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How to Plan Your Ultimate Trip to Florence

It was time that I made it to Florence.

This was my third trip to Italy, and I couldn’t miss out again. On my previous trip, all I saw was the inside of Santa Maria Novella Station, as my group passed through on our way to Venice from Cortona.

But this time I was going to Florence, and I was going to experience it my way, slowly. I had six days to explore the city I had heard and read so much about.

Stories of Dante Alighieri, Leonardo Di Vinci, Michelangelo are wrapped up and woven through this gloriously small city. From artworks and sculptures to stories and legends Florence is everything you would expect an Italian city to be.

But it’s more than its art and history. The ambience in Florence is different from other Italian cities I have experienced. Where I felt lost and uneasy in Milan and Rome, I felt comfortable in Florence.

It quickly became one of my favourite Italian cities so far. It is a place I can see myself returning to many times, each time showing me something new.

I share my six-day Florence itinerary so you can learn how to experience it your way. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

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Why did I visit Florence?

Mention Florence to others, and it can elicit a sigh of longing or a look of disgust. Yes, believe it or not, I have met quite a few people that dislike Florence. Delve a little deeper, and you usually find that the reasons vary from a rushed day trip or visiting in the middle of summer when temperatures soared, and air conditioners struggled. Not to mention the overwhelming summer crowds.

Florence needs time. I can’t imagine rushing around from place to place and enjoying it. It may be small in size, but I feel like it needs time to wander around, not be rushed. I loved sitting in piazzas resting my weary feet, writing a line or two in my journal and people watching.

In November I could do that.

As I posted photos on the Travel Charm Facebook page, people asked where the crowds were! There were small ones, occasionally, but mostly around the Duomo area or at the Uffizi Gallery.

And that my friend is the beauty of travelling in late Autumn. It was bliss. Give me cold weather and no crowds any day.

Had I travelled in the summer months I am not sure I would have liked it much either. After my last trip to Italy in summer staying in Orvieto and Rome, I vowed only to return to Italy in the offseason.

This was also my first solo trip. Florence was the perfect choice for someone nervous about travelling alone for the first time. It is small and compact and easy to walk around. My hotel was in a handy location in the San Lorenzo area.

I had booked a few things but not a lot. But I succumbed to thoughts of “I should”.

I should visit the Uffizi Gallery; I should take a day trip to a winery. I should, I should, I should. Until a friend shared some sage advice “Travel for you, not to someone else’s itinerary”. Once I let that sink in, I was fine.

I mean I don’t usually succumb to the pressure of what others deem I should see, but being on my own somehow, I felt I had to. But travelling solo brought its unique challenges and experiences, and I was happy to take it one day at a time and do this trip my way.

Did I miss out on some things? Yes, of course, I did, but that just means that I will have more to explore next time I visit.

I’m not one to follow the crowd, so Florence wasn’t on my bucket list just because it is a popular tourist destination. It was more than that.

For this trip to Italy I decided to visit cities, unusual for me to skip the country locations, but more comfortable travelling on my own for the first time to choose destinations that were on main train lines and easy to get from the train station to the city centre.

Writing this now it’s hard to remember the impressions I had of Florence before seeing her, but whatever they were it was enough for me to want to go. I’m not a city girl, I prefer the slower pace of the countryside and small towns, but I felt comfortable in Florence.

And when I found out that a friend, who I had never met in person, would be in Florence at that time, my decision to go was easy.

