I’m Italian and I live in Florence, in San Frediano to be precise, which has been named the coolest neighbourhood in the world by the Lonely Planet.
There are many experiences you can live in Florence and I have attended some of them of my self: wine tasting experience, cooking classes and walking tours in Oltrarno and Uffizi.
Some of the best experiences I had in Florence are actual experiences organised by professionals like the ones you can find on Air B’n’B and Trip Advisor, some other great experiences are self guided and all you need to know is where to go and what to do like walk to Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy the best view of Florence or admire the original David marble sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti at the Galleria dell’Accademia. That’s why I wrote this article, I hope you enjoy it and let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Cooking classes in Florence, learn how to make spaghetti bolonese, tiramisù and more!
If you love good food and enjoy cooking every now and then, I’d recommend you try a Cooking experience in Florence. I have attended two cooking classes, the first one with Wannabe Italiano and the second with a Tuscany cooking expert in a private session in her villa in Bellosguardo. I enjoyed thoroughly both of them and here is what I remember:
- Making the ragù bolognese, the Tuscan way and preparing the dough and the tagliatelle di pasta fresca. I learned how to make the dough, which is simple, learned how to make ragù and ate the whole thing. Delicious!
- Making the Tiramisù, the worldwide famous dessert from Italy, simple and rich in flavour.
- The fegatini toscani paté for crostini, a simple recipe to make the liver salsa that Tuscan people use on crostini – grilled pieces of bread.
Pro tip: When you book your cooking experience check the recipes that you are going to cook.
Have you ever tried yoga on a rooftop?
One the best places to admire the center of Florence from above is Simone’s terrace. Simone’s is a Florentine yoga teacher who owns one the most beautiful terraces in the center of Florence and he hosts different experiences there: wine tasting with Raffaele, Yoga and Cooking experiences. You can choose and book any of these experiences directly from his website.
Walking tours of Florence, from Oltrarno to Piazzale Michelangelo
The walk from San Frediano to Piazzale Michelangelo is one of my favourites. I do it when I fancy a long walk, e.g. 1 hour and 30 minutes, or when I have guests in town. This is the step by step itinerary:
- Start from San Frediano, where you can also have a cake at Daniela’s Buonamici shop in via dell’orto to fill up your sugar levels before the walk.
- Head for Santo Spirito walking through Piazza Del Carmine where you have also the Cappella Brancacci, stunning piece of renessaince art.
- Head towards Piazza della Passera and cross it, after that you’ll see the Ponte Vecchio on the left and Pitti Palace on the right.
- Then take the lungarno Serristori and follow the river till Piazza Nicola Demidoff, then turn right onto via Dei Renai and then Via dell’Olmo, in via dell’Olmo you will find Clet’s studio on the right. Then you take via di San Niccolò, Then Via Di San Miniato, you pass under the San Miniato ancient door and you start walking uphill.
- About 100 meter from the beginning of the uphill road you will find the entrance of the giardino delle rose. Cut through it if you want to look at i, head uphill and left, and you’ll soon by at the beginning of piazzare Michelangelo.
Touring the surrounding hills of Florence on an e-bike
This is one of the best experiences if you enjoy the open air, the countryside views, good food and good wine. You can rent an electric city bike or e-mountain bike at Ebikes Florence. John – a Scottish guys who owns the e-bikes rental shop – will point you in the right direction to enjoy the self guided tour that includes a stop in a Tuscan agriturismo where you can taste Tuscan wine and Florentine food.
Personally I love the area around Piazzale Michelangelo up to Pian dei Giullari.
Best experience in Florence if you like Ice Cream
Florence features one of the best ice cream parlor in the world according to USA Today, Perché No, features exotic, intense flavours like ginger root and sesame crunch. If you search for best ice cream in Florence, Google will point you also to Gelateria la Carraia, Vivoli and Gelateria della Passera. I tried the Gelateria della Passera and I liked it a lot, but my favourite is the “Gelateria Artigianale La Sorbetteria” located in piazza Tasso, see the map.
La Sorbetteria is my favourite for two reasons: the ice cream is creamy and feel like velvet in your mouth and the second reasons is that they make very special flavours like the “Catrame” chocolate with 75% of Cacao, the Salted Caramel, Yogurt and Cheesecake. Some of these flavours are always available some others aren’t. Pro Tip: ask for suggestions or a little scoop to try.
If you wonder why some ice cream shops have their ice cream on display and some others keep it cover with a lid, I can tell you what I was told: the ice cream made without preservatives gets ruined by the contact with the air, therefore it needs a lid on to keep.
Self Guided experiences in Florence
These are the must-do things in Florence if you want to go self-guided:
- Visit the Galleria Dell’Accademia, where the original David di Michelangelo marble sculpture is located. It is said that after you see the David di Michelangelo, every other piece of art is of secondary importance. The other thing to know about this masterpiece is that it comes from a scrap block of marble, that had a whole at the bottom, hence the position of the legs of the David, read the story in Britannica. Book the tickets on the official Galleria’s website.
- Walk by the Duomo and admire the Duomo, with the impressive cupola di Brunelleschi and the Giotto’s bell tower.
- Try a Florentine lunch in one of the traditional restaurants in Florence. Try the florentine steak or if you don’t eat meet try the pappa al pomodoro, tagliatelle al tartufo, ribollita and fagioli all’uccelletto. Don’t be fooled by the name Fagioli all’uccelletto, even if it mean “bird style beans” there is no meat in it, only beans, tomato, garlic and sage.
- Walk to piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy the best view of Florence, then extend the walk to the church of San Miniato, 5 minutes extra walk. Visit the church is free.
- Try one of the best ice cream in the world.
- Enjoy a glass of wine or a spritz in piazza santo spirito in the Oltrarno area where all the night people hang around until late at night in the summer.
Best experiences nearby Florence and Tuscany: thermal baths, wineries and EVO oil making tours
If you have a couple of extra days to spend in Tuscany, here is how to spend those few days.
- Within 30 minutes from Florence you can visit a winery in the Chianti Classico area for example the Antinori nel Chianti Classico.
- In 30 minutes drive you can reach Greve in Chianti, an historical center where you can taste the traditional tuscan food and visit the lovely center.
- Discover the quality of the tuscan EVO oil and discover how the finest Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is produced at the Frantoio del Grevepesa, the oil mill on the way to Greve in Chianti.
- Enjoy a day or two in an Agriturismo with swimming pool in the tuscan countryside. There are many agriturism facilities that features a swimming pool: here some I know: the Poggio Piano, near Fiesole area, Erta di Quintole near Impruneta or if you want to move down south of Tuscany the Guadalupe Resort.
- If you are looking for a relaxing experience that will restore your mind and sooth your body you may want to try the thermal bath experience. You’ll need to take your car and drive for an hour or two depending where you want to go. I personally enjoy the Bagni di Pisa experience for a relaxing overnight staying with my wife or you can drive down to Siena area and check out the natural hot water baths, read more here.
The top 5 things to do in Florence according to Forbes are:
- Visit the oldest pharmacy in the World: Florence is home to the world’s oldest pharmacy, yet many travellers have never heard about it before. The Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
- Visit the uffizi gallery – Museo degli Uffizi. The Gallerie degli Uffizi, located near the Piazza della Signoria in the historic center of Florence, is where you’ll stand in wonder while viewing Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s “Medusa”, Piero della Francesca’s “Portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino”