Here's a list, in no particular order, of my personal favorite things to do in Florence. Some are more touristy than others, but I never seem to get tired of doing them. Don't miss all the tourist attractions and must-see's, but this list will come in handy if you're spending a little more time in Florence. It's probably 90% food, but can you blame me? Let's dig in.
1. Make a reservation for dinner at La Menagere on their website. Every single person I've taken there falls in love with the place! It's a very hip restaurant/flower shop/bar and a great place for fusion food (not your typical authentic cuisine). Try the gnocchi, it's delicious! It's also a great place for an afternoon break, and it has free wifi if you need it. The cafeteria area is adjacent to the restaurant, so just make sure you're sitting in the right area.
2. Try the Italian tradition of "Aperitivo". You go to any bar and order a drink for 8-10 euro and you get to eat from a sort of all-you-can-eat small buffet of appetizers. It's usually from 7pm to 9pm and no reservations are needed. Some good places to try aperitivo is Oibo, Soul Kitchen or Tamerò.
3. Osteria Santo Spirito is a great place for authentic food and a very laid back environment. You'll want to make reservations for dinner, but lunch time is usually not as busy. They are famous for their truffle oil infused gnocchi.
4. Try the cold capuccinos at Gilli. It's overpriced if you sit in the outdoor terrace (7 euro for a coffee) but the location (right next to the Piazza della Repppublica carrousel) is gorgeous and you'll feel like a florentine intellectual. It's one of the oldest coffee shops, so in my opinion it's a good place to relax, treat yourself and spend a good hour people watching. For a more budget friendly option drink your coffee standing in the bar next to all the italians.
5. Obicà is a fun and trendy mozzarella bar. Get a Degustazione di Mozzarelle (3 different kinds of mozzarella) and a pizza for the table! Make a reservation and ask for a table in the courtyard.
6. Hotels in Florence usually have rooftop bars that are the perfect place to have a drink and watch the sunset with an amazing view of the city. A good (but expensive) option is the rooftop bar at the Westin Excelsior.
7. The central market has the food court section in the second floor and it's a great place to eat. The pasta is amazing!
8. For gelato try Venchi if you're in mood for creamy flavors (also try their chocolates), Amorino if you'd rather have a refreshing fruit flavor and Edoardo for the most delicious cone (they hand-make cones right before your eyes and it tastes like buttery heaven).
9. Buy a bottle of wine, walk up to Piazzale Michelagnolo and sit on the stairs while watching the sunset for a typical florentine summer night. The rose garden up there is gorgeous too.
10. Don't miss the Boboli gardens. Doing a picnic there is one of my favorite things. You're allowed to bring in food but not alcoholic beverages. And go on the first Sunday of the month when the entrance to museums is free!
11. Watch a movie at Obica Theater. It's a stunning old theater that plays recent movies in English with Italian subtitles. The setting feels so cultural and fancy, regardless of the movie you're watching. Keep an eye on the schedule, as there are few playing times.
12. I cannot recommend Le Vespe Cafe enough. The best American style brunch in all of Florence and worth a visit even if you're here for the Italian food and have no interest in trying anything American style. Opens until 3pm and serves brunch all day everyday. I always get The King (eggs, pancakes, potatoes, bacon and sausage) and substitute the bacon and sausage for avocado and mushrooms (lifelong vegetarian here). The portions are also American sized, but you'll want every last bite of it. There's this one waiter that makes everyone's day, always giving hugs, making jokes and singing.
13. Ditta Artigianale is a good place for brunch, lunch or a late night drink. The atmosphere perfectly transitions from day to night, whether you're in the mood for a coffee or a gin tonic. Their tiny Santa Croce location is adorable, while the Oltrarno location is big and very retro. Both are worth a visit.
14. Visit the Flower Market on Thursday mornings (until 1pm) at Piazza della Reppublica.
15. For a night out, go to Flo Firenze (next to Piazzale Michelagnolo). Its an outdoor club so the view is spectacular, but that also means it's only open during the summer months. There is no cover charge, but get there early (before midnight) as the line grows fast and moves slow. Full of mostly impeccably dressed Italians, you'll easily feel underdressed so dress up, step into your dancing shoes and off you go.
16. For pizza, go to Caffe Italiano. My friend introduced me to this place and she made us go there every other Wednesday last semester because she liked it THAT much. I happily obliged. There's only three kinds of pizza, and sometimes the charming pizzaiolo (pizza chef) will make you a heart-shaped pizza. It's a hidden gem!
Florence seems like a dream most of the time. It's so tiny and beautiful that it's easy to forget that it's real. It's full of tourists all year round so it mostly feels like you're a part of someone else's vacation. Real life happens at 9am when everyone rushes to work, but not without first stopping for coffee. It happens late at night when everyone goes out to the nearest piazza to hang out. Florence, to me, happens in the unavoidable smell of coffee and cigarettes mixed in with the morning dew. And nothing is more Florence to me than when waiters refuse to bring you the check because they firmly believe you should take your time eating and not rush out as soon as you're done. After all, the whole city runs on Italian time. That is, the spare hours you have in between meals.