I share my six-day Florence itinerary so you can learn how to experience it your way. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

How to Experience Florence Your Way

  1. Create a list of the places you most want to see and plan your days around these.
  2. Then create another list of everything else you would like to see, but are not essential.
  3. Add free time to your daily itineraries to allow for spontaneity and unexpected issues like jet lag, sleeping in or feeling unwell. If none of these is an issue, then you can fill that time with places or activities from your second list or opportunities that may arise in your day.
  4. Don’t follow anyone else’s itinerary. Create your own to suit your tastes, energy levels and time frame. You cannot “fail” a destination because you didn’t tick everything off someone else’s “must-see” list.
  5. My saying – “Over plan then go with the flow” means to create a plan for yourself so you don’t become overwhelmed upon arrival when you are tired, in sensory overload and unsure of where to start first. Once you settle in and your confidence builds you can go with the flow.
  6. Everyone is different, and there is no right or wrong way. Each night you can create a plan for the next day, so you have direction.
  7. Travel with the attitude that you will return, that way you will feel less pressure to cram in everything. Remember it’s a holiday, not a marathon. Relax and enjoy your surroundings.

Accommodation

Being my first solo trip, I also wanted to challenge myself by packing carry-on luggage only (achieved) and seeing how little I could spend (not so good), so I decided to stay in cheaper hotels and accommodation on this three-week trip.

I settled on Hotel Lorena because it had everything I needed, and I had also read a glowing review on a solo travel website.

There is plenty of accommodation to choose from in Florence, so it depends on your personal taste and budget what you decide.

You will find my recommendations below including where I stayed and others that have been recommended to me by travellers in my travel community as well as those in the travel industry.

Hotel Lorena

It was fine. Basic, clean, friendly and helpful staff and the location was handy, less than a five-minute walk from Santa Maria Novella station, close to the Medici Chapel and around the corner from the San Lorenzo Markets (Mercato Centrale). There are good restaurants close by so that going out at night on your own isn’t an issue. I felt very safe wherever I went at night.

The hotel is a little outdated, but I didn’t care about that, it was clean, and the staff were helpful and friendly.

Breakfast is available for €8, but I only took this option once on my last morning. It too was basic, but standard fare for a 2-star hotel.

Check out Hotel Lorena.

Heading to Florence, Italy? Create a unique itinerary just for you. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

My room was at the top on the right-hand side corner.

Hotel Hermitage

Hotel Hermitage is a three-star traditional hotel located right near Ponte Vecchio with a lovely rooftop area overlooking the river. It is close to the Uffizi Gallery and in a great position to explore the city. It is less than a ten-minute walk to the Duomo and a 15-minute walk to Santa Maria Novella Train Station.

Check out Hotel Hermitage.

Booking.com

Arriving in Florence

It was a long, long couple of days. Two long haul flights from Australia, one eight hours, the other 14 hours with a three-hour layover in between.

I arrived early morning in Milan, caught the express train from the airport to Milano Centrale and then a train to Florence.

Finally, around 2.30 pm, I checked into my hotel, finding it quickly after a five-minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella Train station.

I had 30 minutes to have a quick shower, change and head out the door to find the meeting point of the free walking tour I had booked.

TIP: Pre-book your train tickets so that you don’t have to worry about it when you are tired from long haul flights. Even though you book a time for the express train from Milano Airport to Milano Centrale, the ticket can be used up to three hours within that time. Handy for me when I missed it! The express train runs approximately every 20 minutes.

Day 1 – Walking Tour

The tour was great, but better yet were the people I met on tour, a lovely English couple and a lady also travelling solo from Boston.

After the tour, the group headed back to the Duomo area for a drink and afterwards, the lady from Boston and I ate at Trattoria Za Za, recommended by our tour guide. It was so good I will share the details below.

I finally made it back to my hotel at 11.30 pm and fell into bed, utterly exhausted but so happy to finally be in Florence.

Orsanmichele Church

Our first stop on the walking tour was this church. I was surprised; it didn’t seem like a typical church. Inside was intriguing as well.

Once a market, the second floor had been used as office space and the third floor stored the city’s grain. Grain shutes are still in place, they were an easy way to bring the grain down to the market.

Mercato Nuovo & Fontana Del Porcellini

This is an undercover market popular with tourists who want to buy souvenirs, leather products and clothing items. It is most famous for the Wild Boar Statue “Il Porcellino” located here.  Legend says that if you rub its snout, you will return to Florence.

