Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 8, 2023

Things I like in Florence

I am back in Australia for a few months. Lots of people ask why I would return to Australia for the winter. There are two reasons, I find Italy too hot and crowded in summer and in Brisbane winter days are usually sunny and 22 degrees after a cool early morning…perfect.

The other thing people ask all the time are what are my favourite things in Italy. I have decided to write posts about the places I love the best. I am going to start with Florence. It is an easy day trip from Bagni di Lucca, so I go often. I also like staying overnight sometimes as the city takes on another personality once the sun goes down and becomes even more enchanting.

Here are things I like in beautiful Florence.

I always start my day in Florence at the Caffe Gilli on a corner of the Piazza Republica.

I like to stand at the counter like a local and enjoy a perfect coffee and a delicious pastry. It is inexpensive if you stand at the bar and I love watching the baristas in action in this truly gorgeous setting. Established in 1733 it is the second oldest cafe in Italy after Florian in Venice. They also have a great toilet, not easy to find in Italian towns. Caffe Gilli is open in Florence

From here I take off to explore the city. The historical centre is not huge and is easy to navigate. I am mostly in Florence in the quieter seasons when heat and crowds are not an issue.

I am happy to just wander in Florence if I have nothing particular in mind. Once I leave Caffe Gilli I usually walk down to the Piazza Signoria, the stunning piazza where Cosimo Medici sits on his horse, Neptune looks down at visitors from his fountain and the David copy watches from the front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall, dating from 1299.

I wander past the Uffizzi to check out the queue before heading to the Ponte Vecchio, (old bridge) dating from 1345. If I am early enough in the morning there might not be too many people there and I can enjoy the lovely views of the Arno River and the jewellery shops lining the bridge.

From there I walk up to the Palazzo Pitti. Here you can buy a ticket to get into the Boboli Gardens. The gardens have been recently upgraded. Be sure to walk to the top for excellent views over the city. There are often exhibitions in the galleries within the Palazzo. It is worth going if only to see the stunning interior of the building.

From the Palazzo Pitti I walk down Via dello Sprone towards Piazza Santo Spirito. On the way there is a modern coffee and lunch spot called Ditta Artiginale. Depending how long it has taken for find myself there I drop in for a short break.

The narrow streets in this area are full of small designer shops where you are likely to find the designer working behind the counter. Lots of treasures have found their way home from here. Artisans in Florence

Piazza Santo Spirito is a lively square where there is often a food and clothing market. There are excellent restaurants in and around the square and there are fewer foreign tourists here. This is where locals come to shop and eat.

From here I head back towards the river and cross the Ponte Santa Trinita for excellent views of the Ponte Vecchio. Look out for the statures of the 4 seasons on each corner of the bridge. The other bridge in Florence

The bridge leads into Via Tornabuoni, the stylish shopping street with Salvatore Ferragamo (check out their shoe museum), Gucci, Pucci, Armani, Prada, Max Mara and more.

If you turn right into Via degli Strozzi, past the Palazzo Strozzi, ( there is a museum inside with constantly changing exhibitions) you will come back into Piazza Republica. Turn left at Caffe Gilli and soon arrive at the spectacular Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with the baptistery and campanile.
Buy a ticket to climb to the top of the campanile (bell tower) the dome and visit the baptistery. The Duomo was begun in 1296 and was structurally completed in 1436 with the dome by Filippo Brunelleschi.  It is free to enter the church, but go early or face long queues. This piazza is one of the most beautiful in Italy. 414 steps to the top of the Campanile in Florence

My next stop is often the Mercato Centrale, the deliciously indulgent food market.  Mercato Centrale . As well as the food stalls there are a couple of great places to have lunch. I wish I lived close by so I could shop here every day.

Upstairs is a fabulous food hall where you can join locals and get a quick lunch at very reasonable prices. In front of the food market is the famous leather market if you are looking for souvenirs.

