I'm circling back to our adventures in Italy and sharing some of the memorable places we found in Florence. Our apartment located near the San Lorenzo Leather Market was also just steps from Mercato Centrale where I had the best vegan "burger" of my life. Even my carnivorous loving husband thought it was amazing. Veg & Veg is located on the second floor where there are dozens of other scrumptious and tempting places to grab a bite. If you're traveling in a group, the Mercato is a great place to suit everyones taste.
Another favorite (read: most favorite) was La Menagere - a beautifully decorated and relaxing bistro, coffee bar, and flower shop that also hosts jazz musicians and other events in the evening hours. I could have gone here every morning. Their coffee was perfection, affordable, and the staff with their hip beards and dapper aprons were quite friendly. We enjoyed sitting among the locals reading their novels, clicking away on their laptops, and visiting with friends. It did not feel touristy in the least bit. I hope you stop by if you get the chance. You won't regret it. See how inspiring the interior is...
We also loved Za-Za Trattoria with it's dark cozy interior, romantic small tables, and fantastic collection of antique paintings and portraits. I don't have any photos for you because it's one of those places that are more memorable if you're fully immersed in actually being there. We loved listening to the Italian conversations surrounding us, sipping chilled glasses of house wine, watching piping hot pizzas come out of their enormous oven, and feasting on the most delicious pasta and grilled steak you can imagine.
Of course, no trip to Florence should be without a visit to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. She is remarkably the most famous and beautiful landmark in the entire city. Simply stunning!
It seems as though every square inch of her is covered in marble with gorgeous hues of pink and green. And what was surprising to me is that she seemingly appears out of nowhere. You'll be walking down a small street, turn the corner and pow! It's like a magnificent jewel box tucked in the middle of the city. Inside the frescoed ceiling of the duomo will take your breath away.
Florence is a very walkable city. In fact, we didn't rent a car or hire a taxi during our entire stay. I think on foot is often the best way to explore new surroundings. It gave us plenty of time to meander and take in the views. A few highlights were Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, Strozzi Palace, Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella, and the Galleria dell'Accademia.
Aside from the infamous leather market (which we passed through so many times the vendors nicknamed me California) I enjoyed popping in and out of the small local shops. There were two that really caught my eye and my Euros - Mio Concept Store had beautifully curated gift and home decor collections. I especially loved their unique eyeglasses and handmade lighting. And everything at Ub Firenze was inspiring - they had a nice selection of vintage wares, lovely dresses and accessories, small collectible trinkets and in the very back - this room filled to the brim with antique wallpaper.
And although the leather market is quite touristy, it's a fantastic place to people watch! My husband bought several belts and a beautiful travel duffel that I'm sure he'll have for a lifetime. I bought the softest leather tote bag and decided to bring home a few more as gifts. They folded up tightly and didn't take much room in our luggage...always helpful when space is at a premium.
If you're planning a tour through Italy, I would recommend a couple days in Florence. It should be plenty of time for you to see the highlights and experience the city's culture. Have you ever been? Would love to add your favorites to the conversation!