The height of tourism in Europe is in full-swing and I've had quite a few people ask me for tips, tricks, and local hideaways in Florence, Italy.
Once again, Florence was voted thenumber one city in the world by Conde Nast Traveler readers and every year, thousands flock to the cradle of the Renaissance to have a summer getaway. There is nothing wrong with tourist hot-spots like Gusta Pizza, Gelateria La Carraia, and GROM, but here is how to see Florence like a local.
Looking for a casual bite to eat?
Try La Ghiotta.This mom-and-pop restaurant in Sant'Ambrogio is a traveler's dream. It is an itty bitty hole in the wall that delivers the best Tuscan comfort food you can find in Florence. The house special is ravioli ghiotta and the ravioli burro e salvi (butter and sage) is enough to keep you coming back, but if you are lucky, they'll have some lasagna left. And that is something you simply cannot pass up.
Are you looking for pizza but not wanting to stand in line at Gusta? Head to Piazza Santo Spirito and go to TrattoriaBorgo Antico for a fresher take on the Italian staple. My personal favorite is the pizza borgo. After the crust has been baked with the just the sauce, it is taken out of the stone oven and massive amounts of burrata cheese, fresh basil, and cherry tomatoes are piled high and served. Bonus, their bread and spicy black olives served at the table before the meal are simply perfect.
When you feel like you've had too much gnocchi and bistecca fiorentina for your liking, hop over to Le Vespe. Mimosas, bloody marys, bacon grilled cheese, club sandwiches, and fresh juices to jump start your morning...or maybe after one too many glasses of chianti after a late night out.Nothing beats a protein-packed breakfast burrito and spicy green juice after a month or two of brioche crema and espresso. You may not seen a born-and-raised Italian in this restaurant, but more of the likes of ex-pats, seasoned travelers, and study abroad students in the know.
Rainy day in Florence? Not a problem.
Head over to Piazza San Lorenzo for a 1 hour original "infotainment" production. The Medici Dynasty Showis action packed theater production that educates audience members on the Medici family and how they changed the course of Florentine art history forever. Make sure to stick around at the end to meet the actors and say "hello" to Cristiano and Bepe, some of the men behind the magic! For more information, check out their site and read the blog to learn more about the family and Florence.
Contrary to popular belief, runway shows didn't start in Paris or Milan. The heart of catwalk couture is in Florence at Palazzo Pitti! So if you are into fashion, especially of of the vintage variety, you are in the right place. Spend a rainy day at Ceri Vintage, browsing everything from buttons, Levi's, paint splattered jean jackets, fedoras, and luggage. There is no shortage of fabulous finds. Or you could go ahead and support Florence University of the Arts fashion and design students by stopping by FLY,a high-end consignment store run by students that happens to have one of the largest vintage Emilio Pucci collections in Italy. The store also features student's fashion work and up-and-coming designers that you can buy, most of which are one-of-a-kind pieces.
For some peace and quiet....
If you aren't into hoards of tourists, skip Piazzale Michelangelo (albeit beautiful at sunset, take a morning jog up there instead) and head for the Giardino delle Rose just below it. An incredible view, with a tiny fraction of the tourists.
Now go off and enjoy my favorite city in the world. Buon viaggio!