Florence is one of the most popular cities for tourism in Italy, and rightfully so. My love for road trips led me to plan a long-weekend trip to Lucca, Pisa, and Florence. Although our time in Florence consumed most the trip, we enjoyed each of the locations equally.
We started our trip by driving to our Airbnb in Lucca. I booked solely for the view, but it blew us away. From the location and decor, cleanliness and welcoming host, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay and wished we could have stayed longer. Lucca is a walled city that can be traced back to the third century B.C. It is a little over an hour from Florence. The weather for most of our time in Lucca was dreary but we enjoyed the relaxing setting and did a lot of eating and strolling. All of the food (and gelato) was delicious!
Daily breakfast on the roof!
Enjoying running around the city walls.
Basilica of San Frediano & Piazza Anfiteatro.
From Lucca, we made a quick trip to Pisa. Although we’d heard that Pisa is extremely overrated, we couldn’t be living in Italy and not see the leaning tower. It’s such an iconic piece of architecture. I’m so glad we did not let the bad reviews deter us. It was not only beautiful but also interesting to learn about the history of the tower.
Traveling with kids is not always glamorous. haha
The leaning tower is actually the bell tower to the city’s Duomo (cathedral). The tower was built on weak substrate and began to lean soon after construction began on the second floor. The tower leaned at an impressive 5.5 degrees but after restoration work to stabilize the building it now leans at 3.99 degrees.
The Pisa Cathedral is almost as remarkable. I’ve seen MANY churches since being in Italy and the interior ceiling was certainly among the most impressive. We also made a quick stop in the baptistry which Rick Steves recommended for the incredible acoustics. It was a bit underwhelming but the view of the cathedral and tower from the window made up for the lack of architectural interest.
Since it was another rainy day we spent about 1.5 hrs exploring Pisa and retired to a close Kebab restaurant so my husband could get his fix. It was refreshing see so many food options. Italian food is great but we are missing the variety available in America. Kebabs hit the spot.
The final stop on our trip was Florence. The birthplace of the Renaissance and heart of Tuscany. Florence is surprisingly walkable. Our hotel was located just outside of the city center and within walking distance of all the main attractions. We didn’t need to take public transportation or drive at all! Florence is also very stroller friendly. Given that our automobile size is comical, we typically don’t bring the stroller because we do not have room in the car however, this was one of those locations when it would have come in handy.
The girls were troopers and we split everything up into a couple days so we weren’t pushing them too hard.
My must-see list for Florence was:
Piazza del Mercato Nuovo
Basilica di Santa Croche
Although it would have been nice to see the original David located in the Academia and the Uffizi Gallery, I didn’t want to push my luck with the kids. We plan on making a quick weekend trip back via train without the girls before we leave Naples. In our two days in Florence, we were able to accomplish everything on my list.
Walking around the corner and seeing the Duomo in front of me is something I will never forget. I was struck by the size and beauty of the church.
On our first day, we headed to Ponte Vecchio first stopping in Piazza del Mercato Nuovo to find the famous boar and rub his nose. Superstition has it that if you put a coin in his mouth, rub his nose, and the coin falls into the drain below him you’ll return back to Florence one day. It made for a fun photo op. The girls really enjoyed rubbing his shiny nose.
While there, the girls roped us into buying them some leather purses from the mercato. They wore them the rest of the trip garnering many sweet comments and compliments from the salesmen throughout the city. Although they were worth the money because they still use them today, my recommendation is to shop around before purchasing. They have the same products throughout the city and prices vary. We paid about double by buying them at a touristy spot.
We then headed down to the famous Ponte Vecchio. It used to be a fish market, but now is home to jewelry shops. We did a quick pass by and snapped a few photos and then headed to Palazzo Vecchio for dinner.
The next morning we headed to Basilica di Santa Croce, the church where Galileo and Michelangelo are buried. Along the way, we came across a man feeding day old bread to pigeons. My kids LOVE pigeons!!! Of course, they begged us to stop and he was generous enough to share his bread so they could feed the birds.
I had read a Pinterest post about the Florence leather school but didn’t realize that it was right next to the Basilica. We entered the leather shop and were able to watch some of the workers hand making some beautiful bags. The girls asked questions and one of the workers spoke some English and entertained their questions commenting on how cute they are. The Santa Croce leather school also has a small gift shop where you can buy souvenirs. Some were under 10 euro so if you’re looking for quality leather on a budget stop in.
We headed next door to see the burial place of some of the greats! The grounds were beautiful but unfortunately, they were doing a lot of restoration to the tombs so they were covered in scaffolding.
A friend from high school recommended that a panino from All’Antico Vinaio is a must when in Florence. After Santa Croce, we headed for one of the epic sandwiches. Man, it did not disappoint!!! There are big lines at lunchtime so I recommend going a little early or late to avoid waiting.
Not far from All’Antico Vinaio is Palazzo Vecchio. Since we were walking by, we decided to stop in for the tour and see how the girls did. It was self-guided so we were able to go at our own pace and skip rooms that weren’t interesting for the girls. The gilded ceiling in Salone dei Cinquecento was breathtaking and the walls were adorned with large murals painted by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti.
In the picture above you’ll see a woman working on restoring the paintings behind a screen. It was pretty cool to get to see them at work.
The last morning on our way out we stopped at Piazzale Michelangelo. The weather had cleared out and we had a stunning view of the entire city. This is certainly a must-see when in Florence. We were sad to have to leave but hope to be back soon. We did rub the boar’s nose, right?!?