Tradition also says something about putting a coin in its mouth and making a wish as the coin falls. If it falls in the grate, your wish comes true. Someone else said that you had to rub the snout as the coin falls. That sounded all too hard, and a little confusing, to me. I just rubbed its snout.

Heading to Florence, Italy? Create a unique itinerary just for you. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

Il Porcellino

The Duomo

We approached from a side street, and I finally caught my first glimpse of green and white stripes and pink marble highlights. It is stunningly beautiful, and I could have sat and gazed at it all day.

I didn’t go inside the Duomo. For this visit, I was more than happy to walk around it, marvel at its architecture and appreciate its beauty. Even in November, the piazza was filled with people, although nowhere near the crowds the warmer months attract.

Still, it is a popular tourist spot, and as such, I am always wary of lingering too long, not wanting to be a victim of a pickpocket.

We looked at the Baptistry doors and wandered around the Piazza del Duomo for a while.

Florence is a beautiful, compact city. Find out how you can create a unique itinerary and see it your way, like I did. #firenze #florence #italy #tripplanning #florenceguide

A Panel of the Baptistry Doors.

I saw the Duomo quite a few times on my visit, I was always getting lost, and the Duomo was my point of reference. I could see the dome from my hotel window.

Entry to the Duomo is free. However, you can purchase a combined ticket for €18 allowing entry into the Cathedral, the Dome, the Baptistery, Crypt, Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo. To climb the Dome, you must register beforehand.

You can find more details here.

Florence is a beautiful, compact city. Find out how you can create a unique itinerary and see it your way, like I did. #firenze #florence #italy #tripplanning #florenceguide #florenceitinerary

Santa Croce

The walking tour ended in Piazza Santa Croce outside the Basilica Santa Crose.

I didn’t go inside the Basilica. The Piazza is large, one of the largest I saw during my time in Florence. Flanked by shops and buildings it would be a good place for lunch after visiting the Basilica.

If you are interested in shopping for leather goods, you can find leather stores in the area. However, you can also visit La Scuola di Cuoio, the Leather School, where students learn traditional leather making methods. You can purchase authentic Italian leather goods here.

You can find more details on La Scuola di Cuoio here.

Heading to Florence, Italy? Create a unique itinerary just for you. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

Basilica of Santa Croce

It quickly became evident that six days was nowhere near enough time to even scratch the surface of Florence.

I often wonder when people say they have “done” a destination how that’s even possible. A brief visit perhaps, but never done.

Even though I had six days when you factor in things like jet lag and exhaustion, tired legs and sore feet my days were not filled with sightseeing alone but included much-needed downtime to try and regain my strength, so I did not ruin the rest of my trip by getting sick.

I also had plans for a couple of half-day trips with a friend, things I would never have done on my own. It all takes time, and I am not one who likes to rush.

I thought my biggest problem travelling solo would be being brave enough to leave my room. But my biggest challenge was finding the energy to do everything.

So, I decided not to.

RELATED POST: The Best of Verona

Day 2 – Food & Artisan Tour

I organised to meet with Maria from Florentine Experience Shopping Tours.

I was interested in the food and artisan components of her tours, and she did not disappoint. We met in Piazza Santa Croce and spent the next three hours together walking around the city.

We visited a variety of artisans and workshops that included mosaics, ceramics, leather, a bookbinder and restorer, shoemaker and a jeweller.

We also had a stop at the Sant’Ambrogio markets where I tasted cheeses and meats and drank wine and even received a cheeky kiss!

I highly recommend Maria’s tours. I will include her details below in this post.

Florence is a beautiful, compact city. Find out how you can create a unique itinerary and see it your way, like I did. #firenze #florence #italy #tripplanning #florenceguide #florenceitinerary

Stunning mosaic in progress.

Sant’Ambrogio Mercato

A popular market where you will meet locals than tourists. This is where locals come to shop for their fresh produce. You can purchase ready-made Italian meals, perfect for a quick authentic lunch. We stopped for a cheese and prosciutto tasting, and by the end of it, I was completely stuffed. I tried a variety of Pecorino cheese varying in age, prosciutto and cured meats from regions all over Italy and sipped delicious wine made by the owner’s family.

