Florence is hands down my favorite city in all of Italy. It has everything from museums and cathedrals to restaurants and shopping centers. I could spend my life here and never get bored. I have so much to tell from my trip to Florence, I found it hard to fit into a single article. So I wrote three. If you’re planning to travel to Florence, Italy, here’s my handy travel guide to Florence, based on my experience.
When to travel to florence
Spring, summer and fall are all great seasons to visit Florence. Summer is naturally the peak season, when the weather gets pretty humid and hot. Expect a few showers that you’ll gladly welcome after an intense sunny day. City center is busier than usual on weekends due to popup farmers markets. Major festivals fall between June – September months.
What to expect
Like the rest of Italy, Florence runs on Euro currency, speaks Italian and chows down pasta with great gusto. Be prepared to live on a budget of €40per day, excluding accommodation. Carrying some cash will help you in few stores and restaurants that don’t believe in credit card transactions. ATMs and money transfers are widely available.
Not specific to Italy but every crowded place is stalked by thieves bidding for a chance to pick pocket while engaging strangers in conversations. They may ask you what’s the time, offer to tie friendship bands, ask to sign petitions. Beware and stay vigilant! Ignore, politely say ‘No grazie!’, move on.
Like every tourist destination, Florence has a Tourist Info Center that sells city passes called Firenze Pass. Pick the one that suits your stay duration the most.
Getting in and around Florence
Flying into Florence? Look for flights to Florence Airport, Peretola. I would highly recommend traveling to Florence by train. You will not regret it when you look out the window and gasp at that incredible Tuscan countryside view. I took Trenitalia train from Venezia Mestre to Firenze SMN, which is a 2 hour 10 mins ride and costs between €20-€30 depending on day and time. Flixbus runs from Venice to Bologna, which is half way to Florence. From there you can switch to train. Download and use GoEuro app for checking train and bus schedules. Eurail pass holders can board regional trains.
While within Florence, keep offline google map downloaded on your mobile device. Hire a car or even better, a Vespa for sightseeing. If you do hire a Vespa, make sure you rent the sturdiest chain and lock out there. Local buses have an extensive network and I found them really convenient.
Where to stay
Fortunately the Firenze SM Novella train station isn’t too far from city center. I would highly recommend picking a dorm, hotel or Bed&Breakfast that’s between the train station and city center, that way you are at a convenient distance from both. I stayed in bed & breakfast in the Porta Al Prato area on the banks of Arno river. The city center was a mere 1 mile walk from there.
I came across some wonderful heritage hotels in Florence, albeit a bit pricey. The view out of hotels like Westin Excelsior, St Regis, Portrait Firenze, Sina Villa Medici, Autograph Collection puts any other views to shame. Imagine watching a sunset over Ponte Vecchio across Arno river with an Apertivo in your hand.
What to pack
Considering you’re traveling to Florence in the high season, pack these essentials – hats, caps, sunglasses, sunblock, a good pair of sturdy sneakers, socks and light-colored cotton clothes. Anything that’s too short, may look out of place in Florence. The churches and cathedrals don’t allow people showing off open shoulders and uncovered legs. Make sure you’re modestly covered while entering religious places. Dress up, not down, for the evenings. Keep those high heels for when you travel by car. The cobblestone paths are hard enough to navigate without your feet screaming in pain. Use bags that will stick close to your body, like slings with adjustable strap, fanny packs or belt bags. Don’t ever part with them.
Carry travel adapters, umbrella/raincoat, printouts of hotel & tour reservations.
What to eat
I could write a thesis on Italian food and still have more to say on the topic. First piece of advice, keep a healthy appetite before traveling to Florence.
Start your day with a strong cup of Italian roast coffee brewed the traditonal way in a moka maker on stovetop. Pair that with a biscotti or may be two. Bite into a sweetest, juiciest, pulpy peach from the farmers market (not grocery store). It’s a well kept secret that Tuscany is famous for peaches. Indulge in everything truffles or tartufo while you have the chance.
Have a bowl of Ribollita soup for lunch with a chunk of Tuscan bread and Caprino cheese. Why not indulgent in that ridiculously decadent cannoli? You’re on vacation!
For quick snack stop, checkout the food court at Mercato Centrale. Grab some pizza while you’re there. Don’t forget that quintessential glass of Apertivo in the evening.
Devour an entire Florentine T-bone steak and Panzanella for dinner. Wash it down with a bottle of Chianti or any Toscana you wish. Don’t stop yourself when you see that crowd at Venchi Gelateria. Go ahead and buy yourself a scoop or two of the best Pistachio Gelato you’ll ever taste.
In love with Florence yet? I hope this travel guide to Florence helps you with your trip planning.
Check out the other article I wrote on Tuscany : A Love Letter to Tuscany