The renaissance city of Florence is filled with local university students, historic museums and world famous sculptures. Whether you’re an art lover, a history buff or just an appreciator of all things Italian, Florence is a city that lives and breathes its rich culture and history.
How to get there
Florence is well connected throughout Italy, with all major cities offering direct train or bus routes to the city. Some neighbouring countries also offer direct transport to Florence, check out FlixBus’s route map. Be mindful that there are 2 train stations in Florence; Firenze Santa Maria Novella or Stazione di Santa Maria, so be sure to head to the right one.
How to get around
Buses run throughout the town regularly, however Florence is easily walkable. Enjoy the sights and architecture and take your time to stroll through the town. See Google Maps for up to date bus times.
Where to eat
I Fratellini is a tiny, hole in the wall store selling cheap but tasty sandwiches, right in the heart of town. For lunch, grab yourself a sandwich and glass of wine for under €8 and continue to explore the streets.
Tuscan wines are everywhere throughout the town, and for the best taste and value you cannot go past Bacco Nudo wine store. This low-ceiling, dark, cellar style shop offers fresh wines poured straight from the barrels into unlabelled glass bottles, then they’ll cork it right in front of you. You’ll pay around €4 for a bottle, and they’ll give you a discount next time if you bring back the bottle.
If you have the money to splurge, (and I mean splurge), treat yourself to dinner at La Giostra. Tucked away on a little back street, you’d miss it if you weren’t looking for it. The candles and string lights dimly light the photos on the walls of all the many celebrities who have dined here, from George Lucas to Brad Pitt. The eccentric chef Valeria Piccini has another two-Michelin star restaurant in Montemaro, and despite some of the bottles of wine costing over 300, the menu is quite reasonable considering. Highly recommend the pear ravioli – incredible.
Where to stay
Florence is a high on many backpacker’s lists, meaning lots of hostels to choose from. There are over 100 hostels listed on Hostelworld, with the average price per night is around €18. As always, book early for the best choices. Another alternative is to check on couch surfing for hosts. Because of the amount of Study Abroad students temporarily living in Florence & willing to share their home, the chances of landing a host is a lot higher.
An idea of costs for one day in Florence
€38 per day
– Hostel: €18 per night
– Free Breakfast at Hostel
– Sandwich for lunch: €5
– Gelato: €3
– Home-cooked dinner with bottle of wine: €12
How long to spend in Florence
One can easily spend a week in Florence and still feel the need to prolong leaving. Depending on your schedule, you can squeeze all the main sights within 3 full days, but if you have the ability, stretch it out to 5.
What to see and do in Florence
One of the most popular attractions in Florence is the il Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore). Taking 170 years to build, this impressive dome and intricate façade is Florence’s main attraction. Entering the cathedral is free, or for €15 you can climb the 463 steps up to the top for a panoramic vista across the city, then explore the dome’s interior where you can get up close to Giorgio Vasari’s incredible frescoes of the Last Judgment.
The Boboli Gardens are located in central Florence and displays a range of stunning sixteenth to eighteenth century sculptures, garden temples, fountains, flora an array of Roman artefacts. It is open from 8am to 6.30pm and entry costs €7.
Statue of David
Michaelangelo’s Statue of David arguably the most recognised sculpture in the Western World and an absolute must-see during your stay. The original is housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia and will surprise you with its height in real life, standing at over 5 metres tall. Entry starts at €6.50 but if there is an exhibition (and there usually always is!) tickets rise to up to €20. Or, if you’re there on the first Sunday of the month, entry is free. Just be sure to arrive early as cues start to stretch around the block as the day progresses. If you miss the real deal, there is also a replica standing in Piazza della Signoria.
Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy
This is one of the oldest operating pharmacy in the world, still with 800 year old recipes from monks housed in an extraordinary original building.
Tuscany Countryside Day Trips
While Florence is considered part of the Tuscany region, buses run regularly to many nearby small towns to take you to the Tuscan countryside you’ve read so much about. Siena, Fiosole and Gaiole are all great day trips where you can explore traditional Tuscan towns, vineyards and endless rolling hills.
Best Tuscany Day Trips from Florence
Tuscany is best discovered with a car, but if this isn't possible there's still plenty to see using the local bus routes! You can even take yourself on a self-guided wine tasting adventure.
Florence and its region have held a reputation for quality fashion and leather production for hundreds of years. Both San Lorenzo Market and Mercato Nuovo are bustling outdoor markets long known for their array of souvenirs and leather goods.
If you are wanting to purchase a nice leather wallet, bag or belt, it doesn’t particularly matter whether you’re in a bustling street market or a high-end boutique, you can find a bargain if you know what good quality leather looks like:
Aroma: Real leather should smell musky and natural. Steer clear of anything that smells like synthetics or chemicals.
Colour: The highest quality leather should retain its natural brown or tan colours and will easily show the grain of the material. Dyes are often used to mask the quality of the leather, especially if it only lies on the surface.
Texture: The leather should feel smooth, flexible, soft, not stiff or rough.
Stitching: The stitching should be small and close together, tight and even.
Pisa Day Trip
The cities of Florence and Pisa lie less than 100km apart, and the easiest way to get from Florence to Pisa is by train. The train trip takes about an hour one-way and requires no transfers. You can read more about Pisa here.