DESTINATION SPOTLIGHT: FLORENCE ITALY

A perfect day on the Arno River
A perfect day on the Arno River

TEMPERATURES: Year-round temps range from 50-87 degrees
POPULATION: Approx. 370,000 residents
COST OF LIVING: A family of four would need about $4,000 per month to live comfortably
PRICE OF WINE: A Decent bottle in a grocery store will only set you back about $5.00-$7.00

Upon  arrival in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, it looks like a very unimposing city.  It is almost impossible to believe that this quaint city is home to some of the most spectacular and important pieces of art in the world.  No matter where you stay, you are in easy walking to just about anything.   Michelangelo’s Davis and Pieta are tucked inside the Galleria dell Accademia.   Walk a little further and you will find the Uffizi Gallery.  I am not an art connoisseur by any means (my house is peppered with elementary drawings that my children have done).   However, Uffizi absolutely took my breath away.  Besides the organized hallways which allow you to casually meander from room to room, the art on display is not a paltry sample of some of the most famous artists.   It is absolutely chock-full of well-known works of arts by an unbelievable number of well-known artists.

San Lorenzo Market.  Treasures Galore!
San Lorenzo Market. Treasures Galore!

Once you get your art appreciation fix, it is time explore!  The San Lorenzo market features unending rows of vendors selling items that range from Italian leather (as well as cheap, imported  leather – so pay attention to labels), olive oils, scarves, souvenirs, ceramics and food (to name a few).  Most vendors will haggle but always be careful to not offend by “lowballing” someone.  While they are street vendors, they still have pride and will not tolerate anyone insulting them with a very low offer on something.

Small shops throughout the city feature specialty items including Tuscan ceramics.  We found a shop that offered free shipping to our home if we spent 200 Eur.  Believe me, we got A LOT of gorgeous hand-painted ceramic items for that price.  And about a week after we arrived home, our box was safely delivered.

The Duomo - another beautiful attraction
The Duomo – another beautiful attraction

It is impossible to go hungry in Florence.  Food items range from a panini for a few euros to a multi-course feast that will set each person back at least 50 EUR.   I must confess that my daughter and I did have lunch at the Hard Rock Café in Florence.  While I am usually one to immerse myself in the local food, this was towards the end of our Italian trip and both she and I were craving a good old American cheeseburger. However, I did have my first experience tasting wild boar in Florence and enjoyed going into shops and purchasing some local meats, cheeses and wine and then washing it all down with some gelato.  Lots of gelato.  Seriously, it was on like every corner.

If you don’t want to walk everywhere, renting a bike is a great option.  Florence is a bike-friendly city, as evidenced by all of the locals which bike to work and the grocery store.   One can easily meander up and down the sidewalk on the Arno river and criss-cross along the many bridges.  It is an easy work-out and probably one of the most beautiful ones you will ever experience.

If you  are pressed for time, you can easily accomplish a lot in Florence in just a couple of days.   And if you stay a week or more, you will certainly NOT be bored.    I found it difficult to leave this city, but I was comforted by the fact that both my husband and myself vowed to return soon.

Definitely make sure you catch at least one sunset!
Make sure you catch at least one sunset!

Jill is a travel agent and meeting/event planner.  She would love to get more exposure so please contact her with any freelance opportunities.