I left with a bag full of cheese, prosciutto, freshly baked bread and a bottle of the red wine. It was the perfect picnic later in my room when I was too tired to go out for a late dinner.

I love markets, and this was one of my favourites. I meant to return, but time got away. I will certainly be back next time. I intend to rent an apartment and I look forward to stocking the kitchen with mouth-watering goodies.

Ponte Vecchio and the Arno

The Ponte Vecchio is an iconic and much-photographed medieval stone bridge that spans the Arno river. This ancient bridge has always housed shops but since the late 1500s, only gold merchants are permitted.

I love the colours and textures and the contrast of the bridge against a blue sky and the water of the Arno.

I loved spending time walking along the river, in the morning on a clear day with the buildings reflected on the water and rowers making their way up and down the river. And at other times, when the sky was overcast and gloomy. The Arno has many moods.

I missed seeing it a night, another thing to add to my list for next time.

I spent time wandering through Piazza della Signoria, and behind the Fountain of Neptune I found a water fountain, with two taps, one has still water and the other sparkling!

Florence is a beautiful, compact city. Find out how you can create a unique itinerary and see it your way, like I did. #firenze #florence #italy #tripplanning #florenceguide #florenceitinerary

Ponte Vecchio

I ended my day with a picnic in my room and then a walk to find gelato. A short walk turned into a long one again when I found myself a little lost. I took the wrong street off the Piazza del Duomo and missed my hotel! Getting lost was becoming a habit, but that’s not a bad pastime to indulge in Florence.

Day 3 – Exploring Florence

This day was about exploring without any plans. I was exhausted and wanted to take it easy, so I would quickly regain my energy.

My room was hot, and I could not find how to regulate the heating, so I slept with my windows open.

Don’t worry; I was on the 4th floor.

Florence does not stop. The city was noisy, even mid-week there is a lot of noise from people leaving bars, cars and the early morning workers.

I found a café on the other side of the Arno River in the Santo Spirito area and sat down to enjoy breakfast. The owners were friendly and happy when I ordered a second coffee and kept trying to entice me with more pastries. I was thankful to sit and eat breakfast and not stand at the bar. After something to eat and two cappuccinos, I felt somewhat revived.

I went back to the leather store I visited on tour with Maria the previous day to pick up a belt I had ordered.

TIP: If you like to sleep with the windows open bring earplugs, although they should be a staple in your travel kit for noisy neighbours and plane travel.

Piazza della Signoria

And I went back to Piazza della Signoria to fill up my water bottle for the day.

Because why wouldn’t you want sparkling water?

Piazza della Signoria is the square outside Palazzo Vecchio and where you will find the copy of the Statue of David. The Fountain of Neptune is also located here. Unfortunately, it was under restoration during my visit.

I enjoyed time down by the river, taking photos of Ponte Vecchio, and then weaving my way in and out of streets, doing what I love to do when I am new to a city, wander.

I returned to Mercato Nuovo to buy a couple of wool scarves as gifts. I had spied them the day before but didn’t get a chance to grab them.

San Lorenzo Market

I wandered through the markets for a while which has similar wares to Mercato Nuova. Be aware that if you want authentic, made in Italy leather you may not find it here. It is not uncommon to find fake goods here, and if you think you will be able to tell, apparently it’s not that easy.

Not to worry though, if you love something and you want it as a memento of your trip, buy it. Just know what you are buying.

Afterwards shopping you can head into Mercato Centrale for a delicious lunch, or like me choose to dine at one of the many restaurants dotted around the area.

A Lunch Treat

I decided to treat myself to a delicious lunch. I headed back to Trattoria Za Za from my first night. Being solo for the first time, I didn’t know how I would go eating alone.

I needn’t have worried. It was one of the best dining experiences I had on my entire trip.