I regularly call into the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy not far from the railway station. It is exquisite. On a hot day you can step into the cool, fragrant space and be delighted but the beautiful products in the oldest, still operating pharmacy in the world. It was established in 1221, when Dominican monks from the adjacent Basilica of Santa Maria Novella began growing herbs to make balms and medicines for their infirmary.

Be sure to look for the cloister and if you have time go into the Basilica to see the magnificent frescoes.

Here are my museum suggestions.

Uffizzi Gallery…Of course everyone wants to see this and it is wonderful, but you will need to book ahead or face long queues. I only go in winter, when there are fewer people around, and I can just walk in. If you don’t have a booking I would suggest less well known museums. An Uffizzi visit 

It is the same with the Accademia where you will find Michelangelo’s David. Seeing him up close is stunning and the whole gallery is a delight. Book ahead! Florence

Palazzo Davanzati is a 14th century house turned into a museum. It has been decorated as it would have been centuries ago, a wonderful glimpse into another time. It is rarely crowded and well worth a look. Palazzo Davanzati – a house in Florence

Bargello National Museum is a favourite of mine. There is rarely a crowd and there are masterpieces by Michelangelo, Giambologna, Della Robbia, Donatello and much more. The magnificent Bargello museum in Florence


Museo Galileo in Piazza dei Giudici is an excellent museum. We ducked in one rainy day and found ourselves still there hours later. There is a collection of Medici scientific instruments and lots of fascinating things. If you want something different, this is the one for you.

Places where I like to eat. As well as the ones mentioned above I like…

Il Nugolo, just out of the centre in Vis della Mattonaia 27R, this modern Italian restaurant is only open at night, which is one of the reasons I like to stay sometimes. . New in Florence

La Menagere, in Via de’ Ginori 8R, is a gorgeous spot for lunch, aperitivo and dinner. It is quite expensive, great for a special treat. Heavenly food in Florence

Obica Mozzarella Bar, is a fun, well priced restaurant in a lovely courtyard in Via Tornabuoni. (beside Max Mara) As the name suggests, they specialise in mozzarella. They do excellent pizzas as well. Obica Mozzarella Bar in Florence

At the top of the Rinascente department is an open terrace restaurant with stunning views of the Duomo and the streets of Florence. There is also one on the top floor inside. It is a great spot for lunch, a snack or aperitivo. On a fine day the terrace is a fabulous place to be.

Cantinetta Antinori, is the beautiful restaurant on the ground floor the Palazzo Antinori, home of the famous wine producing family. This is another special occasion restaurant.

Trattoria Cammillo, is a wonderful traditional restaurant famous for its home style pasta. It is in Borgo San Jacopo 57r.

Trattoria La Casalinga is in the Santo Spirito area in Via dei Michelozzi 9r. Casalinga means housewife, so expect home style cooking.

S.forno Panificio is also in the Santo Spirito district, in Via Santa Monica 3r. It is a great spot for a light lunch or to gather some supplies.

Gucci Garden
in Piazza Signoria is the perfect place for lunch or aperitivo. We were there on opening day by chance, and fell in love with it. There is now an outside area as well. It is expensive, but a wonderful place for a treat.

Obviously there are many good restaurants in Florence. I also recommend checking out the menu, which is often placed outside the restaurant. Find something you like the look of and go inside. I have seldom had a bad meal in Florence.

Hotels I have stayed in…I have a few favourite places. Keep in mind that I only stay in Florence in the off season. Some of these hotels can be quite expensive in the more sought after months.

Hotel Calimala is right in the centre of Florence, in Via Calimala which leads to the Ponte Vecchio. I stayed there when it was newly opened and I joined their loyalty programme and get the odd discount. There is terrace on the top floor with a restaurant, great spot for aperitivo, but it is expensive.

Hotel Maxim Axial is very reasonably priced in the off season. This year prices have skyrocketed with tourists arriving in droves since Covid restrictions have lifted. Via del Calzaiuoli 11.

Palazzo Guadagni is a gorgeous hotel in the Piazza Santo Spirito. I stayed there one Christmas during Covid and I think I might have been the only person there. They have a wonderful terrace where you can enjoy the perfect aperitivo.

