Italy is dotted from head to toe with beautiful cities, and Florence (Firenze), frequently sits high within the top 5 for culture and sheer historical beauty. The city is often considered the capital of Tuscany, the Italian region highly noted for its World Heritage sites and beautiful landscapes of rolling hills and cypress trees, and it’s not hard to see why when you arrive here.
It’s an easy walk from the train station directly into the centre of Florence. Your first views will likely be of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, St. Johns Baptistery and Cathedral (Duomo) of Santa Maria del Fiore… and they will leave you spell bound.
CURRENCY | Euro
TIME NEEDED | 1 – 3 days (time to get through the galleries, gardens and museums!)
SEASONS & WEATHER | Mild in winter, hot in summer. Visit anytime, but spring, summer, autumn should guarantee better weather.
LANGUAGES | Italian, but English is widely spoken
HOW TO SAY HELLO | Ciao
HOW TO SAY THANK YOU | Grazie
TRANSPORT | Walking and bicycle are best
NEAREST AIRPORT | Florence airport (FLR), however flying to Pisa and catching the train to Florence can be cheaper!
NEAREST TRAIN STATION | Florence Central Station (Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station)
THINGS TO VISIT, PLACES TO SEE
Florence is packed full of history and culture, not to mention crowds, so if you’re determined to do it all you really need at least two days. It’s iconic monuments and architecture draw in people from around the world, so if crowds or queues frustrate you, look to travel in the off season or pre-book tickets for some of the more famous attractions.
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella | As you walk out into the sunshine from the central train station this beautifully styled church will give you a taste of the beautiful gothic architecture that is to come.
The Piazza del Duomo | Home to the famous trio of gothic architecture Florence Cathedral, The Baptistery of St. John and Giotto’s Bell Tower. You will need to book a ticket to visit each of these (book an OPA Pass for each attraction plus more at €18).
Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell’Accademia) | A small but hugely popular gallery of sculptures. Incredibly famous for it houses the original ‘David’ statue, by Michelangelo. Be sure to pre-book for this too!
Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence | (Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze) Another dramatic example of gothic style adorns this church, it’s home to a number of frescos as well as, interestingly, the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo.
Palazzo Vecchio & Piazza della Signoria | This palace is now the town hall of Florence and the square that lies at its entrance is home to a number of impressive statues, from a statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa from the 1500’s, to a replica statue of David.
The Ufizi Palace and Gallery | Home to some of the most recognisable renaissance art, like the Birth of Venus and other notable works from Botticelli. I wandered around here in the late afternoon, and the view from the gallery with long shadows and a golden hue reflected in the Arno river was beautiful.
Ponte Vecchio | This was my favourite place for photos in Florence, especially in the early evening. It’s a beautiful arched bridge across the Arno River, lined with a collection of peach and warmly coloured shops. Once home simply to merchants and farmers selling wares and produce, you’ll now find twinkling jewellers and watch shops.
It also links the two sides of the river with a secret passageway called the ‘Corridoio Vasariano‘, with one end situated in Palazzo Vecchio and the other in Palazzo Pitti. It’s currently undergoing renovation so not accessible to the public, but still a great area to stop for gelato and wander across the bridge wondering about all the royalty and dignitaries who once ambled along it’s 1km length, hidden from the public eye.
Pitti Palace & Forte di Belvedere | Pitti palace is home to galleries of renaissance artwork from the masters. Forte di Belvedere offers beautiful views back across the city, as well as being an incredible piece of architecture from the 1500’s.
The Gardens | The Boboli Gardens are an exquisite collection of manicured public gardens. If you’re visiting in spring head over to Giardino Bardini too to see the tunnel of Wisterias in bloom. If you’re there in summer, head to Giardino delle Rose to see terraces of sweet smelling roses in bloom with views of the city in the background.
Piazzale Michelangelo | From the Gardens, wander across to this square for a beautiful view back across the River Arno and city. For beautiful photos head here at sunrise, although morning, noon or night the view will be incredible.
Just Meander! | Wander through the narrow streets and alleyways, past tiny market stalls and street artists. Browse art shops, high fashion boutiques, and the selection of gelato on offer in all of the Gelateria’s. Florence is a fairly compact city (unlike London which sprawls for miles), so it’s the perfect place to explore on foot, every corner you turn harbouring a museum, hidden piazza, statue or viewpoint.
PLACES TO EAT
For Coffee | Caffè Rosanò (£ Independent), Mo’ Si Caffetteria Alla Vecchia Maniera ( £ Independent), Le Vespe Cafe ( ££-£££ Independent, also great for breakfast!) among so many others!
La Loggia degli Albizi | £ | Great for breakfast, with amazing pastries, snacks and coffee on offer!
Gustarium | £ | Located in the heart of the city, it’s all about great service and exceptional pizza here. With good vegetarian and vegan options too, it’s a perfect place to stop off for lunch.
Panini Toscani | £ | Another Italian classic. The Panini. And it’s done very well here. Vegetarian options are available, and it’s located right next to the Duomo. Perfect if you’re queueing to head up into the Duomo with someone and one of you can dash off here to get everyone a panini!
Ristorante Il Ricettario | ££-£££ | With a great central location and a menu full of traditional tuscan dishes, hearty but at a good price too. With vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options too!
Degusteria Italiana agli Uffizi | ££-£££ | Located near the Uffizi gallery, this restaurant may be small in size, but it more than makes up for it with the gourmet food on offer. Likely to soon have a Michelin star!
PLACES TO STAY
BUDGET | £
Hostel Archi Rossi | A stylish hostel with lots of room options, from dorms to deluxe private rooms! Close to the train station, and with it’s own garden for you to relax in after spending the day on your feet!
Hotel Dali | A simple and cosy hotel, set quite literally in the heart of Florence. Look to your left as you step out the door and the Duomo is there.
MID-RANGE | ££
TSH Florence Lavagnini | Extremely stylish and modern accommodation, close to the train station, with a little walk into town of roughly 18 minutes. The view from the rooftop pool looks breathtaking.
Hotel Paris | In the heart of the city and set within a 17th century palace. Dine underneath frescoes across the ceiling of the dining room or sit outside on the sun filled terrace to cradle your cappuccino. Each room has it’s own opulent decorative twist.
LUXURY/SPECIAL OCCASION | £££
Art Hotel Villa Agape | A little over a mile away from the centre, on the south side of the river sits this charming Tuscan villa. A free shuttle takes you into the heart of the city, but with a beautiful maze of gardens to explore with quintessential cypress trees, staying here would be the perfect escape from the bustle of the city.