The waiter was friendly, funny, and very attentive. I ordered ravioli with truffle cream sauce (OMG!!) followed by an apple custard tart recommended to me by the waiter. Accompanied by two glasses of wine and I was satiated. I waddled back to my hotel for an afternoon siesta.

It was an easy day, and one I needed to have to feel better.

TIP: Include downtime in your itinerary. It is hard to enjoy sightseeing if you are always exhausted. Better to enjoy a slow day than ruin a holiday by overdoing it.

Day 4 – Meeting Friends and the San Miniato Truffle Festival

Piazza della Repubblica

I made my way to Piazza della Repubblica to meet a friend I had only ever met via social media and Skype. We went to a lovely café where I was treated to a real Italian cafe experience.

San Miniato

Afterwards, we caught the train to San Miniato to attend the truffle festival.

OMG!!!

This is serious stuff for a foodie. It was a pure joy to taste truffle products, cheeses, freshly roasted chestnuts, chocolate, local wines and so much more.

What a night!

You can read all about our afternoon and evening here at the San Miniato Truffle Festival.

I share my six-day Florence itinerary so you can learn how to experience it your way. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

San Miniato

Day 5 – Santa Maria Novella and an Evening in Arezzo

Piazza and Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

Located next to the Santa Maria Novella Train Station it is a large square flanked by hotels and restaurants.

I share my six-day Florence itinerary so you can learn how to experience it your way. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

Santa Maria Novella Profumo-Farmaceutica

I went in a different direction this morning; I was on the hunt for Santa Maria Novella Profumo Farmaceutica, the world’s oldest pharmacy.

Research shows that the pharmacy may have begun in the 14th century by Dominican friars. However, it was in the 16th century that it became an established commercial enterprise.

Here you can purchase perfumes, herbal elixirs, soaps and more. It is a stunning building, more like a museum and worth a visit. It’s a wonderful free activity to do in Florence unless you buy perfume or toiletries of course.

I was very, very tempted. But that’s the one thing travelling with carry-on luggage stops you doing, shopping.

It is not near the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella; you need to walk to the far end of the piazza and turn right. You will find it at Via della Scala, 16.

I share my six-day Florence itinerary so you can learn how to experience it your way. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

Mercato Centrale

I had lunch at the Mercato Centrale. Inside and upstairs there is a massive food hall and cooking school. It is amazing. There are so many food stalls to choose from that offer Florentine steak, pizza, pastries, salads, gelato – too many to list.

Order your food. When your order is ready, sit down at one of the tables in the middle. Soon after someone will come and take your drink order, and you pay them directly. You can find more details below in the Where to Eat section.

Florence is a beautiful, compact city. Find out how you can create a unique itinerary and see it your way, like I did. #firenze #florence #italy #tripplanning #florenceguide

Arezzo

I met up with some friends, and we caught the train to Arezzo to enjoy the Christmas Market held in Piazza Grande. We enjoyed a meal, browsed the markets, drank Vin Brule (mulled wine) and ate cannoli before heading back to Florence. It was a lovely evening and my first European Christmas Market.

I had previously visited Arezzo on a day trip from Cortona. It’s a lovely city. I was glad for the chance to visit again.

Florence is a beautiful, compact city. Find out how you can create a unique itinerary and see it your way, like I did. #firenze #florence #italy #tripplanning #florenceguide

Piazza Grande filled with people for the Christmas Market

TRAVEL TIP: Florence is in a good position for half and full-day trips to nearby towns and cities. By using one destination as a base, you have mornings and afternoons to explore your location and days, or afternoons/evenings, to jump on a train or join a tour and you don’t have to worry about packing up each time.

RELATED POST: How to Plan Your Ultimate Trip to Bologna, Italy

Day 6 – Beautiful Views & Gardens

Piazzale Michelangelo

I walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo. I was disappointed I hadn’t left earlier to catch the morning light, but I was still impressed. There is a bus that goes up, but I walked. If you take your time, it is fine, and the view is more than enough reward. Next time I will plan to go up to see the sunset over the Arno river and Florence.