Relais Piazza Signoria is a fabulous place beside the Piazza Signoria. We stayed in a top floor apartment with a balcony overlooking the piazza. I will definitely stay there again. Below is the view from the balcony. Via Vacchereccia 3.

Boutique Hotel del Corso is a well priced hotel close to the centre. Via del Corso 1.

Florence is one of the most popular cities in Italy so expect it to be busy unless you go in the winter months. This is when I visit the museums and galleries. It is also the best time to walk around the city.
At any time it is great to get away from the main streets and find yourself in a tiny back street or discover a quiet piazza, ancient buildings, quaint shops and much more. If you have time walk or catch a bus up to Piazzale Michelangelo above the city for excellent views and walk down via Giardino Bardini to see this gorgeous garden.

Find time to see the Fontana del Porcellino in front of the straw market. Visitors are invited to put a coin into the boar’s mouth, with the intent of letting it fall through the grate below for good luck, then rub the snout to ensure a return to Florence. He has a very shiny nose.

I have a lovely friend who is a guide in Florence. Her name is Michela Ricciarelli. She knows Florence like the back of her hand and I guarantee you will have a fun experience with her. Email…

If you have any questions I will try to answer them. If you go to the Florence category you will find all the posts I have written about the city.


  1. Debra, kudos on an excelllent summary of the jewels of Firenze! So much to see and do…. and I miss it very much.

    • I miss it too! I love my visits to Florence.

  2. Great post – you’ve covered beautiful Florence very well

    • I know Florence well after going regularly for 20 years. Obviously there is much more to see, but this is meant for people who are likely to be on a short visit..

  3. Love this post Debra; it was a lovely walk down memory lane for us. Thanks to your guidance some years ago, we enjoyed most of these beautiful places. Looking forward to your suggestions in other cities.

    • Thank you. Rome and Venice will be next.

  4. After reading this post Deb I have fallen in love with Florence all over again. It is a beautiful city and very easy to navigate.

    • I absolutely love Florence. I love to go out early in the morning, before the crowds, and wander the quiet streets. One day during Covid I was the only person on the Ponte Vecchio. It was amazing and creepy at the same time.

  5. I was just in Florence in late May for the 5th time. Now I want to go back and connect with some of your gems I had not visited…great info on restaurants and areas. Thank you. Glad to see “categories”

    • I love that I can visit regularly, and choose my times. The busy season seems to last longer every year.

  6. Deb, this is marvellous. Wonderful tips and suggestions.

  7. What a wonderful tour you have taken us around fabulous Florence. Loved all your photos. So many memories including a special dinner in Cantinetta Antinori with their wonderful wines also lunches in Via Tornabuoni. No wonder you love Florence & we are lucky you share your walks around the areas & Galleries.

    • If I go just for the day I visit my favourite places and try to discover new ones. There will always be something new to find. I like a bit of aimless wandering.

  8. PS Debra so sorry to hear of the passing of your friend Tina.

    • She was a treasure to be sure.

  9. Awesome post, Debra! Very thorough for the space and time available. Makes me want to go make up for a missed visit when I was in the Navy because of a country-wide rail strike and having to get back to my ship before a forced AWOL. And, as usual, wonderful photography. Thanks for sharing!

    • Florence is a beautiful city. I hope you get there one day soon. This year the city is more crowded than ever, people making Jo for lost travel time. I hope it settles down and the hotel prices drop back a bit.

  10. Thank you taking us there Debra! I really wish I was in Europe now enjoying Summer. But yes in Brisbane winter isn’t that cold. We have ideas to move further north one day because I hate the cold.

    • I don’t mind the cold and struggle in really hot weather. I try to pick the best times in both places.
      The pharmacy is beautiful. My photos are old and not the best, I need to go back.
      I have just read that Giacosa, a caffe that closed a few years ago, is about reopen. It was one of the city’s historical places and I loved it! Now I will be torn between that and Gilli, or perhaps I will just go to both.

  11. Also that pharmacy being open since 1221 is amazing!

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