Florence is home to some of the most renowned examples of Renaissance art and architecture in the world. It’s also the capital of Italy’s Tuscany wine region and effortlessly romantic no matter how you see it. From centuries-old streets to modern restaurants serving innovate cuisine, Florence is truly a city like no other.
When To Visit Florence And How Long To Stay
While there’s no ‘wrong’ time to visit Florence per se, we highly recommend planning a trip for the spring or fall seasons. That said, December is also a beautiful time to visit, what with the vibrant holiday decorations; just be prepared to brave the cold, as it can get quite chilly in winter.
Of course, if you plan to spend a lot of time indoors (think museums and churches), weather may play a less important role compared to crowd sizes. Speaking of crowds, off-season travel is your best bet for avoiding too many fellow tourists. It can be quite cool in temperature until April and outdoor seating in restaurants typically begin towards the end of spring, so these are also things to keep in mind.
We suggest planning at least 2 full days in Florence (a third is ideal). This will allow you to make the most of the city.
Remember, Florence is known for its art galleries, so it’s important to be aware of how long it actually takes to visit a museum. You might think that you can hit up all of the major museums in a day, but you would be dead wrong. A stroll through an art gallery while truly appreciating the works of art on display could take anywhere up to 4-5 hours of a day and museums aren't open 24/7, so it is important to plan accordingly if you wish to visit the museums.
Transportation To And Within Florence
The Amerigo Vespucci Airport is approximately 12 kilometres away from the center of Florence and only 4 kilometres away from the outskirts of the city. The "Vola in bus" shuttle (Busitalia SITA Nord) can be utilised to get to the Santa Maria Novella railway station in the centre, which takes 20 minutes and costs 6 euros for a one-way ticket and 10 euros for a return ticket.
Within Florence, the bus is an efficient way to travel around, but most of Downtown Florence can be covered by walking. A single ticket is valid for 90 minutes, can be used for one journey, and can be bought from ATAF booths throughout the city. The ticket must be bought before boarding a bus. Sometimes traffic makes travelling by bus less effective than simply walking. However, walking allows travelers to explore at one’s own pace, as well as discover for themselves what they like about the city. Florence also has a new tram line with 14 stops.
Florence’s Must-See Sights
Historic Centre Of Florence
An official UNESCO World Heritage Site, Florence’s beautiful city center houses the works of Michelangelo and many other Renaissance artists; The Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria, and the Uffizi are located here.
Perhaps Florence’s most iconic landmark, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore features a marble facade and an ‘octagonal’ Renaissance dome. The masterpiece of a cathedral began construction in 1294, and wasn’t completed until 1436.
Galleria Degli Uffizi
Don’t leave town without entering the Galleria degli Uffizi . It houses the famous paintings of Botticelli, including "Primavera" and "Nascita di Venere".
You’ll surely recognize Ponte Vecchio from the photos. It’s a medieval stone bridge and a major photo opt for travelers. It’s also the city’s oldest bridge that wasn’t destroyed in World War II.
Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio is a fortified palace from the Middle Ages featuring Romanesque and Renaissance architecture.
Piazza Della Signoria
You’ll know when you’ve stumbled upon the Piazza della Signoria; the square is at the heart of the city and in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
PRO TIP: Consider getting the "Firenze Card", which is the official museum pass for Florence. It costs 85 euros per person and is valid for 72 hours and allows free entrance for EU citizens under the age of 18 to accompany the cardholder (i.e. if the parents have the Firenze Card). It allows access to the Uffizi, Accademia, Giotto's bell tower, and many other museums and sites. For an additional 5 euros, getting the Firenze Card+ allows unlimited travel on ATAF/Linea tram and bus lines for those 72 hours. If you only want to visit one or two museums, it is best to just book tickets for those museums than getting the pass.
Top Local Delicacies To Try
Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini E Tartufo
You’ll see many different types of Pasta throughout Florence and tagliatelle is one of the most traditional. It’s a thin, flat, and long pasta usually served in a mushroom sauce with pieces of vegetables. It also contains truffle and porcini mushrooms.
Pappardelle Al Cinghiale
This is a flat, wide pasta that is served with a sauce like ragu and wild boar (cinghiale) meat.
Bistecca Alla Fiorentina
Move over, vegetarians. The Bistecca alla Fiorentina ia a very large cut of t-bone steak that is grilled over roasted chestnuts.
Consider this your go-to medieval, Florentine sandwich with thinly-sliced and seasoned offal.
Really no explanation needed. Gelato is Italian ice cream and Florence has some of the best gelato found in the country.
When you see Tagliere on the menu, expect a meat and cheese platter. It’s a popular choice for a light meal or snack and best shared with friends before dinnertime.
This is a type of Italian biscotti (biscuits) made with almond.
Must-Try Food And Drink
Indulge on delicious fare from this off-the-beaten-path restaurant. There’s something for every taste and temperament here, from seafood pastas and pizza baked in a wood-fired oven to sweet treats to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Located in the bustling area of Santa Croce, this bar is a great spot for an aperitif. The interior decor is refined and minimal, with high ceilings and wooden accents. Since it’s close to many attractions, Moya makes for an easy mid-day break.
Sorry vegetarians, this one’s not for you. Florence is a city of meat lovers and you can taste some pretty amazing meats (especially the t-bone steak) at Officina Della Bistecca. In traditional fashion, steak portions are large, so consider sharing.
Whether you’re craving a cup of coffee or a craft cocktail, Idyllium hits the spot. The view is just as great as the cocktails, so pull up a seat and stay awhile. On certain nights, there’s live music where local bands perform their latest tracks.
Venture Into The Medici Chapels
A wander through the Medici Chapels, two structures at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, might reveal some of Michelangelo’s hidden drawings on the walls of a secret room. Dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, the chapels were built as a place to celebrate the Medici family.
Walk Through The Vasari Corridor
The Medicis used to travel through this passageway in private and now, you can, too. It begins through a secret entrance in the Uffizi and extends for almost a kilometre. You’ll need to make an appointment in advance, so plan accordingly.
Indulge In A Wine Tasting In Nearby Tuscany
Meet the bus at Piazzale Montelungo to head on your afternoon Small Group Wine Tasting Experience in Tuscany. The small group experience includes 6 wine samples typical of the region. A great option for those spending longer than 2 full days in the city.
Take A Traditional Tuscan Cooking Class
Learn the art of Tuscan cooking with an intimate class at Scuola di Cucina di Lella Cesari Ciampoli Gabriella. You’ll try your hand at 5 different dishes: soup, pasta, meat, side dish, and dessert. Of course, the best part is eating the fruits of your labor at the end of class.
This is considered the top neighborhood in Florence to visit. Popular among locals and tourists alike, Sant’Ambrogio is perhaps the best location for both chic and traditional restaurants.
In this neighborhood, you’ll find the site of the Basilica di Santa Croce and part of the historic centre of the city of Florence. It is a great area for dining and relaxing at cafes, as well as visiting Florence’s major attractions
If you’re a fan of art, you’ll find your ‘home away from home’ in San Niccolò. The neighborhood is full of modern, alternative art galleries and funky street art. It is popular with the locals and has the Piazzale Michelangelo.
This small neighborhood located on the river has many new restaurants as well as great nightlife options. Perfect for dinner followed by drinks.
Santo Spirito is a promising, new scene for young artists. Many markets are hosted in this neighborhood each month. It is off the beaten path and slowly becoming more popular among young travelers.