Florence needs no introduction. The capital of Tuscany is one of the most important cities of art in our country and beyond, a true historical and artistic reference point worldwide. The beauties of Florence are known to all, so it is not surprising that more than 10 million tourists each year choose to stay in the city.
Some of Italy’s most famous art museums are concentrated in Florence, including the Uffizi Gallery, which attracts more than 4 million visitors every year, along with illustrious names such as the Accademia Gallery, the Bargello Museum, the Medici Chapels and much more.
But not only art and culture: Florence is also synonymous with gastronomic excellence, good food and excellent wine. Lose yourself in the narrow streets of the historic centre, leaving for a moment those most beaten by tourists, and you will discover a hidden Florence made up of small osterie, inexpensive restaurants and wine cellars, where you can taste excellent local wine in typical Florentine rustic settings, full of laughter, conviviality and popular music.
But even if you want to stay within the tourist routes, there is plenty to see in Florence. From the splendid Piazza del Duomo, where the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is located, with Brunelleschi ‘s iconic dome and Giotto’s bell tower, passing through Piazza Signoria, where Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of the municipality of Florence, is located, to the magnificent Piazza Santa Croce, you will constantly have the impression of being in an open-air museum, made up of works of art and magnificent monuments.
On the other hand, it was in Florence that the Renaissance developed, thanks also, and above all, to the Medici family, who ruled the city for centuries and who still make a name for themselves today, since their contribution is practically everywhere in the city: just think of the immense Palazzo Pitti, their ancient city residence, with the Boboli Gardens behind it, or the Vasari Corridor, originally a secret and private passageway between Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti, now transformed into a very long art gallery.
Finally, remember that Florence is all in all small, you can get around it well on foot, but there are so many things to see that many tourists underestimate it, and when they realise that a weekend is not at all enough to visit it, they decide to return. It is however a good strategy to let yourself be conquered by the city and enjoy it several times, maybe even at different times of the year.
Florence is a city worth visiting at any time of the year. It is of course the summer that attracts the most tourists to the city, if only because many people only have holidays during these months. If you can, however, avoid coming to Florence in July and August, as the heat is really suffocating and you might not enjoy it to the fullest.
Instead, choose the month of June, when the average temperatures are more than acceptable, the days are very long, and above all, on the 24th of the month, St. John, the patron saint of the city, is celebrated: in the evening, fireworks are fired from the splendid setting of Piazzale Michelangelo, while in the afternoon, the final of the Florentine Historical Football is played, a unique event that, although it is much talked about for better or worse, is a real institution in the city.
During the autumn, Florence is very pleasant to visit: September, October and November are months when temperatures are good, there are fewer tourists and, being low season, hotels lower their prices. In December, Florence is transformed, dressing up to celebrate Christmas at its best: don’t miss the huge Christmas tree that is set up in Piazza Duomo every year, Europe’s longest skating rink that is set up in the garden of the Fortezza da Basso, the Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce, and the wonderful lights that decorate Via Calzaiuoli and Via Tornabuoni.
January and February are again low season, but unlike autumn, the temperatures are low, the days short, and it is not excluded that you may find 3-4 consecutive days of rain. If you can, avoid coming to Florence during these months, but if you have no alternative, it is certain that you will still find something to do, perhaps in the warmth of the museums or typical restaurants.
Spring, finally, is one of the best times of the year to visit Florence: the city is reborn after the winter, the hours of daylight begin to increase, the weather is smiling again: the months of March, April and especially May are really good, you can spend long days wandering around and relaxing in the parks in bloom, such as the Cascine park. Moreover, May is the month when the Rose Garden under Piazzale Michelangelo is open.
As mentioned, there are plenty of things to see in Florence. The ideal tour of the city starts at its beating heart, Piazza Duomo. Here spend a few hours visiting the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore from the inside, admire the Baptistery of San Giovanni with its richly decorated golden doors, Brunelleschi’s majestic dome, and if you don’t suffer from vertigo, climb Giotto’s Bell Tower. The stairs are many and steep, but once you reach the top you will be amply rewarded, with a crazy view over the rooftops of Florence and its main monuments.
Leave Piazza Duomo and walk down the elegant Via Calzaiuoli, the city’s shopping street par excellence, and you will arrive in Piazza della Signoria, where, next to the over-photographed Palazzo Vecchio, seat of the Comune, is the Loggia dei Lanzi, where in just a few square metres you will find a quantity of art and sculptures that is unrivalled in the city.
Local tip: go inside Palazzo Vecchio! You can do this freely because it is the seat of the municipality of Florence, and it is open to the public. Visit the incredible, richly frescoed and elegantly decorated inner courtyard for free, then, if you want, buy a ticket to visit the huge – and marvellous – Salone dei Cinquecento.
