Florence is the Tom Brady of Italy. It isn’t anybody’s first pick, or second pick, maybe not
their third, but once you see it in action you instantly realize you screwed up. Florence
doesn’t have the monuments or the ancient ruins, that’s because that’s not what
Florence is. Florence is the vibrant, romantic, relaxing countryside of Italy God painted
with his personal paintbrush. Say what you want about Rome but no one retires and
buys a villa in Rome. That’s what Florence is for.
Did you know there is an actual term, “Stendhal Syndrome,” coined in Florence
because the city’s beauty can actually make people pass out? As the birthplace of
Michelangelo and considered the cradle of the Renaissance, the Tuscany area of Italy
meant to remind you to slow down and smell the Sangiovese. In Florence the sun seems
to lay on the countryside rather than beat it down as if there is an agreement with
nature in this part of the country. All the complaints you will have about the bigger cities
in Italy will be forgotten after your stay in the beautiful Florence.
The interior of the town will not have a metro system and walking is your best bet to
get around. Taxis are abundant if needed. If you want to venture out to the countryside
I would recommend buying a tour over renting a car. Both are options but the tiny
cobble stone streets of Florence are hard to navigate, narrow and congested.
One of the many perks of Florence is how easy and accessible it is from the outside. You
should have no problem arriving by plane or train.
Coming from the Florence Airport (FLC) the best way currently is to take the T2 line from
the airport straight to the city center in about 20 minutes for around $2.
Busses and Taxies are also available if you would rather have the stress-filled car ride
through the city as tourist dodge your cab in the narrow alleys for $22 USD.
If you come in by train you will enter the Santa Maria Novella train station, which sits
right in the middle of the city center. Wherever you are staying should not be a far walk
from this train station.
Best Things To Do in Florence
- Tuscany Wine Tasting
This area is one of the premiere wine countries in the entire world. People come
from across the globe just to throw back glasses of the some of the world’s bestwine. You can rent a car and do your own tour or purchase one of the many wine and vineyard tours starting about $50 USD and up.
- Gawk at the Galleria dell’Accademia and Michelangelo’s David
You can’t really travel all the way to Florence and not see one of the most
recognizable marble statues in the world. Pictures do not do justice to the
majesty that is Michelangelo’s David marble masterpiece. The Accademia also
has a vast collection of Italian art covering several time periods. Price: $25
- Admire the Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore)
Not that you could miss it, but the Duomo is the massive gothic cathedral
dominating the Florence skyline. The 600 year old Catholic Church is the iconic
image of Florence and a must see sight in the city. Admission is free but you
must dress to their standards showing no shoulders or legs and no hats or
- Take a Day Trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
It’s time to take that picture of you saving the world from the falling tower. It
takes about 1.5 hours by train or 1.2 hours by car one way to get from Florence
to the most famous mistake in Italy. Here isn’t much to do here besides check
out the tower but it’s one of those things you want to see in person. Bus: $10,
Train: $20, Taxi: $15 round trip.
- Watch A Sunset from Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is one of the most interesting and confusing bridges you will
ever see and a tourist staple in Florence. Fairly narrow and not very long, the
stone bridge is lined with gold and jewelry shops. But the payoff is the view you
get if you can manage yourself to the center. Hit the bridge at the right time and
you will get an amazing picture to take home with you.
- Rent A Vespa
You can rent your own or go in a group tour but a Vespa is an Italian right of
passage and there is nowhere better to zip around than the streets of Florence
and into the Tuscany country side. Rent: $55 USD
- Take A Pizza Cooking Class
Imagine telling everyone the place you learned to make pizza was no other than
Florence, Italy. Even if you are terrible at it, you still have that clout. Learn the
secrets of the trade from those who grew up doing it best. The classes vary in
time from an hour to four hours. Price: $70 and up.
- Stand Around in the Piazza della Signoria
Because Florence is not very big, if you walk around for a while you will
eventually make your way to this town square. The square is lined with amazing bronze statues and eye-catching buildings like the Palazoo Vecchio. This is a must do in Florence.
