Florence. City of the Renaissance. Home of art masterpieces, architectural icons, exquisite food and some of the best shopping in Europe. It’s captivating but also pretty intimidating when it comes to planning a trip. Here are a few tips Florence Travel Tips to bear in mind before you go.
Florence Travel Tips
Do a walking tour
There’s so much to see in Florence your head will spin. Our advice? You need to do a tour. It’ll take you past the main sights. Give you a sense of where everything is. And most importantly it’ll put all that history in perspective.
A good walking tour like this one, will have an engaging professional guide who’ll bring the Renaissance to life as you are walking the streets of this city which is basically a huge open air museum.
Pre-book the museums
Booking to climb the Cathedral’s dome is mandatory, and you can do it on the Opera del Duomo official site . For the main museums – Uffizi and the Accademia – you must pre-book your ticket online choosing date and time (see the official site) before you get there, in Spring and Summer the queues are overwhelming! Booking won’t mean you avoid the queues completely, but at least it shortens the waiting time.
=> To skip the line altogether, join a Guided Tour of the Uffizi and the Accademia that will also give an insight into the museums’ highlights.
Eat like a local
Avoid the places with scruffy menus outside the restaurant written in English and head for the out of the way Osterias and Trattorias where you can hear Italian being spoken. Order something typical like Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine T-bone). Or maybe the peasant kale stew Ribollita, tomato-based Pappa al Pomodoro, or the refreshing Panzanella.
Where to eat? We love Coco Lezzone, Perseus, the ever-popular Il Latini, and Trattoria Mario in San Lorenzo.
Don’t feel like you need to order an expensive bottle of wine. The wine is usually of a high standard in Florence. If you want something really authentic why not head for one of the stalls and sink your teeth into a Lampredotto sandwich? Did we mention its made from cow’s intestines? Yum.
See one painter at the Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery is a must when you are in Florence. But it can be challenging with the queues and crowds and the sheer amount of art to take in. Here’s a tip. Go early, pick a couple of rooms with artists you like (Caravaggio, Botticelli, Da Vinci, take your pick) and only look at their work. You’ll be able to spend far more time appreciating the paintings and you won’t leave feeling overwhelmed.
Having said that, if you do want to see more, we suggest doing a Guided Tour that takes in the highlights, you’ll skip the line and have an art expert explaining what it all means.
Go out of season
This is true for many holiday destinations, but it’s particularly relevant for Florence. In summer the centre is packed with tourists, queues for the main attractions are long, and restaurants are overflowing. Needless to say it can also get very hot.
Our advice? Plan your trip to Florence in November, or February. Sure it’s not warm, but you’ll find better deals on hotels and you’ll have the city (almost) all to yourself. Florence is mysterious and dramatic so autumn and winter are actually the perfect times to see it. Also you’ll be able to enjoy all those spectacular red wines with your Bistecca. Alla salute!
=> Find out more about the Best time to visit Florence.
See Santa Maria Novella Church
Santa Maria Novella Church is a personal favourite of ours, but curiously is a place many visitors miss. The splendid facade lightts up the busy square of the same name, just a few steps from the main train station.
This church houses chapels filled with sublime frescoes by artists like Ghirlandaio, a significant fresco by Masaccio and with its airy courtyard it’s a wonderful place to while away an afternoon.
Take a day trip
Once you’ve seen a bit of Florence it’s a good idea to explore one of the other towns in Tuscany. The good news is it’s easy to do a day trip from Florence using public transport.
Have a look at our article about the Top 8 day trips to make with public transport from Florence. You can easily get to places like Siena, Fiesole, Lucca and Pisa amongst others. They are all more or less an hour away so you’ll be able to make a proper day of it.
Alternatively, join this popular Tuscany in One Day Guided Tour, that gives you a taste of some of the region’s highlights: Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa.
=> Discover the 5 Beautiful Bridges in Italy you must see
Hang in San Frediano
San Frediano in the Oltrarno district is Florence’s official capital of cool. It’s lined with hip bars and restaurants and is the go-to place for cocktails and aperitivi in the city.
Places like Gesto serve up cocktails, tapas and tunes, while our personal favourite, the Santa Rosa Bistrot is a relaxed and unpretentious place with an urban garden where you can relax in the sun. Find out more about where to go in San Frediano .
Essential practical tips for your Florence visit
If you are driving into Florence, make sure your hotel has somewhere for you to park, and you know how to reach it. You need a permit to drive inside the ZTL (restricted area), so ask your hotel to organise one for you. Once you’ve parked your car, it’s easy and pleasant to explore Florence on foot or using buses.
Dress. When entering churches, you’ll need to make sure your shoulders are covered and you aren’t exposing too much flesh.
Learn a few words of Italian. You’ll be surprised how far a “Buongiorno” and a “Grazie” will get you.
Florence is a very safe city but yes, pickpockets do exist and you might want to hide your money and documents in a secret wallet.
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