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3 tip city guide: Lisa’s Florence

April 18, 2012
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Lisa, the author of a great blog – My Tuscan Journal, kindly accepted to share some tips with us, naive tourists, sightseeing our way through Florence, and I am very grateful to her for that. After all, what better way to plan your trip, than to have the locals point out all the great places of one city? And no, you won’t find this in the brochures-this is the real thing.



Tip#1. Cross the river

It would be very easy as a visitor to Florence to feel like you had seen everything in the historical center without realizing there is a whole other side to see and explore!
Oltrarno, as it is known by the locals is the side of the Arno River where you find the Pitti Palace.  It is also known as the artisan quarter due to the many artisans that have for years created original objects and masterpieces in these narrow streets. 
Explore this area and you will not only discover a not so touristy side to the city but some wonderful stores, products, artisan studios, cafes and some beautiful architecture.  This to me is the real Florence.

piazza santa spirito

One of my favourite squares is Piazza Santa Spirito, the center of the artisan quarter.  Maybe because this is where I came each morning to learn Italian nearly 20 years ago and it is like a step back in time when I come here and watch the new tide of students learning the language and flirting with the locals.  I wonder which ones will stay for longer than first thought or feel the magnetic pull of this city and return later in life as I did.
It is lovely here in the Summer as there are plenty of benches where one can sit under the beautiful, large, shady trees and relax or watch the passers by.  There are also some great cafes and restaurants in the piazza and surrounding streets.
Of course, you also cannot help but admire the beautiful Basilica of Santa Spirito, the last masterpiece of Brunelleschi which unfortunately was not finished before his death.Friday mornings you will find a small local market where you can by fruit and vegetables and also clothing and home furnishings.  In the Summer months, the piazza becomes very busy and is sometimes home to small concerts in the evenings.  This area is also becoming very popular for vintage clothing stores.


Tip#2. Eat at 4 leoni

4 leoni

While you are over on this side of the river, stop and have lunch at Trattoria 4 Leoni.  A favourite with Florentines and visitors alike who stop here to savour the authentic and traditional Tuscan food.  It is really worth the visit as the food is wonderful but get here early to ensure you get a table outside in the summer months.   I think that I prefer to eat here in the winter though for their wonderful warming and comfort dishes such as Ribollita, pasta e fagioli and the Trippa alla Fiorentina.

piazza della passera
Located in Piazza della Passera, an easy walk from the Ponte Vecchio.  Just before you arrive at the Palazzo Pitti, turn right into Via Dello Sprone and continue walking to the end where you will arrive at the piazza.  Trattoria 4 Leoni is on your left.
Buon Appetito!


Tip#3. My favorite coffee

One of the best places for a coffee here in Florence is Caffe Giacosa, owned by Roberto Cavalli and conveniently situated behind his store in Via Tornabuoni.  Originally founded in 1815 and the favourite meeting place of the Florentine high society, Cavalli, a born Florentine bound to tradition, restored the caffe ensuring that it retained it’s original structures and ambiance.  Nothing beats a cappuccino here.  The large cup with the melted chocolate swirl sitting on top of the frothy milk foam is more like a piece of art to me. 
Caffe Giacosa is also a wonderful place to just sit and enjoy your coffee (without paying double!) and watch the beautiful fashion parade of  ‘i Fiorentini’  in their elegant attire as they go about their morning ritual.

caffe giacosa

Extra tip. Lastly, I would try to avoid staying in central Florence late July and August.  The heat is really stifling and as Florence sits in a valley, there is not much fresh air that circulates the city.  It can be so draining walking around and I don’t think you appreciate the city as much when you are hot and tired.  Of course if you are staying in a hotel with a pool, then a visit at this time would be much more bearable!

***Thanks for the tips, Lisa! Check out Melinda Gallo’s guide to Florence here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2012 00:43

    Thanks for sharing the info. There’s another fun little place for a glass of wine and a snack just across the river on the left before the Pitti Palace. It’s called “Le Volpi e L’uva. Piazza de’ Rossi 1. Great spot for a bite, with outdoor tables.

    • Maja permalink
      April 19, 2012 10:02

      The menu looks appetizing! Thanks for sharing!

    • April 19, 2012 14:16

      Yes! I have to agree! Le Volpi e L’Uva has some great wines and nibbles!!! A cute little place to relax after a long day admiring the city.

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