What to Do in Florence, Italy

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Gelato on the bridge (Gelateria Santa Trinita)

Florence, Italy

There are few activities more glorious than strolling across Florence’s many bridges, crossing the River Arno from one quarter to another as buskers fill the air with music. Wandering with an ice cream in hand? Heavenly. Our quest for the perfect gelato ended when we discovered Gelateria Santa Trinita, a Wes Anderson-pink store selling seasonal flavours like grapefruit, kiwi, pistachio and bullet-grey sesame. It was so good we had to return first thing the next morning to have another taste.

Address

Piazza Frescobaldi, 11/12 R 50125

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Piazza life in Santo Spirito

Florence, Italy

When the sun shines or the dusk descends, Florentines head to their nearest piazza. The square is the heart of any district, and Santo Spirito has gained a reputation as the city’s most vibrant. It is laced with panini shops, laid-back bars and traditional osterias, with young locals tangling themselves together on the steps of the Basilica di Santo Spirito. Head there on every second Sunday of the month to browse the flea market for antiques.

Address

Santo Spirito, Florence

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Mercato Centrale

Florence, Italy

You could spend an entire morning at this humming food market, a theatre of local produce housed inside a vaulted space in the San Lorenzo area. Vendors sell tumbling piles of fruit and vegetables and stacks of local cheeses in one corner; tripe and cured meats in another. Truffles appear like mounds of rubble, with sellers offering samples. Join the crowded seating area at the edges for a plate of fresh pasta or a hearty Tuscan stew washed down with a carafe of red wine.

Address

Via de' Ginori, 8 50123

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Fiesole

Florence, Italy

Venture a little further into the hills and walk around the olive groves and cypress trees of Fiesole. A short bus ride from San Marco, it’s home to Roman baths and an amphitheatre, remnants of Etruscsan walls and the hilltop where Leonardo da Vinci first experimented with the concept of flight. It’s the perfect site for a drink, overlooking an idyllic Tuscan landscape.

Address

Fiesole 50014

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Palazzo Pitti

Florence, Italy

Palazzo Pitti is one of the largest architectural monuments in Florence. Built for the Pitti family in 1457, it was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect responsible for the city’s iconic Duomo. The vast Renaissance palace was purchased by the ruling Medici family in 1549 and became the primary residence of subsequent ruling families. It’s divided into four separate museums: the Treasures of the Grand Dukes, the Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments, the Modern Art Gallery and the Museum of Costume and Fashion.

Address

Piazza de' Pitti 1 50125

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Boboli Gardens

Florence, Italy

The Boboli Gardens were created over 400 years and the oak trees here are centuries old. These extravagant gardens located within the Palazzo Pitti served as inspiration for European royal gardens such as Versailles. Among its many hiding spots you can find a stone amphitheatre, numerous fountains and a collection of statues based on Roman myths.

Address

Piazza Pitti 1 50125

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Bargello Museum

A former barracks and prison, this newly renovated sculpture museum is home to a number of works by Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo and Donatello. The building is in itself worth a visit: dating back to the 13th century, it is thought to be the oldest in Florence. Entrance is free.

Address

Via del Proconsolo 4, 50122

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Bargello Museum

A former barracks and prison, this newly renovated sculpture museum is home to a number of works by Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo and Donatello. The building is in itself worth a visit: dating back to the 13th century, it is thought to be the oldest in Florence. Entrance is free.

Address

Via del Proconsolo 4, 50122

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Fotoautomatica

Pulling faces in a photo booth might not be the most obvious activity for an outing in Florence, but these black-and-white vintage booths are something of a local institution. There are five of the restored, 1970s-built kiosks dotted around the city centre. Grab a copy of La Repubblica and hold your pose while the ancient machine cranks into gear, then wait exactly four-and-a-half minutes for it to develop your analogue photo.

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Wine Windows

Among the magnificent palaces, cathedrals and artwork of Florence city centre is a much smaller architectural feature you might easily pass by. The buchette del vino, or “wine windows” are tiny hatches in palazzo walls, originally used to sell surplus wine direct from rich families to Florence's working class. During the pandemic, a few wine windows reopened to sell socially distanced spritz cocktails, wine and gelato, keeping businesses and the spirit of the city alive. Head for a hot chocolate at Vivoli – one of the most iconic.

Address

Vivoli, Via Isola delle Stinche 7R, 50122