Last summer, my friend took her daughter on a surprise birthday trip to Italy. (Was she in for an incredible surprise or what?) Several weeks before the trip, my friend emailed and asked,
“If we had two extra days to tour around,
would you suggest Rome or Florence?”
Good question. Hard answer.
That’s like trying to determine whether bacio gelato, a delicious blend of chocolate and hazelnut is better than pistacchio gelato (no need to translate that one). Both are equally delicious. It just depends on what you like and what you’re in the mood for.
The same is true for Rome or Florence. They’re both amazing destinations. But if you had to choose a few extra days in one or the other, it would depend—on you.
What do you like? What’s your travel style?
Your palate alone may influence where you go. The food in both places is great. Sometimes you may crave some robust local Florentine cuisine, and other times a good slice of “pizza rossa” (Rome) is what the doctor ordered.
Rome feels vibrant and full of life. Walk down the streets in Rome and it seems to whisper, “I’m a happening place. Aren’t you just lovin’ it?” Part of the excitement comes from the nearly three million residents and tons of things to do and see. You could spend days in Rome and not see everything.
On the other hand, because Rome stretches close to 500 square miles, it doesn’t always feel crowded. (Unless, of course, you’re traveling during high season and happen to be visiting Trevi fountain.) There’s space to breathe, to wander, to shop, to relax at a café over the strong, black coffee Rome is known for.
In Rome you’ve got all the marks of a major metropolis juxtaposed with antiquities that date well before the time of Christ. High-end galleries and boutiques hug the avenues that lead to marvels like the Pantheon. The metro line runs through the same city where chariots once raced at Circus Maximus.
And the monuments? Sigh. Let’s just say there’s a reason over six million people visit Rome every year.
In comparison, Florence has an almost small-town feel. The historic center fits into a loop just twenty miles squared. You can walk from the old north gate to the south gate in about forty minutes.
Though quarters may feel a little tight (okay, very tight) when too many tourists flood Florence, that’s easily remedied. Within minutes, you can travel to the outskirts and experience the authentic Italy countryside that rings the city.
Florence oozes cultural sophistication. It’s the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci; Michelangelo; Cimabue, father of Italian painting; and Brunelleschi and Donatello founders of the Renaissance. Art schools, academies and cultural centers sit side by side Renaissance masterpieces. Our guide once said, “Florence is like an open-air museum.” And it’s true.
So if you have a few extra days, should you choose Rome or Florence? The best answer is to know what YOU like and enjoy!
Having been to both cities numerous times, I prefer small town Florence in spite of the tourist plugged streets. I can walk to everything worth seeing.
It IS nice to be able to walk it all!
Florence. I’d want to see as much Renaissance art as possible.
Well written! You hit the nail on the head. Both are must-sees, but I so connected with the smaller feel and museums in Florence. We had trouble getting around in Rome but I did leave wishing I had had more time to see more! Investing in tours allowed us to experience more.