A transparent travel guide to Florence in Italy.
Plan your vacation to the great Tuscan city after social distancing times. This guide has a focus on getting there by car at the bottom of the article.
What is Florence Italy famous for?
Florence (called Firenze by the locals) is located in Tuscany, a region in central Italy, Europe.
The city is known for being the birthplace of the renaissance period. It was the city of progress and innovation after the dark middle ages.
Great artists and people were born, lived and died in Florence.
Some of the most notable figures include the Medici family, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei, Botticceli, Amerigo Vespucci to just name a few.
Florence is famous for all those people, sculptures, paintings, philosophy, discoverers, finance and commerce.
Things to do
Florence is a compact city, that means getting around is easy.
You can walk around to see all the sights. It's all in walking distance. Even the train station is about 10 minutes from the city center.
You won't need to move around with public transport, but you can get a taxi to get from one end to another if need be.
The city streets and the charming buildings are the first thing that you will see.
Here are some of the major attraction that you will most probably come across while walking around:
- Ponte Vecchio - Stone bridge crossing the Arno river with the jewelry shops on it
- Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Piazza del Duomo
- Palazzo Vecchio and the Piazza della Signoria
- Pitti Palace
- The Boboli Gardens
- Other Basilica churches such as the Basilica di San Lorenzo
- The house of Galileo Galilei
The city has a grande selection of museums and galleries that you can visit.
The Uffizi is the most well-known art gallery with art pieces from Boticceli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo.
We didn't have to wait because we visited during social distancing times (you know what I mean) but usualy there is a 1-2 hour waiting time to get in.
So, I recommend reserving in advance! The entry ticket is about € 25 per person.
If you are a renaissance lover, then visiting the Uffizi is a must.
Generaly speaking, museums are big in Florence. It's be expected with that history!
There are other museums worthwhile visiting if you are there for some days. Here are some of the most notable museums in Florence:
- Galleria dell'Accademia - where you will find Michelangelo's David
- Pitti Palace - Divided into 4 Museums
- Bargello - National Art Museum
- Museo Galileo
- Dantes House Museum
- Riccardi Medici Palace - Former home of the great Medici family
- Leonardo Da Vinci Museum
- Orto Botanico di Firenzi - University Botanical gardens
Food in Florence
Food is big in Florence! I mean you have to eat your way through all those wonderful bites.
Places to go eat out
We loved the local sandwiches. Some are puff pastry sanwiches stuffed with ham and cheese.
A great place for sandwiches, drinks, and good vibes is Cucciolo Bar Pasticceria. They have THE best sandwiches and the owners serve the food.
I recommend the food, little surprising local bites and of course an aperol spritz or a chianti wine!
We also had wonderful caprese salad at the Trattoria de Garibardi.
But the best food we encountered, and then by surprise, was at the Ristorante la Martinicca.
They served us the most beautiful ravioli dishes with local shaved truffles.
It appeared to be a secret local insider place for lunch business meetings. Their specialty is white truffles.
Tips when ordering food
When you get your food bill, don't freak out if you see some weird charges called coperto on your bill.
Coperto is due in most restaurants and is a cover charge to offset the price of bread, salt and oil served on the table.
Tips are not added to the bill but you can leave some tips. It's not always expected but I think it's good manners if the food and service were good. Even if it's just 2-4 Euros.
Shopping and Things to get from Florence
You can visit any of the outdoor markets or the marcato centrale indoor market hall to get gifts for your family and friends.
Here are some of the things that you can get.
- Leather gloves (just as in Venice)
- Jewelry (from one of the jewelers on the bridge)
- Wine from Tuscany
- Cured Meats
- Olive Oil from Tuscany
- Balsamic Vinegar
You will also find luxury articles in the city center near the ponte vecchio and Florence has a couple of designer outlets too.
Grocery stores are more located on the outskirts of the city. We found a coop and bought all our food from there!
We stayed in a hotel called La Fortezza with private free parking attached. They had a security system in place too, although the city is super safe!
I recommend the hotel because the rooms, service, and price were top too. Besides, it's walking distance from the city center.
We paid about € 60 per day for that particular period and booked over their website to get the free parking along.
It's also easy to reach the place by car! This was super important because a decent hotel with a good price tag and a car parking place is hard to find in Florence.
Always ask the reception if they have a car park on hotel premises! Most do not!
If you are looking for something more luxurious, then the best place to check-in is the Four seasons in Florence. They have a massive garden attached to the premises but the rooms are priced at around € 1600 per day.
I have also heard that the Strozzi Palace hotel is a popular choice for many visiting Florence.
Social Distancing Times
We visited in July 2020 after the first wave. Locals would say that Florence was empty for that time of the year.
So, yes there were fewer people but we still felt that there were enough visitors in Florence.
Locals usually all wear their masks but tourist are not always that careful.
People on the streets don't wear their masks but everyone keeps a distance. So that's a plus point.
The plus point is that some museums are almost empty and there is no waiting time to get in.
They do check your temperature when you enter the Uffizi but I don't think they do it in all the others.
Besides health safety, know that not all sights are open.
Some places, such as the Basilica and the University gardens, only open over the weekend right now. So that's definitely a downside.
Getting to Florence by Car (roadtrip)
We drove from Venice to Florence over Bologna and took about 4 hours over the highway. The highway toll was about € 20.
When you enter the surrounding roads of the city, it can get a bit wild.
Motorbike and Vespa drivers are all around you and they can take you over from anywhere. Just as if you were driving in India, minus the cows and dogs on the road.
Police presence is great in the peripheries of the city, so make sure to follow all driving rules to not get fined.
Get a hotel on the outskirts, never in the city because driving in the city center is difficult and stressful and because you need permission to drive through the city.
If you book with a hotel in the city (which has a parking on premises), ask for a permission to drive through the city.
If you don't have a permission you might get fined.
They have cameras in the city and every time they see you crossing a corner (searching for your hotel) you can pay about € 80 every single time.
There are people who get € 1000 bills send home by mail.
When to visit?
One would argue that the best time to visit is from May to October and yes they might be right.
However, when people get to travel again, and Florence is packed with tourists, you might want to reconsider that and travel at a time that is less busy.
Winter's can be nice too and the food is anyway always great! Just pack some warm clothes!
Summers can get very hot in Florence, so pack some light city appropriate summer clothes.
If you want to visit to see the calcio fiorentino end game, you will have to come at the end of June.
It was canceled in 2020 for obvious reasons, but the 2021 end game was last announced to happen on the 24th of June 2021.
Calcio Fiorentino is an age old game that only exists in Florence. It's like football, boxing and wresting in one. It's very strategic!
Very, compared to other European cities! We never felt threatened or worried about pickpockets or aggressive people. I ask my hotel receptionist and she said that she walks home alone every night after 11 pm. We also went walking home from the city after midnight and never felt in danger or followed.
Without hotel room added to the calculation, you will need at least about € 100 per person per day.
You will never find a bench or a place to sit down. They just don't exist and don't even look for a garden to chill for free. Those can only be accessed with a ticket or are part of a commercial premises. That means to sit down you will need to take a seat in a restaurant or bar. There is no other alternative.