Florence is a beautiful, compact city. Find out how you can create a unique itinerary and see it your way, like I did. #firenze #florence #italy #tripplanning #florenceguide #florenceitinerary


Boboli Gardens

I loved the gardens. They are extensive with so many different areas. The views over Florence are stunning, and it would be a lovely place to visit in summer to escape the heat and crowds. I booked my ticket online and made the mistake of going straight to the gate. You need to get your ticket validated at the Palazzo Pitti ticket office. On the day I was there the Palazzo Pitti was closed. It is worth checking before visiting. Museums close one day per week, and not on the same day.

Visit Boboli Gardens

If you are interested in visiting the Boboli Gardens, you can find the details here – Giardino di Boboli

  • Open Monday to Sunday from 8.15 am to 4.30 pm November – February, 5.30 pm March & October, 6.30 pm April – October and 6.50 pm June, July and August
  • Closed first and last Monday of each month
  • Tickets cost €10 1/3 – 31/10 and €6 1/11 – 28/2
  • Last admission is an hour before closing
  • Combine a visit of the Boboli Gardens with the Pitti Palace
  • A visit to the Bardini Gardens is free with a Boboli Gardens Ticket

TIP: If you purchased your ticket online make sure to validate your ticket at the ticket office at the Pitti Palace before entering the gardens.

My Last Day in Florence

Medici Chapel

I could see the Medici Chapel from my hotel window. I hadn’t a clue what it was so I decided to check it out. I am happy I did, they were stunning. Part of the San Lorenzo complex it was built as the final resting place of the Medici family.

Visit Medici Chapel

If you are interested in visiting the Medici Chapel, you can find the details here – Medici Chapel (Cappelle Medicee)

  • Open every day from 8.15 am to 2 pm. Ticket office closes at 1.20 pm
  • Tickets cost €8
  • Audio Guides available in Italian and English for €6
I share my six-day Florence itinerary so you can learn how to experience it your way. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

The Chapel of the Princes

Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

I stumbled across this piazza on my way to Galleria dell Accademia. An otherwise grey square on a gloomy day, I loved the pop of yellow that stood out. Next time I am in Florence, I will explore this area more. Hopefully, next time I won’t be rushing through, late for an appointment. The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata and The National Archeology Museum of Florence are worth a look as well as all the sculptures and stories that abound in this well-designed piazza.

Heading to Florence, Italy? Create a unique itinerary just for you. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary

Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

Galleria dell’Accademia

I was stunned by my reaction to the Statue of David. Tears pricked my eyes, and thankfully, even though there was a crowd, it wasn’t large. I sat on a bench and stared for what seemed a long time.

David was the highlight of the visit, but the sculpture, Rape of the Sabines is also impressive.

Visit Galleria dell’Accademia

If you are interested in visiting Galleria del Accademia you can find the details here – Galleria del’Accademia

  • Open Tuesday to Sunday from 8.15 am to 6.50 pm. Closed Mondays.
  • Tickets cost €12
  • Audio Guides available for €6
  • Note: If you have a Firenze card it is necessary to pre-book your entry time, at no additional cost. You can do this by calling the Firenze Musei on +39 0555 294883 or visiting a dedicated office.
Florence is a beautiful, compact city. Find out how you can create a unique itinerary and see it your way, like I did. #firenze #florence #italy #tripplanning #florenceguide #florenceitinerary

After seeing leaving the Galleria, I decided to go back to Mercato Centrale to kill an hour before my train to Verona.

It was wet, I walk too fast and the next thing I know I am sprawled in the middle of the street face down. I picked myself up, tried hard not to cry and hobbled to the corner to get my bearings.

I took myself to the market started with a coffee and gelato cake to calm my nerves. I cleaned up my jacket with wet wipes (ALWAYS CARRY WET WIPES) and put band-aids on my bleeding and bruised elbow. Then I went to the other side of the market and ordered fried zucchini chips and a glass of wine!

