Florence has got to be one of Italy’s busiest cities in the summer. It is swarming with tourists, the narrow cobbled streets packed with people from all over the world – but all for good reason. The ‘birthplace of the Renaissance’, the city is a hotbed of history and art, one of the most unmissable locations in the world for art and architecture.
Locations like the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia, the home of Michangelo’s David, see unbelievably long queues all the way through the summer. We foolishly turned up at a comparably ‘late’ 8am – 15 minutes before the gallery opened, the sun already hot – to find slow-moving queues winding through the local streets and piazzas – easily 3 or 4 hours worth. Similarly, the Ponte Vecchio is so crowded that what should be enjoyable is rendered unpleasant.
However, there are plenty of other spots to visit. We enjoyed the Medici chapel and tombs, and the Giardino di Boboli, part of the Palazzo Pitti property on the south bank of the river, are a must. They stretch all the way up the hill, to give great views all the way across the roofs of the city to the mountains on the other side.
The gardens are huge, with plenty of hidden paths to escape the crowds. From the top, you can gaze out over the suburbs on the southern edge of Florence – villas set out spaciously on the remarkably Tuscan landscape.
Another must is the Mercato Centrale – a HUGE covered food market, with fresh produce on the ground floor and a plethora of fast food stalls, with cuisines from all over the world, on the first floor. It is seriously foodie heaven. I could have spent all day there.
In the streets around the Mercato there is a huge daily leather market. Again, this is purely for the tourists, every stall selling very similar wares – and it is apparently scam central, so although it’s fun to wander around here (and the smell of the leather is intoxicating!), I wouldn’t buy anything.
Florence is a great place to visit, but for me personally, the sheer number of crowds, combined with the hot weather and the fact that lots of the shops and restaurants catered to tourists rather than being truly authentic, dulled the enjoyment of the visit. My advice would be to consider visiting in the other months of the year if this may bother you. Although I believe that things are popular for a reason, and it is worth seeing all the famous sights at some point, there are plenty of other destinations in Italy I would recommend before recommending Florence. Try Ravenna for beautiful ancient churches, Turin for gorgeous streets that’ll bless your insta feed – or ditch the cities and head for the coast and the ‘Italian riviera’, the Cinque Terre.