offer. I could honestly talk about this wonderful city all day, so please feel free to ask me any questions.
If you’re travelling long haul, you might be interested to see my tips on surviving a long haul flight & you can download a free travel checklist by entering your email address below.