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Piazza Santa Maria Novella

The areas around stations in Italy are often not the tidiest (or safest) parts of town and whilst you should keep your wits – and your wallet – about you in Florence’s Santa Maria Novella, the newly renovated piazza is a complete contrast to what many people expect. Exit from the station and go south and you enter the piazza along the side of the church. Here you can plant yourself in one of these cafes that have yet to display the ridiculous prices of their counterparts in piazze such as Signoria – where €20 for 2 cappuccini is not unheard of – and do some people watching.

The church can be entered from the north side of the Piazza and frequently there is a tiny queue here when the queue for the Duomo is very long indeed. Since the grass was added in 2010, the piazza is a much nicer place to sit out, especially in the evening. It now feels a more complete part of the city and demonstrates that although Florence was the central light of the Renaissance, the city continues to develop and adapt to the modern visitor.

Autumn In Florence, Florence Videos, Things to do in Florence

An Autumn Walk South Of The Arno

Autumn in Florence is an enchanting time of year. September may be the month of change but it doesn’t start to get cold until October and even then, days around 20 degrees Celsius are not unheard of. So, what can you do in a city such as Florence when the leaves start to turn brown and sunbathing isn’t an option? One of the best things to do is go for a walk. The historic centre of Florence is a marvel but many tourists never venture far from the Ponte Vecchio and, as a result, they see what they expect to see but nothing more. As with many cities that are on a river, Florence’s Arno River provides a focal point and a good route to follow; you can’t really get lost!

For this video, I took one of my favourite routes, out of town in a Easterly direction, following the Northern bank of the River Arno as far as Ponte San Niccolo where I crossed the river. From there, the fitter tourist can choose to take the longer route up to Piazzale Michelangelo by Viale Michelangelo or, even better, take the old Via dell’Erta Canina. In the video, you can see the old cobbled road that rises above Florence – it’s steep, so you’ll need to be in shape – and from the top, you will have a great view of the Duomo in the South as well as San Miniato Al Monte in the East. If you continue along the road, you will pass the Paraguayan Consulate (of all things!) and eventually reach Viale Galileo where you can turn left and walk back down to the Piazzale.

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Bardini Gardens – Boboli’s Little Sister

Bardini Gardens reopened in 2005 after being allowed to fall into disrepair over 50 years. It sits on a 10-acre  site which houses the Gardens and also the Villa Bardini. There is a sweeping baroque stairway, hidden statues, fountains, grottoes, a small amphitheatre though most tourists will be here for the breathtaking views over the city of Florence.

Giardino Bardini was originally two gardens, one belonging to the Mozzi family. They owned a stretch of Florence between Costa San Giorgio, Piazza de’Mozzi and Via San Niccolò. The the other half of the gardens was attached to the 17th  century Villa Manadora.

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Christmas Market in Santa Croce

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It’s not well known that the Christmas Markets in Florence are a very popular attraction. At this time of year many of the visitors are from Italy, preferring to visit the city at a time when there are less tourists from abroad.

As a Christmas Market, Santa Croce has all you could want with an International group of vendors selling food, clothing and gifts. There’s the obligatory mulled wine and strudel from Austria, biscuits from Switzerland and, my favourite, a German trailer selling the type of hot dogs and burgers that dietitians warn you about.

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Ristorante Pizzeria – Piazzale Michelangelo, Firenze

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This restaurant is just off Piazzale Michelangelo on Via Galileo in Florence and has lovely views of the hills and large houses on the Southern outskirts of the city. It’s slightly more expensive than restaurants in town for the food (a standard pizza is €3 or €4 more than in town) but it’s worth it for the view and location. I’d avoid the soft drinks at €6 each though as that’s a bit steep even for Florence tourist-central.

You can exit the restaurant, turn left and then walk down the steps almost immediately on your left and they will take you down to the heart of San Niccolo. Keep going towards the gate and just before you reach it, there is the Bar “Fuori Porta” or Outside the Gate; perfect for an after lunch/dinner drink!

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