Whenever someone brings up Italy, Rome isn’t usually far behind. It’s the city that most tourists associate traveling with, and I’d argue that a lot of people would consider it their dream trip. It was certainly mine.
Just north of Rome, however, is Florence – a second, smaller city that doesn’t get as much attention from tourists as Rome, but is buzzing nonetheless with many similar happenings.
When I brought up that I was visiting both regions, some people asked me which I was most excited for – or, why I was choosing to visit Florence instead of just going to Rome. And, honestly, I didn’t know very much about Florence. I didn’t even really realize that it is in the Tuscany region, as I’m a new red-wine lover. But, my good friend who was meeting me in Italy said that she had heard Florence was the place to be. So, we went for about a week. Then, after our trip, I headed down to Rome to meet a second friend for a week. It was a lot of pasta, folks. A lot.
So, if you only have a week to spend in Italy, what’s worth it? I’m not here to tell you which city is better, because you really have to make that judgment for yourself. But, I can tell you what I loved and what I didn’t like so much about both cities, and maybe it’ll help you out as you’re planning your next Italian vacation.
- It’s very walkable
- It’s in the Tuscany region which means you are crazy close to Cinque Terre (my favorite part of Italy, honestly) and wine tours in tiny vineyards in Chianti (totally worth it)
- There are tons of small cobblestone roads that are straight out of a fairytale
- The Uffizi is a huge art gallery that has tons of notable pieces, like Botticelli’s Birth Of Venus
- There are sculptures everywhere, including replicas of Michaelangelo’s David
- The food alone is worth the plane ticket
- It feels pretty safe
- People are generally very nice
- Things are a little more expensive here
- There is a lot of art, but there is less to see
- You can explore Florence itself in about two full days
- Almost every restaurant has a “table fee” where you pay 2-3 Euros per person to sit
- There is so, so much to see. Almost everything is beautiful and historical
- The gelato is seriously the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve now eaten a lot of gelato)
- Food is a little cheaper because there are a million restaurants
- There’s a sparkling water fountain by the Colosseum
- Everything about the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel
- You can get free tickets to hear the Pope speak
- All of the churches are literal works of art
- People are so friendly, especially if you learn a few words in Italian
- It’s a bigger city than Florence, so it’s not as easy to walk around. The metro and transportation was always super crowded, so that wasn’t a very appealing option
- There are so many people and tourists everywhere
- It doesn’t feel as safe as Florence because of all the people. You have to be extra-diligent in crowds and people are always trying to sell you things
- Parts of Rome are pretty dirty, and the air kinda smells like New York City
- There are always lines to wait in
If you like smaller cities (or maybe aren’t as into walking), I’d choose to go to Florence. It is smaller, but it’s Rome’s charming younger brother that doesn’t get as much attention (i.e., less lines). If you love history, you should go to Rome. It’s a beautiful city if you’re willing to walk it, and it has some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Go have gelato at Frigidarium.
And, Italy’s Italy. You’ll never regret choosing either place.