Florence is home to some of the world's most incredible architecture and breathtaking facades. If you're a first time visitor, there are a few things in Florence you won't want to miss:
1. EXPLORE THE DUOMO
Ok, so this is an obvious one but if there's one thing you'll want to do in Florence, it's this. Piazza del Duomo is the city's centerpiece comprised of the six major monuments: the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi's Dome, Giotto's Bell Tower, the Baptistry of San Giovanni, the Crypt of Santa Reparata and the Opera Museum.
If you want to do more than admire these buildings from the outside (and you should), a single ticket gives you access to everything and is valid for 48 hours. You can purchase in advance online or in person at one of the ticket booths in the museum entrance or nearby cultural center.
The most popular ways to explore the Duomo are climbing Brunelleschi's Dome and Giotto's Bell Tower. Both offer unbeatable views of the city. Because your entry ticket is valid for 48 hours it's best to do either the dome or the bell tower early in the morning on the first day (check here for opening hours) and then the other monument just before sunset on the following day. The lighting at both times is absolutely breathtaking.
2. TRY SOME OF THE BEST LOCAL SANDWICHES
There's no denying that Florence has some of the best food in Tuscany - and that doesn't only apply to pizza and pasta. There are delicious (and cheap) sandwich and panini shops sprinkled throughout the city. Try Salumeria Verdi or I II Fratellini for the freshest ingredients. Or if you're feeling adventurous, try a lampredotto (cow stomach) sandwich from one of the many street vendors in the city. You can even get your sandwiches for take away and find a cozy spot along the Arno before digging in.
3. HAVE SUNSET APERITIVOS WITH CITY VIEWS
Aperitifs are an Italian tradition. Similar in many ways to what we call Happy Hour in the States, aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink that comes with a set of snacks. You'll find restaurants and bars across the city advertising their aperitivo specials each afternoon, usually starting at around €8. A typical aperitif comes with small finger foods, like chips and nuts - but you'll also find a lot of places now have a whole spread that's served buffet style. For an extra special aperitivo experience, check out the rooftop of the Grand Hotel Minerva, which gives you great views of the Duomo.
4. INDULGE IN DELICIOUS GELATO
Another obvious one -- but c'mon, we couldn't leave it off the list. There are hundreds of gelato shops in the city so it can be hard to decide which to try first. If you want the most authentic and critically acclaimed gelato in Florence, check out Vivoli (tiramisu was amazing!), Rivaerno (try the nutty deliciousness of their Contessa flavor), and Gelateria Santa Trinita (so creamy!). You can thank us later.
5. TAKE IN THE VIEW AT PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO
Perched on a hill on the south bank of the Arno River, just east of the center of the city, is the open-air square of Piazzale Michelangelo. It offers unbeatable views of the city and surrounding area. If you're looking for a little adventure you can walk from the city center to the square. It's mostly uphill but the view will make it all worthwhile. Plus there's a little cafe right at the top where you can enjoy a drink or two alongside the view before heading back into town.