Our quest for the most romantic cities in Europe continues with a visit to Florence. (Did you miss our take on Valencia?)
My husband Warren and I are traveling to 10 cities by train to celebrate the release of our book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World. As we celebrate 10 years of marriage -- a marriage that almost fell apart before we fixed it -- this trip is even more special for us than our regular travels. We're celebrating love!
Top 10 Romantic Things to Do in Florence
Imagining the romance of Florence is easy enough, but it is easy to get overwhelmed with the number of tourists in this historic and popular city. Take a breath, realize you can't do everything in one trip and focus on making memories that will last long after you return home.
1. Stay in a Great Hotel
Why come all the way to Florence and stay far outside the central area or in a plain hotel? The centuries-old Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni offers the comfort, convenient location and romantic setting you want. A rooftop terrace offers sweeping views of Florence, and a portion is glassed in so you can even enjoy the view during cool weather. We enjoyed the view for breakfast, at the start of our day, and by sipping Prosecco in the evenings as we watched the sun set over the Arno river. The bathtub in our room was big enough to share, and the beds and bedding were so luxurious, we felt like descendants of the Medici family.
Propose All Over Again
A short bus or taxi ride up from Florence is the Belmond Villa St. Michele, a building from the 15th century that's facade was designed by Michelangelo. The restaurant at this luxury villa has sweeping views of Florence below, which can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner. A small bar area is available for drinks, and in good weather, you can take them outside to the garden.
In the garden is a small area called the Lover's Corner, and the fashionable in Florence request a table setup here for wedding proposals. Why not propose to your lover again? We did!
Take in the View
Across the Arno River is the area of Florence called Oltarno ("the other side of the Arno"). Florence is a small, walkable city, and this includes the Oltarno side where the Piazza de Michelangelo is located. You can take the steps up or hire a bus or taxi. Either way, you'll be rewarded with an incredible view of the city and a lovely garden. Go at sunset and then enjoy a glass of wine at the cafe below and watch couples dance (or join them).
Immerse Yourself in Art
How can you not feel romantic when viewing great works of art like Michalengelo's David (at the Accademia) or Botticelli's Venus Rising (at the Uffizi)? Bypass the very unromantic long ticket lines by investing in a three-day Firenze Pass (72 Euros). To have the best museum experience during peak summer travel times, go early or go late, but never mid-day.
Enjoy a Cozy Dinner in a Side Street
Skip the big tourist restaurants and go for a quaint side street mom-and-pop, like Cacio Vino. Enjoy a glass of Prosecco with snacks for your "aperitivo" (a common drink special with two to three small snacks included) or dive into a delicious homemade lasagne made fresh daily. This restaurant only has three tables, and there were people lingering outside waiting for us to vacate ours, so be sure to get there early.
On the stroll back to your hotel, be sure to stop for a gelato!
Stroll Through the Boboli Gardens
This beautiful garden is part of the Pitti Palace, the home of the powerful Medici family. You'll be astounded at the art inside but even more so by the elaborate and enormous garden outside. Stroll for hours out here, or stop at a bench in a quiet corner and whisper sweet nothings to each other.
Walk along the Arno River
What could be more romantic than an evening stroll along the river that flows through the heart of Florence? You can even perch yourself on the walls of one of the bridges along with the locals and watch the sun go down. The city is safe for wandering into the evening, though of course, you should take normal precautions from pickpockets as you would in any heavily touristic city.
Add Some Aroma
Near the Santa Maria Novella church is a 600-year-old pharmacy formerly run by Dominican monks. Here you'll find perfumes, soaps and other body care items made from centuries-old recipes. Take back a timeless scent from Florence and you'll be able to relive your romantic times back at home.
Sample Some Wine
Whether you join a daily coach tour to see the regions outside of Florence or just make up your own wine tour by walking from enotecto to enoteca in the city, wine tasting in Florence is a delight. Learn about the regions surrounding Italy, like Chianti, and don't forget to toast your love with some bubbly Prosecco.
While we were there, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West got married at the historic Fort Belvedere, a venue that is near the gorgeous Boboli Gardens and visible from the terrace at Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni. The rental cost alone was reported to be $400,000, but you can get married in Florence for much less (though not without a lot of paperwork). And by making it low-key you'll avoid the very unromantic swarms of paparazzi.
Florence Is for Lovers
It's hard not to be romantic in a beautiful city like Florence. But the crush of tourists and the steamier weather can cause a romantic meltdown if you aren't prepared. We've learned over our years of travel to focus on only a few highlights and give ourselves plenty of time to explore the unexpected and simply enjoy the experience -- because rushing love is never romantic.