Planning a visit to Florence & looking for tips on what to see, do & eat? My Florence travel guide has all the essentials you need for a successful trip!
"What's your favorite city?" A question all of us have been asked whether we travel often or once in a blue moon. For the past 10 years my answer has been without hesitation Florence, Italy!
I may be biased because I studied abroad in Florence and was lucky enough to experience truly living in the city, but this is a place I could go to every year and it would still never be enough. It's small enough to be walkable and not overwhelming, boasts some of the best food on this planet, and radiates charm and culture.
My Florence travel guide is a great overview for this Renaissance city and will give you all the essentials you need for a visit to Florence. I will be going more in depth in later posts, so be sure to come back to check those out!
The best time to visit Florence Italy
One of the most important parts in planning your visit to Florence is WHEN to visit. Go at the wrong time and you'll be fighting the masses and miss out on the charm this city has to offer.
The best times to visit Florence, Italy are mid-March through mid-May and late-September through November. The weather is mild and the city isn't swarming with tourists during this time.
Because Florence is fairly small, peak tourist season (late-May through August) has a very noticeable impact on the city (mainly hotel prices and overwhelming crowds). These are the times I avoid.
Try to avoid August at all possible costs. Not only can it get terribly hot during this month but the city is absolutely packed with tourists while many locals leave town (to escape the prementioned tourists and heat).
Getting to florence
Peretola (FLR) is the main airport in Florence. Unfortunately for everyone in the United States there are no direct flights into FLR. You can get to the city center of Florence by a 15 minute cab ride (currently no Uber, WHAT?!) for around 22-25 euros.
A cheaper option is the Busitalia SITA Nord "Vola in Bus" which takes you to the Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station and takes about 20 minutes. A one-way ticket is 6 euros and can be purchased on the bus. The airport website is very helpful in laying out all your options on how to get from FLR to the city center.
The closest airport with direct flights from the US is Pisa's Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA). A 1 hour train ride via Trenitalia will get you to Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station Florence from PSA airport. It's a short 10 minute walk to the very center of Florence from SMN.
This website is helpful in planning your trip for Pisa airport to Florence.
To keep travel costs low I recommend flying into the bigger airport hubs of Rome (FCO) or Milan (MXP). Chances of finding a direct and cheap ticket are much more likely for these airports. Florence is a quick 1.5 hour train from Rome on Trenitalia and a little under 2 hours from Milan (also Trenitalia).
getting around florence
The best way to get around Florence is by foot. The city center is easily walkable and small enough that you could get from one end of the city to the other in 30 minutes.
Must see sights in florence
Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and therefore offers the best Renaissance art in all of Europe. The museums are some of the best in the world and you will find art all over the city like in the main square of Piazza della Signoria (photo above).
If this is your first visit to Florence I would recommend a minimum of 3 days to see the major sights in Florence.
Duomo: The most iconic sight in Florence also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Entrance to the cathedral is free, but paid admission is required for other areas inlcuding the climb to the dome, the Duomo Museum (worthwhile), and the Baptistry.
Ponte Vecchio: Famous bridge lined with gold and jewelry shops. Make sure to stop by during the morning and evening during your visit to Florence.
Piazzale Michelangelo: The best photo opportunity in Florence located on a hilltop square with panoramic views of Florence as your backdrop.
Piazza della Signoria: the main square in Florence with the Palazzo Vecchio, a towering medieval fortress and tower, and an outdoor sculpture gallery including a copy of Michelangelo's David.
San Lorenzo Market: Lively outdoor market selling leather, clothing, and popular souvenirs.
Mercato Centrale: Indoor food market with traditional food stalls on the first floor (meat, produce, cheese, etc.) and a large food court style second floor with 500 seats and free WiFi.
Best places to eat in florence
Quick Eats and cafÉs in florence
Mercato Centrale: Food market (mentioned above). Create a picnic from a selection of fresh produce, meat, and cheese on the first floor. Head upstairs to eat-in with a wide selection of stands offering pizza, sandwiches, gelato, coffee, cheese, truffle dishes and more!
Gustapizza: A visit to Florence means consuming lots of quality pizza and pasta. Gustapizza offers some of the best pizza in Florence at low prices (around 5-10 euros).
La Divina Pizza: Roman style pizza in the Santo Spirito neighborhood. Try the fig and burrata!
I Due Fratellini: Take-away sandwich shop.
All'Antico Vinaio: Arguably the best panini in Florence. It's so popular they have several tiny shops right next to each other to speed things up. Be sure to get the truffle cream on your sandwich.
best gelato in florence
Gelateria La Carraia: Whenever I visit Florence I have gelato at least twice a day because it's just that amazing here. One of my favorite gelato spots in Florence is La Carraia! Prices are lower than in the city center; you can get a huge cone for 2 euros! Try the white chocolate pistachio.
La Strega Nocciola: The best gelato in Florence that is located in the city center. The owner will probably be the one scooping up your treat which I love. Try the Buontalenti flavor which is a specialty cream of Florence.
best restaurants in florence
Ristorante La Giostra: If I died tomorrow this would be my last meal. Enough said. Order whatever handmade ravioli they are serving that day. Advanced reservations needed. Book La Giostra towards the beginning of your visit to Florence because you might just want to return before you leave.
Trattoria ZaZa: Pizza and Tuscan cuisine restaurant that has unfortunately become a tourist hotspot (it doesn't stop me from loving it though). I love the truffle seabass, duck ragu tagliatelle, and the tiramisu. Reservations recommended.
Il Santo Bevitore: Romantic atmosphere with cooking that is less heavy and more refined. Reservations recommended.
Santino: Cute Charcuterie spot that is the sister restaurant of the above.
O'Munaciella: Restaurant popular with the locals offering pizza and traditional Tuscan dishes.
Fitness in florence
If you feel the need to run off some of the gelato and pasta you've consumed during your visit to Florence then head towards the Arno river! The best jogging route in Florence is to head West along the river towards Cascine Park (a nice size at 395 acres).
Once you reach the park you can either jog on the trails in the center among the trees, or stick to the path along the river. You'll be in good company with local Florentines jogging, rollerblading, biking, and playing sports.
In general, I try to stay away from large parks after dark, just to be on the safe side when I'm traveling solo.
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FLORENCE TRAVEL GUIDE – ESSENTIALS FOR YOUR VISIT TO FLORENCE
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