When October rolls around, my heart starts aching for Italy.
Eight years ago, I lived in Florence during a study abroad opportunity. Two years ago, I returned with my husband and parents. Now, I’m scheming my return trip.
Italy has always captured my imagination.
As a middle schooler, I’d visit the public library and type “italy” into the catalog. As the results populated, I eagerly scanned the titles and checked out whatever piqued my curiosity.
Now, when I don’t feel like biking around Corvallis, I channel Italian women who bike through tourists and traffic, while managing to wear adorable outfits (and sometimes heels!).
To celebrate past visits to Florence in the fall, temper my wanderlust, and give you (future adventurer) a launch pad, here are five of my favorite places to visit in Florence.
Boboli Gardens at Pitti Palace
Located within a five-minute walk from where I studied abroad, the Boboli Gardens were my favorite place to escape.
Afternoons spent journaling from a bench overlooking the grounds are still vivid in my mind – the leaves falling around me, the tourists posing for pictures, and the locals enjoying a quick lunch.
Spending an afternoon wandering the gardens, nourished my soul and connected me to the city.
Museo di San Marco
Unlike many Florentine churches, Museo di San Marco is not covered with ornate frescos or sculptures. Its relatively plain decor and open-air feel, bring a sense of calm in the middle of a city.
The Museo di San Marco is in many guidebooks, but it draws fewer visitors. Fewer gawkers meant I could take my time wandering the rooms and soaking in the frescos painted by Fra’ Angelico.
As I walked through the halls, once frequented by Dominican monks, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, I don’t know how to describe. I felt tranquil.
A few blocks away from Richmond University in Florence, Gusta Panino quickly became a favorite lunch destination while I studied abroad. Its lunch menu goes beyond the focaccia and paninis you’ll find in any corner cafe. Gusta Panino offers salads and made-to-order sandwiches, all with fresh Italian flavors.
My friends and I would often enjoy our lunch on the steps of Santo Spirito. There must be a high school nearby, as we were often accompanied by groups of Italian teenagers.
Fun fact, though not one to reflect on while eating, Santo Spirito is where Michelangelo dissected bodies to hone his craft of accurately representing human anatomy through art.
Location: Piazza Santo Spirito, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Ristorante Pizzeria Il Teatro
This restaurant’s name is deceiving, as Ristorante Pizzeria Il Teatro is so much more than a pizzeria. Warm service, fantastic food, and delicious wine made for some of the most memorable meals.
I went here often as a student and three times during the trip with my parents and husband. During our first visit, the staff at Il Teatro treated us like regulars.
When our last night in Italy arrived, my husband and I knew we had no other option but to soak in one last dinner at Il Teatro. We were quickly recognized, treated like friends, and gifted with tiramisu on the house.
Location: Via Ghibellina 128
The last favorite place on my list isn’t a specific place but is an absolute must. It’s called “planned wandering.”
For those of you who are type-A (like myself), schedule time for planned wandering. Framing a chunk of time as planned wandering helps me commit to slowing down, soaking in the scene, and being completely present.
In Florence and any other place you visit, tuck away your guidebook and wander. Go a few blocks away from the tourist hubs and observe the locals. Even the most popular tourist destinations maintain their own local culture, you just have to look.
Through planned wandering, I’ve stumbled across craftsman shops and galleries not found in guidebooks. I’ve also just taken time to watch kids play at the city park (totally not creepy, I promise), girlfriends huddled around a small table at a cafe, and couples swinging through the grocery store.
These small glimpses into Florentine life helps me grasp the humanity of the city and the common needs and desires of people around the world.
Favorite Places In Florence
This list certainly does not give Florence the justice it deserves. There are many other places I enjoyed, but these are the few that permeate my memory and ones that won’t make every “things to do” list.
Is there a place you love so much that it makes your heart ache? Leave a note in the comments, I’d love to hear about it!