Right next to Piazza Signoria is the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most important art museums in the world, which certainly needs no introduction. To visit it in depth means dedicating an entire day to it, it is up to you to decide how much time it deserves.
In any case, continue your walk in the historical centre of Florence by making a small diversions to cross the Arno on the Ponte Vecchio, beyond which lies the Oltrarno district. Here, the most important monuments are undoubtedly the Pitti Palace and its Boboli Gardens, while the area is known for its craft shops and numerous restaurants, much less touristy than those you might find near the Duomo or Palazzo Vecchio.
Cross the Arno again, perhaps choosing the Ponte alle Grazie or the Ponte Santa Trinita (so you can take a beautiful photo of Ponte Vecchio!), and head towards Piazza Santa Croce, where in addition to the marvellous basilica, you can also admire the statue dedicated to one of the most illustrious Florentines in history: Dante Alighieri.
Finally, to bid farewell to Florence, bid it farewell worthily from above by visiting the wonderful terrace of Piazzale Michelangelo. In this large square you can admire a copy of Michelangelo’s David, but above all it is from here that you can take the postcard photo you see everywhere in the city: from the top you will have a unique view sweeping from the Arno to the Cascine, and you will feel as if you can touch Brunelleschi’s dome and the spires of Santa Croce. If you can, once you get to the Piazzale, keep climbing up to the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte, located even higher up, from where the view of Florence is even more beautiful, plus you’ll have far fewer tourists around to ruin your photos.
Florence is conveniently located with respect to roads and infrastructure, so getting there is not at all complicated. The city is located along the A1 motorway, so it can be reached pretty easily from all over Italy. In addition, the A11 motorway runs from Florence to the Tuscan coast at the province of Pisa, and connects with the A12 motorway leading to Genoa and the rest of Liguria.
If, on the other hand, you decide to arrive in Florence by train, you can take one of the numerous Italo or Frecciarossa high-speed trains that depart and arrive daily from the Santa Maria Novella station, connecting it with all other major Italian cities. Beware that some high-speed trains also stop at the Rifredi and Campo di Marte stations, from which you must continue by bus to reach the centre.
Florence also has an international airport, named after Amerigo Vespucci, which is rather small and dedicated mainly to business customers. Flights to and from Florence are not many, and prices are often high. However, the airport is directly connected to the historical centre by tramway, which is convenient and cheap.
The historical centre of Florence, as mentioned, is rather compact, so the choice of which neighbourhood or street to sleep in is of secondary importance, as you can still get anywhere else on foot in a maximum of 10-15 minutes. The important thing to know is that the centre is literally littered with hotels, bed and breakfasts and flats. There really are thousands of them, one after the other. After all, Florence is one of the cities that receives the most tourists in Italy.
If you arrive by train and have heavy luggage in tow, consider sleeping around Santa Maria Novella, or along Via Nazionale. In this area there are also several restaurants, albeit touristy, as well as several shops and convenience stores, often open until late in the evening.
If you want to fall in love with Florence every time you open your room window, choose a hotel or flat with a view of the Duomo, or with a view of Santa Croce. They are rather expensive, but for a few nights it is worth it: you can enjoy the unique panorama of Florence even once you are back in your room.
Finally, a tip for those visiting Florence by car: if you can, choose a hotel with parking, as parking in the centre of Florence is extremely expensive, both in the normal car parks with blue stripes and in private garages, with prices ranging up to 5 euro per hour. Moreover, since the historical centre of Florence is practically a huge closed-traffic zone, it is almost certain that you will not be able to park near your hotel anyway, unless there are special agreements between the hotel and the municipality.
The historical centre of Florence is easy to get around on foot. There are no difficulties whatsoever, and walking around is very pleasant, both for the abundance of shops and for the splendid monuments that you can admire along practically every street. For getting around, however, there are a few bus lines, some of which are only travelled by minibuses, which are much more agile for traversing the narrow streets of the centre.
If you are staying outside the city, you can get to the centre by bus, practically all of which stop at the Santa Maria Novella station, or by tramway, which also stops at the station. Taxis are very expensive but allow you to get around easily even within the pedestrian zone.
Alternatively, move around the centre with the shared services, bicycles are provided by Mobike, and electric scooters are provided by Bird. For both, you need to register for the service by downloading the app and pre-loading it with any amount via credit card.
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The following are the most popular tickets and tours in Florence that we recommend you don't miss.
Florence is located in the heart of Tuscany, in a basin bordered by the Arcetri hill to the south and the Fiesole hills to the north. It borders the province of Prato to the east, the province of Siena to the south, and the province of Arezzo to the east. The northern border is a series of reliefs that later develop into the Apennines, beyond which we are already in Emilia-Romagna.