Mystical, romantic, magical Florence. Rich with history, architecture and arts galore, Florence drips with a romantic ambience that grips your soul. Amid the piazzas, pigeons and Renaissance art – and let’s face it, lots of tourists – lies a veritable oasis of pure grandeur and dream-like beauty. Who could resist absorbing vistas like this every day?

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Statistics claim that tourist spend an average of three days in Florence. Three! Is that enough time to steep yourself in all of Florence’s glory? Indeed! Here are the six things that I enjoyed most during my Florence excursion. My mom and I divided our between Florence’s hot spots, such as the museums and Piazza della Signoria, and doing things a bit off the typical path. Keep in mind that some of these events may take a little pre-planning (i.e. purchasing tickets to the museums). So here we go in no particular order…

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Admire The David at the Accademia – The world-renowned Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, or “Gallery of the Academy of Florence,” holds one of the world’s most treasured and iconic marble statues. A 25-year-old Michelangelo carved this 17-foot David in 1501. And it is truly jaw-dropping.

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The remarkable David.

Enter the Accademia and gaze in wonder at this masterpiece which is considered to be the ideal male form,  Though there are replica’s of The David around the world, it is worth the ticket cost and time in line to see this authentic David in all his naked glory. He stands proudly in the special annex built just for him, poised in a moment of contemplation before his historical fight with Goliath.

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Such exquisite detail.

Taste aperitifs at the Central Market – The Central Market in Florence is certainly a spectacle. Located in an immense cast-iron building near the San Lorenzo market, visitors can watch pasta being made, chat with local butchers and fishmongers and peck on the generous free samples such as honey, chutneys, fresh breads and more.

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Fishmongers at the Central Market.

The stalls simply overflow with choices of meat, fish, cheese and fresh produce, The market serves as a quick lunch spot for locals or as an outlet to stock up on staples at home.

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We had a fun time simply browsing the stalls and tasting the flavors of Florence from farm to table. Lunch for the day was fresh paninis with basil, mozzarella and the most flavorful tomatoes I have ever tasted.

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Enjoying lunch on the steps of Central Market.

Haggle at the San Lorenzo Market – Directly next to the Central Market, the San Lorenzo market boasts myriad stalls selling all things leather, such as purses, coats, belts and wallets. Most of the stalls are run by friendly Iranians. Be aware that they are actually selling South American leather that was tailored in Italy – not wholly made in Italy. It’s a fun place to simply people watch and chat with the vendors. If you are in the market to shop, come prepared to bargain hard!

Gorge on Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery – Do take a few hours to wander the grand halls of one of the most famous museums in the western world, the Uffizi. Though slightly overwhelming with its plethora of statues, Italian paintings, Madonnas and other religious art, the Uffizi boasts timeless masterpieces from many of history’s greatest.

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Botticelli’s lyrical Birth of Venus, in which the Classical goddess of love and beauty is brought to life, is housed here along with treasures by Raphael, Caravaggio and Titian. I’ll admit that my enthusiasm for art dipped a bit after wandering through the twenty-something room of the Uffizi. Bring a snack and take advantage of the benches that line the grand hallway to sit for a spell.

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Attend an intimate opera performance – Our journey into Italian opera was a bit of a last minute decision. After browsing websites for an evening activity in Florence, we stumbled upon the operatic performances at the Santa Monaca. This intimate 15th-century church sits on the south side of the Arno River. It is beautifully decorated with paintings and ornate statues, and only seats about 70 people. The “beginners guide to opera” program features arias from La Traviata, La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, the Marriage of Figaro, and the Barber of Seville. The church has fantastic “live” acoustics, the piano player never skipped a beat and the sweet singer hit all of her high notes with emotion-infused perfection.

operaflorenceBWander and experience the real Florence – My favorite part of Florence was the eye-catching sights of typical every day life. Spend time strolling the winding cobblestones that weave through the city. Spy unique locals and follow them for a bit.
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Discover alleys dabbled with historic sights and throw a coin in a bubbling fountains. Take a bike ride through a burgeoning park.

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Hang out and people watch in the Piazza della Signoria. Cross the Ponte Vecchio and admire reflections on the Arno River. Spend an afternoon snapping photos of colorful wooden shutters or climb the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo to see magnificent panoramic views,

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However you decide to spend your time in Florence, you are sure to leave with heart and soul brimming with beautiful memories.

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