When I realized that we were going to have to trim our time in Florence down to just one day, my face looked like the the really sad, depressed emoji. During college, I was supposed to study abroad in this city, but due to life circumstances, I had to drop out of the program last minute. So, Florence always held a special place on my bucket list as a city I couldn't miss.
Only 24 hours in one of the most popular European cities? We were on a mission to do it all, and we got to experience many highlights. Beautiful scenery, amazing food, fantastic hospitality, amazing food, stunning architecture, and amazing food. Did I say amazing food yet? And gelato. And cappuccinos.
I always say the best way to explore a city is to get lost in the little streets; however, if you ever find yourself with only 24 hours in Florence, you shouldn't miss these destinations along the way. Starting with our arrival in Florence on a Tuesday evening, we hit the ground running!
1. The Duomo
We started by just wandering around, getting oriented. Florence is not a huge city, so you can get anywhere on foot quite easily. Without even meaning to, we stumbled upon the Duomo. What a magnificent piece of historical architecture. Italian architecture truly stands out from other countries with the amount of attention paid to detail, making everything look even more beautifully radiant. We were also in luck and got greeted by the bluest of blue skies while in Florence.
After taking this all in, my mind got zeroed in with one major focus: food. We were in Italy, after all. With every passing minute without some authentic pasta or pizza in my belly, I was getting antsier and hangrier. Yes, hangrier. Off to dinner it was! But not before wandering down by the Arno river, to catch the beautiful sunset for our one night in Florence. We then walked across the bridge to the other side of the Arno, which is much quieter and a bit calmer. Our dinner reservation wasn't until past 10pm, so I fully endorse our spontaneous decision to stop for a pre-dinner gelato.
If I had to sum up the gelato from Cantina del Gelato in one word, it would be: PURE. Both boyfriend and I agreed that this was simply the best quality gelato we had ever had. He got the coffee and I had the strawberry, although they did have quite the interesting variety and highlight seasonal fruits.
Never have I had strawberry ice cream or gelato that tasted so purely of fresh, wild strawberries. Simply delicious. We carried our cones out to the riverside to gaze over the lit-up evening view of Arno and Ponte Vecchio. A beautiful summer night in Florence, strolling by the river with freshly-made gelato in hand- an experience you can't miss if you are in the city.
3. La Giostra
I had heard of La Giostra from multiple of my friends who had lived in Florence, so we had that on our must-do list. Upon walking in, I was greeted with a wall of photos- photos of famous celebrities and musicians with the founder of the restaurant when they dined at La Giostra. My inner New Yorker (that avoids places like Times Square like the plague) was immediately wary, but pressed on with all of the glowing reviews I had heard about this place in mind.
Immediately upon being seated, we were welcomed by our wonderfully bubbly and charismatic waitress, who poured us La Giostra's traditional complimentary glasses of Prosecco to start. We opened our menus to peruse our options, only to be drawn into reading the restaurant's story of how it came to be. I was immediately charmed by their philosophy:
"Our cooking is neither far fetched nor simply for show. Food that touches your emotions; an occasion to enjoy real food that brings you closer to your friends, creating a memorable and pleasing atmosphere."
As a huge fan of simple food done well, rather than ostentatious gastronomy, I was won over already-- and I hadn't eaten a single bite yet! We ordered the Linguine alla Carbonara con Asparigina di Bosco (Linguini Carbonara with Wood-foraged Asparagus [and bacon]), and the Tortelloni di Burrata di Assisi con Pomodorini e Fiori di Zucca (Burrata filled Tortellini with Cherry Tomatoes & Squash Blossoms). The dinner was exactly as described- deliciously simple, but incredibly well-cooked, with a delightful atmosphere and experience. All of my Italian food dreams came true that night, and I felt like I checked off "incredible Italian meal in Italy" off my bucket list right then and there. Off to a food-induced coma for the night, to be well-rested for our last hours of Florence in the morning!
