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48 hours in Florence

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Home to arresting architecture, fine food and even finer wine, the Tuscan capital of Florence is a small city with bucket loads of character.

Eurolines coaches connect Florence with the rest of Italy’s major cities as well as numerous destinations throughout Europe including Nice, Montpellier and Barcelona, just to name a few. The ancient city is a must see for backpackers thanks to its many grand cathedrals, sculpture packed squares, charming bridges and magnificent art galleries.

With Florence being an extremely popular summer tourist destination, finding accommodation is not always easy so make sure you book well in advance. Rooms don’t come cheap either, so those on a backpacker’s budget should look into staying at the PLUS Hostel.

A short walk from the centre of town, the PLUS hostel boasts its own gym, restaurant, outdoor and indoor swimming pools and even a swanky rooftop bar with spectacular views of the city. Dorms of up to eight beds are available as well as twin and double bed private rooms that boast all the cleanliness and amenities you would expect of a good hotel, minus the price tag. 

The pool at PLUS Florence

Being a fairly small city, Florence is easy to traverse by foot and it’s often quicker to do so rather than waiting for the next bus.

A short walk from PLUS Hostel, take a stroll to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, referred to by most as the Duomo, in the heart of the city; the largest church in Florence and one of its most iconic landmarks. The Duomo sits in the centre of a bustling square full of boutique shops, restaurants and cafés.

The queue to climb the tower can take hours so consider heading to the nearby Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall. The tower of the Palazzo is guaranteed to have a far shorter queue and gives visitors a clear view of the entirety of the Duomo and its surrounding square. Surrounding the Palazzo you will find the Piazza della Signoria, which serves as an open air sculpture gallery and contains among others a reproduction of Michelangelo’s David and the original Medici Lions, two spectacular marble lions, one of which dates back to the 2nd century.

The Palazzo Vecchio

Another even grander recreation of David can be found in Michelangelo Square. Dedicated to its famous namesake, the square lies on a hill just south of the city walls and visitors will find the most spectacular views of Florence and the Arno River there. Many beautiful bridges cross the Arno, connecting the quiet Oltrarno side of town with the tourist heavy historical centre.

Most recognisable of these bridges is the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone bridge that spans the river at its narrowest point. Since the renaissance the bridge has been home exclusively to goldsmiths and jewellers. There are many beautiful handcrafted pieces to be found here as well as many well-known designer brands. Prices on the Ponte Vecchio range from surprisingly cheap to completely obscene, so there really is something to suit every budget.

Florence has good rail connections with the rest of Tuscany and those who have the time should make sure to pay a visit to Pisa. A train from Florence’s main station to Pisa Centrale takes exactly one hour, costs just €8 each way and is well worth the trip. Visitors should depart bright and early if they wish to avoid the crowds. Pisa Centrale is on the opposite side of town to the Piazza del Miracoli and the famous leaning tower and the walk between the two is a very scenic one, taking visitors through winding cobblestone streets and past beautiful old houses along the way. Those looking for something to eat near the Piazza will feel spoiled for choice, with countless restaurants and cafés to be found dotted around in every direction.

The Piazza del Miracoli and Leaning Tower of Pisa

Once back in Florence, hungry travellers should head to I’Pizzachiere on the Oltrarno side of the river. Hidden on a quaint side street far from the tourist hotspots, I’Pizzachiere still manages to draw in the crowds with a reputation for some of the finest pizza in Florence, so visitors should make sure to book in advance or be prepared to sit around for a while.

The humble little eatery lives up to its reputation, serving delicious thick Tuscan pizza made with the freshest ingredients. The award winning White Tiger pizza is the restaurant’s most popular dish and for good reason. Made with fresh mozzarella and Parma ham, it goes down a treat with a good glass of red wine. Also consider paying a visit to the gorgeous San Lorenzo food market, even if just for a quick bite.

To round things off, no trip to Florence is complete without a visit to one of the many ice cream stores for some authentic Italian gelato. With a gelateria seemingly situated every few metres, dessert lovers will be spoiled for choice.

After you’ve gorged yourself on all the pizza, gelato and waffles Florence has to offer, burn off those calories with a romantic stroll along the Arno at sunset and head back to the Ponte Vecchio to see it how it was really meant to be seen - by night.

The White Tiger pizza at I'Pizzachiere

 

Coaches provided by Eurolines, passes start from €195 for 15 days and can be purchased from www.eurolines.com/en/eurolines-pass/

Accommodation provided by PLUS Florence and Hostelworld. Booking at http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/PLUS-Florence/Florence/22996




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