What else is a person to do after a humiliating and painful fall in the street?

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Next Time

The only thing on my must-see list next time is the Uffizi Gallery. On this visit, at the time I was walking past, there was a long line even though it was the offseason. I am usually organised and prebook tickets, which is what I will do next time.

NOTE: A new ticketing system has been installed at the Uffizi Gallery. You will be allocated a time for entry when you purchase a ticket from one of the machines outside. Or like me, you can prebook and arrive at your allotted time.

Visit Uffizi Gallery

If you are interested in visiting the Uffizi Gallery, you can find the details here – Uffizi Gallery

  • Open Tuesday to Sunday from 8.15 am to 6.50 pm (closure starts at 6.05 pm). Closed Mondays.
  • Tickets cost – 1/11 – 28/2 €12 & 1/3 – 31/10 €20
  • Combined ticket for all museums €38

Tours

La Bussola

La Bussola runs free walking tours in Florence. They run on time, are easy to find at the meeting point with informative information. I use walking tours to familiarise myself in a new place, and this tour was great for that. It is a good way to meet other travellers. As always, if you like the tour, give the guide a tip.

Florentine Experience Shopping

I joined Maria from Florentine Experience Shopping for a combined food and artisan tour. It was fantastic and took me to places that I would never have seen on my own. I was blown away seeing the artisans at work. The mosaics were my favourite. Maria will personalise the tours to suit you. She is a lovely lady, a Florentine local and I highly recommend her tours. It is a fantastic way to see another side of Florence and to support artisans keeping alive ancient traditions. Tell her Cindy from Travel Charm says hello.

I am NOT affiliated with Florentine Experience Shopping in any way, I just love Maria’s tours, and I know you will too.

 

Where to Eat

In my entire three weeks in Italy, I did not eat as much as I thought I would. For whatever reason, I didn’t get that hungry. If I had a large lunch, I didn’t need dinner. I bought snacks at the supermarket, including a bottle of wine and chocolate of course, and that was usually enough to do me in the evenings.

I also found it very hard to change my eating habits to fit in with Italian mealtimes. Sometimes it’s easier when you are around others.

But that didn’t mean I didn’t experience some delicious meals. And of course, good food doesn’t always come from restaurants, so listed below are my favourite places in Florence to get good food on all budgets.

Most of the recommendations are in the San Lorenzo area because that’s where I stayed. Ask your hotel concierge or host for recommendations. My only advice is not to eat in the popular tourist locations around the Duomo if you are looking for an authentic experience. Typically the food is not as good and the prices expensive, which is standard for most tourist spots around the world.

Mercato Centrale

Most people know of San Lorenzo Markets. It is the outdoor market selling leather goods. But next to it is Mercato Centrale. The bottom floor consists of fresh food stalls. If I had rented an apartment in this area, this is where I would have come to buy all my produce. But upstairs via the escalator, is a food hall. It is massive. There are two main sides and seating in the middle. Wander around, choose what you would like from the many food stalls – hot, cold, sweet, savoury, traditional Italian, order your food and wait for it. Then take a seat and someone will come around asking for your drink order. Simply pay the waitperson when they bring your drink.

The fresh food market closes at 2 pm, but the food hall is open from 8 am to midnight.

Trattoria Za Za

Trattoria Za Za is in the San Lorenzo area across from Mercato Centrale. It was recommended by the free walking tour guide, and I ate here twice. Both times were delicious. The menu is extensive. The staff were friendly and helpful, and there is plenty of seating both outside and inside. Highly recommended.

Le Cappelle Medicee

Le Cappelle Medicee is a popular little restaurant also in the San Lorenzo area across from the Medici Chapel. It was always busy, and the food and service were great. It isn’t big, but we were seated within 5 minutes or arriving without a booking.

My Sugar

I had read an extensive list and review on “real” gelato places in Florence. My Sugar was on that list. I am by no means a gelato connoisseur but this was delicious. My Sugar is in the San Lorenzo area.

