If we’re not on the road, Joe and I are planning for the next trip, watching travel-related TV shows and movies, and talking about traveling. It makes sense that we ended up spending a lot of time discussing travel with our friends. Many of the people in our lives also love to travel. We’ve had many a conversation over a drink or a cup of coffee about everything travel related. It was during these lovely conversations that Italy talks led to why we need to visit Florence, a place that is often labeled a visitors favorite in the country.
Let me first start by saying that Joe and I believe that travel is a very personalized activity. We hear about many off the beaten adventures that are way too far out of our comfort zone to ever attempt, and also quickly hightail our way out of a lot of well-loved places. Travel is not something that can be labeled as one experience, and we are all in favor of anyway people like to pursue it.
There are thousands of blogs out there on travel because there are thousands of different ways to travel.
There is no right or wrong one size fits all answer, and it can change individually at any time. Personally, I used to be a huge advocate of budget travel. While I still appreciate so much of what it has to offer, as I’ve gotten older and found a partner to travel with, I’ve drifted more towards the mid-range with a dabble in luxury. Things change, life changes, and so do our expectations and desires.
Which is why travel recommendations end up being so hit or miss. It is so hard to predict who/what/where someone else will like or dislike.
Why Visit Florence?
Why visit Florence, Italy to begin with? When planning our trip to Italy–which I must admit was done fairly half-assed until we were a few days out from arriving–we were super excited about Florence. A lot of people we know had been, loved it, and could not wait for us to see it. Joe had been and loved it in college. The sites, history, and stunning pictures we saw littering the internet didn’t hurt either. We simply could not wait to get on the ground and see this beautiful, beloved city.
Our first stop in Italy was Venice (another city that shifted expectations for us in a totally different way) to meet Joe’s brother and sister-in-law. It was here we got our first and only negative review of Florence. They had just come from the city and really did not enjoy it. It made us think twice but did not totally damper our enthusiasm.
We still planned to stay in the city for 5 nights, the longest we would be staying in any city in our 5 weeks in Italy outside of Rome. One of these days was reserved for a trip to Modena to eat at Osteria Francescana–still can’t believe that happened–but otherwise we intended to slow down a bit and savor the city.
What Is Florence Actually Like?
Our time in Florence was spent hitting the popular sites–which in truth were quite beautiful–and simply wandering around. The Duomo was lovely, although Milan’s Duomo was my personal favorite in the country, seeing the David with only a handful of people in the room totally blew my mind, and watching the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo while sipping hot wine created a memory I won’t soon forget. We also hit the leather goods hard, putting our modest Italy budget to shame in a matter of hours.
For us, though, that’s kind of where our love for the city stopped. We had been in Italy for over two and a half weeks by this point, and our bellies were filled to the brim with some of the best food we’d ever had. As evident by our blog, one of the biggest reasons we travel is to eat. Florence was loaded with tourist trap overpriced restaurants that held mediocre-at-best food. In a country with food this good, we simply could not get our heads around this. Thankfully, we were in an AirBnB so we mostly cooked, but it was still a bummer.
While we had a beautiful run in Florence, we tried out one of the nearby portions of the Renaissance trail and we’re disappointed. It was more of a bike path and ran between a not that pretty river and the train tracks.
It was also LOADED with study abroad students, the ratio felt overwhelming compared to anywhere else I’ve ever traveled to. I can see why this would be such a fun place to study abroad and party with your friends in your early 20s. However, we were not there to party with our friends and about a decade too old to relate, this was a downer for us as well. This city is incredibly touristy, combined with its’ small size, it made it feel even more touristy than Rome. Plus, Rome had absolutely incredible food, both in the markets and the Roman restaurants we visited.
All in all, we’re glad we visited Florence and think it’s worth seeing, but we would have been much happier with an overnight stopover and spending more time in one of the other cities we visited. It left us missing Parma, Bologna, and Genoa. It was also a great jumping off point for our Tuscany road trip, but aside from the conveniences and stunning artwork, we felt like we just did not get Florence.
For us, it was a great reminder to keep the plans loose and to stay true to what we love, not what people think we should.
Have you been to Florence? What did you think?