The Ultimate Travel Guide to Florence, Italy
Table of Contents
Florence, the capital of the Italian region of Tuscany, is often referred to as the Athens of the Middle Ages. This is because Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. Where ever you step in the beautiful city divided by the river Arno, you are surrounded by art, architecture and the reminders of great wealth as amassed by the Medici and other powerful families. They were great sponsors of such geniuses as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli whose works can be admired in Florence’s numerous museums and palaces.
Cross the legendary Ponte Vecchio in the evening, browse in the many shops which line the edges of the bridge, held up by stilts and enjoy the view of the hills of Careggi, Fiesole, and Settignano which surround the city lying in a basin between them.
Apart from art and culture, food and fashion are keywords for Florence. Home to such renowned designers as Ferragamo and Gucci, you can look at the latest fashion trends and satisfy your stomach with the meat-heavy Florentine cuisine followed by some of the typical deserts.
In this Florence Travel Guide blog, we listed helpful DIY Florence travel tips and advice on how to get around, recommended activities, places to eat, accommodation, tour packages and more.
Best time to visit
Due to its location, Florence has a nearly Mediterranean climate with hot and often humid summers. The rest of the year is best to visit. Tourism is extensive all year round, but avoid summer for that reason too.
How to get there
Florence has an airport in Peretola but doesn’t serve many international airlines. Far bigger is the Galileo Galilei International airport in nearby Pisa.
You will reach Florence by train, heading for the main train station Santa Maria Novella. It’s very big with 19 platforms, thankfully all on one level. It’s located right in the city center so you have easy access to the hotel of your choice. Plenty of taxis are available outside the station.
The city center is closed to through traffic with the exception of taxis, buses, and trams. Best buy a pass called Carta Agile for multiple uses. It’s available at tobacco shops, bars, and newspaper stalls.
Otherwise, Florence with many pedestrian zones is a city best explored on foot.
Places to stay
With many millions of visitors each year, many of whom spend the night, Florence has no shortage of accommodation for every budget.
A Teatro B&B in Via Giuseppe Verdi
For the lower budget, you may consider A Teatro B&B in Via Giuseppe Verdi.
The hotel is ideally located opposite Teatro Verdi with a bus stop nearby and within walking distance of the major sites. Rooms are clean but simple, with a private bathroom and free WiFi. Italian style breakfast is included.
Palazzo Ridolfi in Via Maggiore 13
If you have a bigger budget and appreciate historical surroundings and a romantic stay, Hotel Palazzo Ridolfi in Via Maggiore 13
is for you. The 3star hotel has a lavish décor, including bathtubs on claws and just steps away from Palacio Pitti and Ponte Vecchio. All amenities including free wifi, breakfast and a small balcony at nearly every room.
Golden Tower Hotel & Spa in Piazza Strozzi 11
For 5star luxury in a boutique hotel choose Golden Tower Hotel & Spa in Piazza Strozzi 11.
The spa is small but free of use for residents. This is a strictly non-smoking hotel with comfortable rooms, wifi and breakfast included in the price. Located in the historic center of Florence you have easy access to all major sites.
Best places to eat
A word of advice first: the mayor of Florence wants to clamp down on tourists who use museum and church steps to devour fast food and leave the rubbish lying around thus contributing to the negative side effects of mass tourism. Don’t do this! Tuscan cuisine is delicious and you want to properly enjoy it in one or more of Florence’s great restaurants.
Let’s start with Panini Toscani in Piazza del Duomo.
It may look a bit rustic, but the food is excellent, especially their typical Tuscan steak. They do have vegetarian options.
For an elegant fresh food and excellent Tuscan wine experience go to Bottega di Parigi in Via del Terzolino 3.
They strictly follow a recent law from the above-mentioned mayor that restaurants have to use only Tuscan products which prevented McDonald’s to be allowed to open in the Piazza del Duomo.
If you have a hotel with no breakfast or fancy a coffee and snack in between, visit Gran Caffe San Marco in Piazza di San Marco.
You can visit nearby David by Michelangelo with renewed strength.
The official language is Italian, but due to the huge number of tourists, you’ll have no problem with English.
Currency is the EURO. Italy is a country where cash is much appreciated, so make sure you have a good supply. Otherwise, major credit card are accepted.
WiFi is available throughout the city.
Things to do and see
Bear two things in mind before starting out on your sightseeing tour of Florence: pickpockets are a hazard in public places like the markets, Ponte Vecchio and train station. Keep your belongings hidden in well-zipped pockets of your clothing.
Secondly, the huge number of tourists year around mean long lines at the Uffici, Accademia, Basilica Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella. Purchase tickets online prior to your visit and, if possible plan your visit for the low season during the winter months.
A must see is the Galleria dell’Accademia with Michelangelo’s most famous work: the David. Religious art under the Renaissance influence by Fra Angelico will dazzle you in the Museum of Fra Angelico.
The Uffizi, near Piazza Della Signoria, is one of the most visited art museums in the world. The collections started out as a gift from the last Medici heiress to the city with the extensive art collection of the Medici and was opened to the public since 1765. Apart from the thousands of works of art, the long and narrow hallway and inner courtyard which open to the river Arno are remarkable.
Another must-see is the cathedral, Duomo, the huge dome of which dominates the Florence skyline he official name is Santa Maria del Fiore.
Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella are two fabulous churches you shouldn’t miss to visit. Of the many palaces, my favorite is Palazzo Pitti, the residence of the Medici.
If after all that art, you crave a bit of fresh air, you have the chance to visit one of several parks in Florence, one of the most beautiful being Boboli Gardens.
And, of course, a walk across Ponte Vecchio with the Arno flowing below and the quaint shops on the side.
If you really want to see the best of Florence, one day is not enough.
Best places to shop
The Florentine leather is famous and very soft. Hence a visit to the fashionable Via de Tornabuoni is a must to maybe acquire a pair of original Ferragamo shoes or a wallet from Gucci.
For a shopping mall with restaurants and cinemas in addition to shops of every kind, head for the Centro Commercial San Donato in Via Novelli.
A visit to Florence can be overwhelming given the huge amount of things to do and see. The secret is to pace yourself and take your time to enjoy with breaks in between. This way you’ll appreciate why it’s one of the most desirable destinations in the world.
Florence Travel and Tour Packages
Small Guided Tour with Fast Track Entry to Duomo and the Secret Terraces
Visit the beautiful cathedral of Florence – home to one of the most intricate pieces of architectural design in Italy. Masterfully designed by Filippo Brunelleschi at the end of the 13th century, the Duomo stands as a perfect representation of its time: the magnificent Renaissance.
Find Hotels in Florence, Italy according to your budget via Agoda.
Other Italy Related Stories:
- Gucci Restaurant in Florence
- Best Things to do in Venice
- Best things to do in Bologna
- Tour Milan in a Day
- A Northern Italy Guide: Must-See Cities in North Italy
- Top Things to Do and See in Florence, Italy
- Digesting Rich Traditions at Albergo Ristorante Asmara, Italy
- 9 Things to Experience at Oasi Zegna in the Northern Italian Alps
- Munich Travel Guide
- Beirut Travel Guide
- Cartagena Travel Guide
- Malaga Travel Guide
- Lausanne Travel Guide
- Amsterdam Travel Guide
- Lower Silesia Travel Guide
- Muscat Travel Guide
- Salzburg Travel Guide
- Marbella Travel Guide
- Berlin Travel Guide
- Amman Travel Guide
- Lisbon Travel Guide
- Milan Travel Guide
- Bordeaux Travel Guide
- Bologna Travel Guide
- Venice Travel Guide