In this blog post, CAPA alum Jessica Wolff takes us on a journey to Florence and maps out her suggestions for how to spend a full day exploring this Global City like a local!
My favorite way to start my day in Florence is a morning stroll over the Ponte Vecchio. While this bridge is typically swarmed with tourists, I find that a morning walk through the shops is the perfect time to enjoy the sight without the mayhem. Along my journey, I like to pop into a local coffee shop to grab a quick pastry and cappuccino for breakfast!
Once you have some food in your stomach, head over to the Boboli Gardens—an absolutely breathtaking park and museum. If you’re an artist, I recommend bringing your sketchbook. There are so many architectural features like arches, bridges, and staircases to inspire you—you’re bound to find a secluded spot to sit down and let your creativity run free.
For lunch, head over to Mercato Centrale—you’re guaranteed to find something you like here! If you visit the second level of the market, you’ll have your pick of anything from sandwiches to dumplings, to pizzas and pastas, to a fully stocked bar, desserts, and more. The first level also deserves a gander, though you may not settle down there for lunch. On that level, you can see how Italians shop for their daily groceries as you peruse the various specialty food stations.
Just outside Mercato Centrale is Mercato San Lorenzo—you can’t miss it. Lining four whole streets, Mercato San Lorenzo is the perfect place to shop for yourself or for souvenirs for your friends back home as it houses tons of authentic Florentine leather products.
No afternoon in Florence is complete without a visit to your favorite gelateria. If you’ve been studying in Florence for a while, you’ll likely have your own favorite spot. I will tell you that mine, without a doubt, is Gelateria dei Neri. Be adventurous and try new flavor combinations, you’ll miss having the chance when you get back home!
If you’re still longing to be outside, you can either walk or take the tram over to Parco delle Cascine. This park has beautiful trails along the Arno River, as well as tons of activities and places to make the afternoon whatever you’d like it to be! Along your journey, be sure to stop at any pop-up events you encounter. You never know what you might find—1 Euro clothing, natural teas, a gelato festival… whatever it is, I highly recommend you stop to check it out!
If you’re really living like a local, you won’t hesitate to stop in for another snack of the day—aperitivo in Piazza Santo Spirito. Have a drink or two, enjoy your buffet of snacks and then get ready for a hike up to the best view in the city. Make your way up the steps to Piazzale Michelangelo. If it’s early enough in the evening, walk up through the Giardino delle Rose to experience some its natural beauty. Once you’ve made it up to the top, sit back and enjoy the unforgettable sunset views.
Now that the day is coming to an end, make your way back toward home and stop in at your favorite local restaurant for dinner. Sit back, reflect on the day you’ve just experienced and enjoy a fresh, hand cooked meal.
Jessica Wolff is a University of Pittsburgh alum who studied abroad in Florence in the spring of 2019. She is now a study abroad ambassador through the Pitt Peer Advisor program.