I wanted to try was Perche No! It is artisan gelato and highly recommended by locals, but I couldn’t find it! A mission for my next visit.

Paszowski

My friend Sandy took me to Paszowski for a Saturday morning coffee. This is a quintessential Italian café where you pay for your coffee and pastry first, then order your coffee at the bar. For someone who doesn’t speak Italian, it was a little intimidating because you have to make sure the barista hears you and takes your order. Thank goodness Sandy took care of that! Once you order your coffee, get your pastry. You can stand at the bar in typical Italian fashion, or there are seats outside. This is what we did. It was our first time meeting in person, and there was a lot of talking to be done! Located in Piazza della Repubblica.

The one thing I didn’t try was the Bistecca alla Florentina – Florentine Steak. A must try Florentine dish! I watched other people eating them, but I just couldn’t manage one on my own. They are huge! And even a small one would have been too much. I will try it when Dan travels with me, and we can share one, maybe start with some gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce and finish with …

Oh, stop! I am drooling just thinking about it.

If you only have one day…

I cannot in good conscience recommend visiting Florence for one day.

I know that some people want to see Florence and all they have is one day. But I would not advise Florence as a day trip. Even a taste of the city cannot do it any justice. Part of the charm of Florence is taking your time, getting lost and exploring.

If you want to see more of Tuscany, then make Florence your base. Or divide your time – if you have a week stay half of that in Florence, the other half in a villa in the countryside or a medieval hilltop town like Cortona.

I have created a two-day itinerary for those that are time-poor, but I still recommend more time if possible. You can download yours by clicking the link below.

Getting Around

By train, Florence is:

  • 1.40 – 2 hrs to Milan
  • 35 min to Bologna
  • 1.30 hr to Rome
  • 2 hrs to Venice

Day Trips

Make Florence your base.

You can organise easy day trips yourself to places like Lucca, Cortona, Arezzo and Siena. You can easily reach the cities I mentioned above as a day trip. However, I believe all of them are worth more than a day.

If you do decide to visit a city for a day, I suggest booking a tour for half a few hours taking you to the main sites, leaving you with the rest of the day to revisit places of interest or time to relax and take in the atmosphere. You will get a notion if you want to come back on another trip and spend more time.

Prebook your tickets online or buy from the ticket machines at the station.

I don’t recommend a day trip to a destination that takes more than two hours. Don’t forget it’s not just travelling time, it’s the time it takes to get to a from the train station in both places, that adds up too.

I also prefer day trips to towns that are on the main train line. Again, this is to maximise my time.

Train Tickets

Pre-purchased, online tickets do not need to be validated, BUT you do need to show the conductor the ticket reference number or barcode which you should have on your phone. In case of no wifi, take a screenshot of the ticket to show instead, and make sure your phone is always charged.

If something happens to your phone, go to the ticket counter and ask if they can print your ticket for you.

TIP: If you buy your train ticket from a ticket machine at the station, you MUST validate it at one of the machines located on platforms or inside the station. There is a fine for not doing so.

I expected a lot from Florence, and it delivered. It is a beautiful city and one I can see myself visiting regularly. It is the perfect base in Tuscany from which to explore. Enjoy your trip to Florence!

Cindy x

More for Pinterest

Heading to Florence, Italy? Create a unique itinerary just for you. #firenze #florence #tripplanning #florenceguide #italy #florenceitinerary
Florence is a beautiful, compact city. Find out how you can create a unique itinerary and see it your way, like I did. #firenze #florence #italy #tripplanning #florenceguide #florenceitinerary

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Hi there! I'm Cindy the founder of Travel Charm. About 6 years ago I learnt to overcome anxiety to follow my travel dreams. And I haven't looked back! I would love to help you plan your travel so you can start living your dreams instead of just thinking about them.

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Cindy Reid

Cindy is the founder of Travel Charm and her exclusive Travel Club. She is passionate about travel and planning and loves nothing more than helping travellers plan their best trips and fulfil their travel dreams.

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