Florence is always a good idea, especially in winter.
Florence is one of the most beautiful Italian cities but it tends to be overcrowded in high season and I feel this ruins its incredible atmosphere. This is why lately I have chosen to visit it in winter.
I mean, if you have no other options, Florence is worth visiting all year round but if you don’t like crowds and you can choose when to go, winter is definitely the perfect time to plan a visit there.
A view of Ponte Vecchio
I have been to Florence multiple times in my life – it’s not that far from where I live and it is also a very common destination for school trips, so I bet many Italians have visited it more than once, it’s not just me – but I had never been there in the winter season until 2018.
My husband had to go there for work and asked me if I wanted to join him. I obviously said yes and had the most amazing time: we went there at the end of November, which meant that Christmas decorations were already up but the usual Christmas crowds were still at home.
Jeff Koons at Palazzo Strozzi
I had such a great time that I suggested going there again this year. My husband happily said yes and we went there a couple of weekends ago, again at the end of November. The weather was not exactly welcoming – we had rain most of the time – but I couldn’t care less because I was just too happy to be there.
As I said, I have been to Florence many many times but I think I will never get used to its incredible beauty. Every time I turn the corner and see the magnificent facade of the Duomo, my heart skips a beat. Every time I walk over the Santa Trinita bridge at sunset, I get moved. I always feel really blessed to be able to enjoy such splendor.
Outside seating area at La Ménagère
Since we know Florence quite well and we have seen all the main sights before, we didn’t visit any of the most important monuments or churches this time. Our main goal was to visit our favorite spots and check some contemporary art exhibitions, which is exactly what we did.
This is why I wondered if I should write this post or not because it doesn’t give any recommendations or ideas for people visiting the city for the first time. But then I decided to write it anyway because I love those diary-style types of posts, where people tell about their lives, and I thought reading it might be interesting for you as well.
Santa Maria Novella
Also, we have been to quite a few bars and restaurants, so it might be a useful post if you are looking for places to eat and drink in the city. Unfortunately, though, my tastes are not very traditional, so I might have chosen places that are not really interesting for you! Well, let me know what you think of them in the comments if you like.
We arrived in Florence on Friday around midday and parked our car at the Parcheggio Villa Costanza, which is super convenient: it is right outside the autostrada and you can easily get a tram to the city center from there. It’s a perfect solution if you are visiting Florence and have a car (taking the train was no option for us because it takes ages).
Jenny Saville at Palazzo del Novecento
We stayed at a small hotel right behind the Duomo but I won’t recommend it: we had stayed there before and had a great experience but it wasn’t so pleasant this time. Both the room and the shower were a bit cold and it’s not a nice thing in winter! That’s a pity because the hotel is located in Via dello Studio and you see the Duomo every time you step outside the door.
Another really cool thing about the hotel is that it is right in front of Parione, one of the oldest stationery shops in Florence: I have stopped in front of its windows every time I walked by. They have the most amazing selection of paper, stationery, and art supplies. It’s a real feast for the eyes if you like this sort of thing!
L’OV Osteria Vegetariana in Oltrarno
When we arrived, we first checked in at the hotel, so it was very late when we were finally ready to have lunch and we chose the easiest option: we had lunch at La Feltrinelli, one of the biggest book stores in Italy. They have locations everywhere and sometimes they have a cafè and restaurant in their stores. It’s not exactly a fancy location but they have good food and coffee and it’s super easy to have a late lunch there.
We spent the afternoon soaking in the beauty of the city and just wandering around: what a joy! We had merenda at one of my favorite coffee spots: Ditta Artigianale. It is very popular in Florence because they have amazing coffee and multiple locations in the city. They have a very American-independent-coffee-place vibe, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you want something truly Italian…but their coffee is really great!
the magnificence of the Duomo
We spent the rest of the afternoon at Palazzo Strozzi for the Jeff Koons exhibition, which was one of the reasons we went to Florence for, and had great fun: divisive as it might be, Jeff Koons’s art is always very interesting. If you like contemporary art, I’d highly recommend checking the exhibitions at Palazzo Strozzi, when you are in Florence, because they are always really good: I will never forget the one of Marina Abramović I saw in 2018!
For our dinner on Friday evening, we chose a vegetarian restaurant that had been recommended to me by many people. It’s called L‘OV Osteria Vegetariana and is in Piazza del Carmine, in the heart of the Oltrarno district, possibly my favorite area of the city. We had a lovely dinner, the location is really nice and the food was super tasty. We really liked it!
Il Santo Bevitore Restaurant
On Saturday we had breakfast in the most Instagram-friendly place in Florence: La Ménagère. It is an incredibly beautiful bar, restaurant, florist, and concept store that is worth visiting for its amazing location: every corner is an Instagram opportunity, let me tell you! It is overpriced but the quality of the food and coffee is really high.
They have great pastries for breakfast and an interesting brunch option but we decided to just go for un cornetto e un cappuccino because it was late and we had reservations for another place-to-be in the city: il Santo Bevitore. It is a very popular restaurant where you can have traditional Florentine food with a twist. We got caught in the rain while walking there, so their artichoke soup was just what we needed!
Caffè Concerto Paszkowski in Piazza della Repubblica
Saturday afternoon was spent walking around, checking some shops, and visiting another great contemporary art exhibition. This time it was Jenny Saville at the Museo del Novecento. I didn’t know anything about Jenny Saville before, to be honest, but I completely fell in love with her work. And the museum itself is really worth visiting as well. It is right in front of Santa Maria Novella church, so it is very easy to reach (as basically everything in Florence).
On Saturday night we splurged on a great aperitivo at Caffè Concerto Paszkowski, in Piazza della Repubblica. The bar is one of the oldest in the city and has that elegant old-style atmosphere that I adore, so I always make sure to stop there for an aperitivo or a coffee, whenever I am in Florence.
A lovely shop window in San Frediano
We hadn’t booked anything for Saturday night and it was quite crowded everywhere, so we went to the only place where we could have some good food without booking in advance: Mercato Centrale. The place is on the first floor of Florence’s main food market and consists of a common area with different stalls selling a variety of foods: you can have traditional Florentine meat but also pizza, panini, fish, vegan or Asian food.
On Sunday morning we were blessed with sunshine, so we took a long walk along the Arno and around Oltrarno, which is always such a nice place to be. Before leaving, I met one of my students for coffee and he made me discover another really cool place in the city: it’s the Buonamici A Bottega, a bakery where you can also have coffee and the seating area is like an old-style 50s kitchen.
I hope you have enjoyed this little account of my weekend in Florence. By the way, what are your favorite spots in Florence?
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