Mostodolce. This place is such a great find - not many tourists know about it (until now)! The pizzas are thin, crispy and delicious. The margherita pizza will leave you feeling light and happily satisfied - they way that Italian pizza is supposed to make you feel. One thing you can't pass up at Mostodolce is the beer. They brew their own beer and it's the perfect accompaniment for your dish. The portions are nicely sized, and it's a short walk from Firenze S.M.N.
Perche No! Gelateria. This gelateria was literally across the street from an old residence of mine; bad thing or good thing? I'd say good. :) You know that this place is authentic and fresh just by looking at their selections of gelato. It makes sense: if the displays are beautiful, heaping mounds of gelato, how is that fresh? You want the stuff that was made this morning, not the stuff that has been sitting there all day.
Gatto e Volpe. The atmosphere at Gatto is familial and jolly. The food is typical, uncomplicated Tuscan - and the price is right. I enjoyed the penne alla vodka - but their contorni are hard to pass up, too. My recommendations are the roasted potatoes and spinach. The waiters here are great, they'll take good care of you. You'll love the ambience here, a nice place for big groups with plenty of vino for the table!
Chiaroscuro. This cafe is a fun, hipster-y alternative to the alluring cafes you'll find in Piazza della Repubblica. If you're in the heart of Florence, you're close to Chiaroscuro - it's located about five minutes from the Duomo. The interior decor is delightfully hipster in its own woody, modern-y way. I'd recommend the cappuccino - again, a classic.
Shake Cafe. Footsteps away from Firenze SMN, Shake became one of my favorite cafe finds on the last few days of my time in Florence - worst timing. The cappuccino, topped with a chocolatey powder and adorable latte art, was one of the best I've had in Italy.
One of the things I love most about Florence is the accessibility of it; everything is walkable and yet, it remains a genuine Tuscan city. You'll find yourself on a natural path - without a map - and passing by all the sights you've always wanted to see. In an order that makes sense in my head:
- The Duomo, the Baptistery, and Giotto's Tower. Give yourself a moment to take in the impressive Piazza del Duomo - and just realize how many years of backbreaking work and painstaking engineering went into the buildings before you. To see it from an aerial view, I'd recommend climbing Giotto's Tower for ten euro - you get to see the Duomo, the signature peak of Florence. Because if you climb the Duomo, you can't see the Duomo...right?
- The church of Orsanmichele, located on Via Calzaiuoli. Take a moment to go inside, and just think...it used to be a grain mill.
- Piazza della Signoria. This may just be my favorite part of Florence, mainly because I have a thing for piazzas at night. See the loggia, grab a cappuccino or a late afternoon beer in the restaurants surrounding the Palazzo Vecchio. It's all beautiful. If you're lucky, maybe you'll hear an orchestra or choir performing for the crowds.
- Santa Croce. This church is another favorite, a close second behind Orsanmichele - get up close and personal with Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and a Medici here and there.
- Uffizi. Even if you don't go in, pay homage to the greats of the Renaissance era and beyond as you walk through the corridors beneath the Uffizi - they are all honored with statues leading up to my next sight, the...
- Ponte Vecchio. This is a Florence classic. It is fun window shopping and a must-see; you can't not take a walk over the Old Bridge. For an even better view of the bridge over the water, take a walk down further west and see the side that most tourists don't see coming right out of the city's center strip.
- Piazza Michelangelo. This view of the city is worth the hike up (it's really not that bad). Once you're up there, enjoy a spritz or simply stare in awe at the Florence skyline. You'll be impressed with how the Duomo really does dominate the city, and how the Ponte Vecchio gracefully stretches over the Arno. Snap a picture or two, and head down for a lovely dinner.