- Hike to the Piazzale Michelangelo
This was one a secret spot for those of us in the know, but has grown in
popularity over the years. This piazzale is a short hike up a hillside where you will
come to an oxidized bronze statue of David. But what will take your breath away
is the panoramic view of the Florence skyline. Take a few pictures but remember
to relax and take in the view.
- Cinque Terre Day trip
The bright colors of the costal town built into the mountainside is something you
have never seen before. Besides taking pictures for your Facebook friends you
can also do some shopping and grab some great food here. NOTE: You can also
do the Pisa/Cinque Terre combo by train or tour. It will be about 3 hours on a
train and 2 hours in a car from Florence one way. Train: $50 round trip. Bus: $20
(but schedule is less convenient)
- Horseback Riding in Tuscany
Who wouldn’t want to throw back some tasty win and take a romantic stroll
through the Tuscan hillsides? This once in a lifetime experience engulfs you in
the laidback Florence style. The tours run about 5 hours and price at around
- Meander the Uffizi Gallery
The best museum in all of Florence they harbor some of the best examples of
Renaissance artwork in the world including works by Rembrandt, da Vinci,
Michelangelo, Raphael and the famous “The Birth of Venus.” Entry Fee: $20
- Munch on Some Aperitivo
Aperitivo Is the Italian version of happy hour (6:30pm – 9:30om), but with a
classy Italian spin. Do as the locals do and have a midday snack of cheeses,
olives, and shaved meets washed down with local wine. This is what I mean
when I say Florence is amazing. Price: Around $10-$15
- Leonardo Interactive Museum
This is the only museum of its kind as it takes actual Leonardo da Vinci inventions
and allows you to put them into action. This is a cool experience, especially if you
are looking for family activities. Price: $8
- Check out the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
The bland exterior of this art museum is a work of deception because the interior
is its own work of art, itself. Besides the marble statues on exhibit, the
architecture will leave you awe-inspired. A ticket also gets you access to off limits areas of the Duomo including the dome. Price: $30 – Check official website as they have three different ticket types with stipulations.
Free (and Cheap) Things to Do in Florence
- Watch Sunset from Ponte Vecchio
Translating to the “Old Bridge” this one of a kind medieval stone bridge is the
perfect spot to make your way to as the sun goes down over the Arno River.
- Piazzale Michelangelo
One of the best things to do, (free or not) in Florence is take the short hike up to
this small town square. Grab some gelato while you relax and take in the
priceless panoramic view of the Florence skyline. Price: Free
- Piazza della Signoria
The town square that is essential to a Florence visit isn’t your average town
square. The Piazza della Signoria is lined with priceless bronze and marble
statues that date back half a century. Price: Free
- Do Your Own Wine Tasting at Le Cascine Park
This sprawling park just outside the city is an ideal place to grab some cheap
bottles of Tuscan wine and sit on the bank of the Arno River and take in the
Tuscan sun. Price: Free
- Have Aperitivos at the Oblate Library Terrace
This public library welcomes you to relax under the terrace of this city overlook
while you snack on Italian appetizers with local bookworms. The view is an
unbelievable picture of the city including the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
dome. Price: Free
- Find The Fake Davids
Of course Florence is home to the Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece, Dave, but
it is also speckled with dozens of fake (or replica) David statues. Walk the streets
and see if you can discover all the fake Davids in Florence. Price: Free
- Mercato Centrale Firenze
This large glass-walled market is full of fresh fruits, vegetables, wines, pastas,
and butcher shops. This is basically your one stop Italian shop in the middle of
the city. Entrance Fee: Free
- Check Out the Piazza Santo Spirito
Highlighted by the Basilica of Santo Spirito, this piazza is the center of the artisan
quarters and a great place to hit a market or antique fair. Price: Free
- Walk the Vasari Corrido
Is a unique elevated corridor that connects Palazzo Vecchio, the Palazzo Pitti, the
Uffiziz Gallar, runs the bank of the Arno and crosses with river with the Ponte
Vecchio. It is an underrated piece of picturesque architecture spawning through
the city. Price: Free
- Check out the (OTHER) Last Supper
The Cenacolo di Sant’Apollonia is once place of worship, turned museum, which
harbors Florence’s very own version of the famous Last Supper fresco. Not
painted by da Vinci as the one in Mulan is, but by Andrea del Castagno in 1450.