4. La Ménagére
Naturally, the first stop in the morning in Italy must be for cappuccinos. I had seen snippets of this stunning cafe on Instagram, but it did not do this place justice. Part cafe, part restaurant, par bar, part flower shop, part home/kitchen decor shop, and event/music space, La Ménagére is the most pleasant place to slow down and grab a bite for breakfast. 1.5 Euro for one of the yummiest cappuccinos I've ever had, and an endless amount of priceless photos to later be shared on Instagram, I'm so glad to have found this gem. For those who love discovering spaces for charming atmosphere, great interior design, and stunning floral varieties, La Ménagére is your first stop in Florence. Boyfriend had to drag me out of here, reminding me that we still had much to do for the remaining hours we had in the city!
My mother had told me about the beauty of the Boboli Gardens, and now I know exactly why she loved it so much. The sprawling grounds allow you to get lost in walls of greenery, climb to higher points to take in some of the widest spanning views of Florence, and get in touch with a more rustic side of Florence. I would set aside at least 2 hours to be able to fully explore the gardens, as it is quite spread out. Boboli gardens is the perfect place to have a little picnic at, if you plan ahead and pack some lunch goodies (and some wine!). The gardens are definitely an experience that can be enjoyed with family, friends, lovers, or solo-- also, for cat-lovers, there are many a rogue adorable kitties wandering about the grounds.
After we completed our explorations of the garden, we needed to head back to the other main side of the Arno river, and we naturally had to pass through the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge at least once while in town.
Literally translating to "Old Bridge," the current Ponte Vecchio was built in 1345, and historically has always had little shops and markets spread throughout the bridge. Now, it is primarily jewelry and souvenir shops that line the bridge, and it can get really crowded, but it is a fun sight that one should experience in the city. You also get some beautiful views of the Arno river from the bridge-- I spent some time here snapping these photos, while boyfriend got distracted by the many beautiful watch stores on the Ponte Vecchio.
After crossing the Ponte Vecchio, we headed back up towards Piazza Santa Maria Novella the beautiful J.K. Place is located.
The Place: Having come from the crowded streets and the popular Piazza Santa Maria Novella, walking into J.K. Place feels like coming home after a long day. With only 20 rooms, this boutique hotel has modeled itself as a large townhouse-like home, where you are warmly greeted with a complimentary drink upon arrival, compared to a standard luxury hotel where you are immediately asked what the name your reservation is under. In fact, J.K. Place doesn't even have a reception desk-- rather, they have a beautiful library where the staff welcomes you and begins to help you settle in.
The balance between impeccably polite hospitality and warm, personable service is perfectly maintained throughout. In place of a traditional restaurant dining room with many separate tables, guests are encouraged to have their meals together at a communal dining table in a beautiful dining room that is where Restoration Hardware looks like they derive inspiration from. Fresh fruits, snacks, and beverages are available throughout the day, so guests can grab and go as they would in a kitchen at home. During the warmer seasons, they open up their outside patio right on the Piazza, which is where we dined.
The Food: We started out with some classic bread with olive oil and balsamic- hardly ever do I feel the need to highlight starters like this, but I had to stop boyfriend (and myself) from sticking a straw straight into the bottle of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Every last artisanal ingredient is hand-selected by the chef and locally sourced, and the attention to quality shines through. I ordered the "Florence Meets Sicily" dish, which was an artisanal "Pachheri" pasta from Pastificio Fabrri in Strada in the Chianti region, with a zucchini-pistachio (from Bronte) pesto, topped with a seared Sicilian red prawn in caper oil. I nearly melted in my seat from the dreamy balance of flavors that were so perfectly seasoned. I loved that the menu also shared the details of where exactly the highlight ingredients in each dish were sourced from in Italy. This attention to detail carries over into the next thing I'll cover, which is...
The Rooms: The rooms in J.K. Place truly feel like studio apartments or bedrooms in a house. Every last detail is hand-selected, whether it be the Italian cashmere quilts lining all of the guest beds, the marble walls in the bathrooms from older buildings in the Tuscan area, the monogrammed linens, or the interior decor. If you are looking for a place to stay while visiting Florence, I'd say there's nothing that sounds better than coming home to one of these rooms each night of your stay.
Special thanks to the J.K. Place Firenze for welcoming Living Minnaly. As always, all opinions and reviews are my own.