You have to visit Florence at least once for one good reason: to see perfection with your own eyes, which is represented by David by Michelangelo. The city has a lot to offer and is considered the artistic capital of Europe. Also, it is the first stop of every tourist coming to Toscana.
Things to know about Florence
Florence (it. Firenze) is also called the “city of Renaissance” and “Athens of the Middle Age”. It is the capital of Toscana, a region located right in the center of Italy and well-known for its cultural heritage, traditions, landscapes and some of the most beautiful vineyards. Numerous places in Toscana are included in the UNESCO world heritage, including the historical center in Florence, the old area in Siena, San Gimignano and the Cathedral in Pisa.
The city was founded in 59 BC and it reached its prosperity peak during the Renaissance period. Today, it attracts millions of tourists every year, some of them being interested in following the steps of Dante, Galileo and Michelangelo, some come here for shopping and some for football. The main attraction is represented by the large number of museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’ Accademia, as well as the Dome of Florence, the fourth biggest cathedral in Europe, the gardens and squares.
Florence is a city surrounded by hills and crossed by the Arno river. The climate here is temperate-humid, with Mediterranean influences, very hot summers and cold, rainy winters. That’s why the best time to visit Florence is between September-October or April-May. On the other hand, if you choose to go in May or October, it is recommended to book your flight tickets in advance, because this is the period that most tourists choose for their Florence holidays.
How to plan your holiday in Florence
For most tourists, visiting Florence is only one part of their longer holidays in Toscana. Not only the city, but the entire region is worth visiting. Florence can also be a city-break destination but remember that two days may not be enough to visit it and enjoy it to the fullest, especially if you plan to include as many museums and art galleries in your “to visit” list.
You can plan your Florence holiday on your own, without resorting to the help of travel agencies and that’s because there are many places where you can find very well-organized tours, dedicated to those who are for the first time in Florence – both informative and relaxing, leaving enough time for other interesting things, such as wine and gelato tasting.
If you don’t have enough time, such as two or three days, you can visit the main squares in the city (Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria), the Uffizi galleries, Galleria dell’ Accademia, Ponte Vecchio, the Pitti Palace and the Boboli gardens, which is the main park in Florence.
A longer holiday here gives you enough time to visit other places as well, such as the Bargello museum, where you can admire the sculptures of David by Donatello, the Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella churches, the Medici chapels and the Medici-Riccardi palace. Also, you can visit the traditional areas, with stalls, antique shops and fashion shops. The city is renowned for its textile industry, especially leather-related, but also for its cafes, restaurants that serve bistecca alla fiorentina, ice cream shops and wine bars, where you can have a glass of Chianti.
Also, you’ll have more time to visit the surroundings of the city and enjoy the beauty of Toscana. One of the regions you should not miss is the Chianti region, including cities such as Siena, Montalcino, San Gimignano and, of course, Pisa.
What are the main tourist attractions in Pisa?
Unlike Rome, where you can plan your holiday following certain thematic itineraries, in Florence you don’t need much time to think about what to visit, because most tourist attractions are found close to one another, in the same area of the city – the old area of Florence.
- The Dome of Florence is usually the first stop, and that’s because from here you can begin your itinerary towards other renowned attractions. Also, this is the place where you can enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning. Piazza del Duomo is also home for the Cathedral, which was finished building in 1436 by Brunelleschi, along with the bell tower (Campanile) designed by Giotto and the Baptizer, the oldest building in Florence. The main attraction point is, however, represented by the gates of the Baptizer, which Michelangelo called “the Gates of Paradise”.
- In the same area, you will also find the Orsanmichele church, Dante’s house and the Bargello museum, where there are numerous famous sculptures.
- The next stop can be Piazza de la Signora, where there is Palazzo Vecchio, the former house of the Great Duke Cosimo I, and today’s local government center. Then, visit the Uffizi galleries and go for a walk on Ponte Vecchio. The Uffizi galleries host some of the most important paintings from the Renaissance period, including works of art by Titian, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio, and
- In the opposite direction, but not far away from here, there’s another famous museum – Galleria dell’ Accademia, which is a must-visit place and for a very good reason: here you’ll find what many consider the most beautiful Renaissance sculpture, David by Michelangelo. This work of art was created out of a single marble block, which other carvers couldn’t manage to carve.
- Palazzo Pitti, with the Boboli gardens in the vicinity, are two other attractions you just can’t miss. The imposing halls and the painting collection, among which there are many works of art signed by Rafael, are the things that make this place a very popular attraction for tourists.
How to plan your budget for a holiday in Florence
Florence can be an accessible destination, regardless if you plan to do a cultural itinerary, go on a romantic getaway, or an extravagant holiday, dedicated to shopping. Remember though that you will find many bargain shops here.
Here’s what to consider for your budget:
- The flight tickets – fly with Blue Air to Florence from anywhere in Europe. Another option would be to book flights to Rome and then to take the train to Florence.
- Once you’ve arrived here, you won’t use public transportation too much, and that’s because Florence is one of those cities that are better discovered on foot. Local transportation companies are ATAF and LI-NEA. The ticket costs a little over €1 and can be bought from any newspaper stand, but also from any store that has the ATAF stickers at the entrance. The ticket is valid for the following 90 minutes after you’ve purchased it and must be validated when you take the bus. If you prefer the tickets that last 3 or 7 days, these ones cost €12, respectively €18.
- The prices of the museum tickets vary. The tourist card, which costs €72, assures you the entrance to the main museums, among which Uffizi and Galleria dell’ Academia, within 72 hours. Additionally, you should know that there is free entrance on every first Sunday of each month.
- As far as the accommodation is concerned, Florence can fit within any budget, from hotels, to hostels and even Airbnb.
What does the Florentine cuisine offer you?
It is said that the main elements of the local cuisine are the bread, the wine, the olive oil and the beef steak (bistecca alla fiorentina), cooked over a coal fire.
The Florentine cuisine has other interesting specialties, among which: porchetta, a pork rolls filled with aromatic herbs; ribollita, a traditional soup with vegetables and dry bread; panini con lampredotto, an unusual, yet delicious combination of buns filled with offal; crostini toscani, which are slices of toast with chicken pâté and you can add prosciutto or salami over it; and panzanella, a summer salad made of tomatoes, bread, onion, parsley and a vinegar and olive oil dressing.
Useful information for tourists
- It is very important to book your museum entrance tickets, especially if you arrive in Florence in peak season (May – September).
- The tourist card valid for 72 hours, which costs €72, is automatically activated when you use it for the first time at a museum and allows access not only to you, but also to children under 18 years old.
- An excellent place for photos is Piazzale Michelangelo, a square located on one of the hills of Florence. From here, you’ll get a mesmerizing panoramic view of the entire city. You can get there on foot or by bus (buses 12 and 13 have their starting point in the city center).