a wanderlust guide (to florence, italy)

a wanderlust guide to florence

This is the official start of a new little series called "Wanderlust Guides." They are by no means comprehensive or a proclamation to have the very best of ____ city. Instead, they're my favorites of wherever I go-- places I enjoyed, and places I hope you'll enjoy, too.

I adore Florence. It's my home away from home. It was my most pleasant surprise during my seven months abroad. There are also thousands of guides that'll tell you what to do and where to go:

The Uffizi (cool, but tiring)

The Academia (Il Davide alone is worth it)
The Ponte Vecchio (really, really crowded but really, really charming)
The list goes on and on. Even after you've spent hours in museums (half of which you were admiring The David), climbed Brunelleschi's Dome and rubbed the boar's nose at the Mercato Porcellino, you'd still need several days to enjoy Florence in all of its Renaissance glory. This little guide is for the traveler who wants to experience the simple pleasures in Florence. From the most breathtaking views to the most satisfying gelato, these are my favorite Florentine gems:

The Perfect Panini
via Giuseppe Verdi, 36r (Santa Croce neighborhood)

Take a trip to Salumeria Verdi, affectionately nicknamed Pino's in honor of the salumeria's owner. Although the deli offers home-cooked pasta and a multitude of Tuscan wine, I go here for my lunchtime panini. The fresh vegetables and the perfectly cured meats are a match made in heaven. Try the finocchiona with fresh mozzarella, or ask Pino for "The Best." He'll know what you mean. (from €3.50/ panini)

A Picnic in the Boboli Gardens
Palazzo Pitti

Weather permitting, you can take your panini from Pino's da porta via (to go) and have a little picnic in the Boboli Gardens. They're gigantic, but they're calming and there's a ton of space to lounge at your leisure. Bring a book, pack some snacks and find your own little spot. It's a wonderful way to "escape the city" without actually ever leaving it.

Florence's Best Kept Secret
via Dei Neri, 22 (Santa Croce neighborhood)

No trip to Florence would be complete without at stop at Gelateria dei Neri-- most tourists just don't know it. Although places like Vivoli and the overpriced shops around the Ponte Vecchio seem like good bets, dei Neri offers a wide, flavorful variety without charging the big bucks. Flavors like mango and frutti di bosco are refreshing on sunny days, but stracciatella and cookies and cream are classic year round. (from €1.65/ 2 flavors in an overfilled cup).

The Postcard View
Piazzale Michelangelo

Move away from the city center and take a short hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo for breathtaking panoramic views of the city. From here you can snap the Ponte Vecchio, the Palazzo Vecchio tower and Brunelleschi's Dome all in one picture.

For the Photography Lover
Largo Fratelli Alinari, 15 (Santa Maria Novella neighborhood)

The Alinari Museum is home to some of Europe's oldest photographs. This museum integrates the history of photography with the art itself: not only will you find some of the oldest camera models, you'll also find the most beautiful photos taken by those cameras. A true testament to how far the art and science of photography has come.

A Pharmacy from 1221
via della Scala, 16 (Santa Maria Novella neighborhood)

Literally a stone's through from the Santa Maria Novella church, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella used to serve as an apothecary run by monks in 1221. Today the pharmacy is more of a perfumery and herbal shop. Even if you don't plan on buying anything, it's worth it just to walk in and admire the classic frescos, elaborate decor and sample the perfumes.

A Multi-Course Deal
via Palazzuolo, 71 (Santa Maria Novella neighborhood)

Begin you evening with an authentic Italian dinner at Trattoria il Contadino. The menu at this family owned restaurant changes daily and revolves around what's in season. The prix fixe of €12 includes bottled water, a primo (pasta, rice, etc) and a secondo (the main course). And, if you're really up for it, you can take a stroll back to the Gelateria dei Neri to truly end the meal the right way.

*A special thanks to Pugly Pixel for the photo template and the mailing tag!