40 years before the da Vinci painting.
Best Sights To See in Florence
- Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore)
The grandest sight in the whole city has to be the larger than life cathedral dome
that dominates the city skyline. It is a landmark in itself and creates a great
photographer out of all of us. MUST SEE
- Michelangelo’s David
Galleria dell’Accademia holds quite possibly the worlds most famous marble
statue. David’s commanding presence can only be fully comprehended in person.
- Leaning Tower of Pisa
A short half day trip away brings you to one of the most recognizable sights in all
of Italy and one of the best photo opps you will get. MUST SEE
- Piazza della Signoria This is not your simply outdoor public square. With statues and gorgeous buildings surrounding you, you wont know where to look. It is a must see. MUST SEE
- Piazzale Michelangelo
If you want that postcard panoramic view of the city with the Santa Maria del
Flore dome on display, you can’t pass on this small town square at the top of the
hill. MUST SEE
- Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
This museum is packed with dazzling Renaissance artwork that was originally
made for the Duomo but now on display in a more viewer friendly display.
- Basilica di Santa Croce
This is an incredibly unique basilica made in a perfectly symmetrical Gothic and
Renaissance style. Its all white exterior is simply heavenly as it stands among the
other structures in the city. IF YOU HAVE TIME
- Baptistery (Battistero)
Also known as the Baptistery of Saint John, this building commands your
attention while the other building surround it. As interesting as it is on the
outside, the best sight is inside when you look up at the octagonal mosaic. IF
YOU HAVE TIME
- Ponte Vecchio
You will never see a bridge exactly like this one. It is not only interesting and
unique but also beautiful, simply waiting to turn you into a photographer. IF
YOU HAVE TIME
- The Palazoo Vecchio From Between the Uffizi
This sight has to be done just right. Wait till night fall when the buildings are
illuminated, then walk in-between the pillars of the Uffizi Gallery to capture a
magnificent sight as the Palazoo Vecchio emerges. MUST SEE
Veteran Tips For Florence
Some Lines Will Be Long
Because I was cheap I remember waiting in line to enter the Galleria dell’Accademia and
see the David for a very long time. If you have more money than time it could be worth
it to purchase skip the light tickets.
Don’t drive in Florence
The cobble stone roads are so narrow, sometimes two cars can not pass and one has to
reverse. Meanwhile the locals drive like they are in the Monaco Grand Prix. Just skip out
on the driving. You can walk basically everywhere in the city you need to go.
First Sunday Free
Between October and March you can get into select landmarks for free! This service
includes the Uffizi, Accademia, Medici Chapel, Piti Palace, Boboli Gardens among others.
Free With Student ID
Many of the museums and monuments have completely free entry if you flash a student
ID. It never hurts to try.
If you want to get the most out of your stay in Florence you really have two options:
inside the historic center or the Tuscan countryside. The historic center of Florence is so
easily accessible by train or pane, which will make it easier and cheaper. The city is
surprisingly small and very walkable from any hotel.
The Student Hotel
10 minutes walk to all attractions, this hip and modern hotel stands out for its swanky
rooftop pool and patio looking out over the city. Price: $180 – $250/night USD
YellowSquare Florence Hostel
This is the hostel version of The Student. Just as hip with a rooftop pool to match. You
can get a six-person dorm for $55/night USD.
Trattoria Za Za
This stone building, once an Italian inn turned restaurant in 1977, is an environment to
die for with food to match. This is a must stop in Florence, but keep in mind it is popular
and may be crowded. Price: $$
This white tablecloth restaurant is what every Italian restaurant across the world tries to
be. With an authentic five star atmosphere and food this is the fine dining spot in
Florence. Price: $$$$$
Best Florence Souvenirs
Bottle of Tuscan Wine
Tuscan wine is world renown and for good reason. Take a few home to share with your
friends. Just be sure to package them securely in your checked luggage.
By: Ricky S.