I am so so SO excited to finally publish this article that I have put so much of my time, passion, and experience into. Before I even went to Florence, I knew this was the #1 article I wanted to create to share what I think is the “best of” this magnificent city, and the best way to do it. I know you’ve gotten a sense on how much I looooove Florence, and I’ve received countless messages from my friends, family, and followers asking about tips, places, how-to’s, and what not. I hope this guide can help you on your next trip!
How to get to here:
Florence has a small international airport, but is international as far as western Europe on smaller airplanes. If you’re on a long-haul international flight, you’ll definitely need to have a layover somewhere in Europe and change to get to Florence (most common from the United States are Munich, Frankfurt, or Zurich). If you fly into Florence Peretola/Amerigo Vespucci Airport (FLR), the city is only a 15-20 minute drive to the center on a flat rate taxi transfer would cost €20-25. There is also a tram that regularly departs the from airport and takes you to Firenze Santa Maria Novella, the main train station of the city on the west quarter.
If you don’t fly into to Florence, there are many airports in close-by cities that are connected by a wonderful train system that efficiently gets you from city to city. You can fly into Pisa (hour ride on the local train), Bologna (half hour on the FrecciaRosa speed train), Rome (hour and a half on the speed train), Milan or Venice (2-3 hours on the speed train), all will get you to Santa Maria Novella station. From the station, you can either get a taxi from the queue or begin walking to your destination (you’ll find people walking with their luggage at all times of the day and in any part of the city; Florence is such a small city that its very easy to get around).
My advice for safety, and things to take note of:
As a general rule whenever I travel to a new country, I always like to learn a few words or phrases of courtesy in their language. Italians are very appreciative when someone tries to speak to them in Italian, no matter what level of knowledge. Words like “please” and “thank you” (per favore and grazie), “yes” and “no” (si and no), good morning/good evening, (buongiorno and buonasera) hello/goodbye (ciao, arrivederci) “do you speak english?” (parli inglese?), and so on will come in handy.
Florence is a very safe city with low crime rates, but no matter where you travel it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings. As one of the main and most visited cities in Italy, Florence welcomes more than 15 million people annually. There are some very talented pickpockets at work that convene in the most visited areas of the city: the train station, large squares, and sights like the Ponte Vecchio and Piazzale Michelangelo. For women, always have your bag in front of you, keeping it zipped or tied where possible (I always advocate for small cross-bodies for security and ease). For men, never leave your wallet in your back pocket, and make sure your backpack is on the tightest setting. Also look out for large crowds in a popular areas: performers, groups, etc., as these might actually be a distraction for someone to nick a personal item (I haven’t personally seen this, but you always here stories).
The city is very well lit at night, and Florentines are usually very respectful in passing. As a general piece of advice, and from my experience, if an Italian man finds a woman attractive they might give you a ciao bella, a smile, or a whistle, but is usually in the context of admiration. If you aren’t comfortable with the attention you’re receiving, just ignore them and they won’t pursue you further (again, only in my personal experience have I found this to be the case).
When you see a vendor selling merchandise or an artist selling their paintings with a proper stand (you’ll know it when you see them), they pay an annual tax to the city for a license to be able to do so. You will find illegal sellers in lots of places laying their products on the sidewalk, a sheet, or a piece of cardboard, and sometimes they will come up to you in crowded areas trying to sell flowers, selfie sticks, prints, and other junky things; just ignore them or say a firm “no” or basta and they will usually walk away. If a police officer catches you in transaction, you will receive a ticket and a fine, and if you are caught purchasing counterfeit items such as knockoff-designer handbags or watches, you will receive a large fine, and could result in a court appearance. There are “gypsies” that will be found in large squares and lines for monuments and museums, and you’ll be able to identify them by their clothing. They are all women, and usually carry a paper cup and small sign with a picture of a child, and will come right up to you and ask for money. Their begging and actions are also illegal because they are usually involved with organized crime; ignore them, or give them a firm “no” and they will continue on. Performers or street artists are allowed because they are working for tips, and you will find them all over the city! Have a look and enjoy their artistry, and maybe leave a euro in passing as a kind gesture.
One more little tidbit about getting around Florence is that you actually cannot hail a taxi anywhere in the city! Florence is small enough that a destination within the center probably won’t be more than a 20 minute walk, but there are always instances when a cab is needed. There are various taxi queues that you will find in large squares that are marked with an orange “taxi” sign, or you can order a cab to your destination with various apps that are free to download. Check this link for a maps of the taxi queues, as well as a few phone numbers to call.
Okay now lets get on to the fun things –
What to do:
I have had the great privilege of visiting Florence twice before, each for a week at a time, and now having lived there for three months, and I’ve finally seen and done the big and small sights. Florence has an endless plethora of everything and anything to do and see. Depending on what you want to do and “the way you vacation”, Florence can surely meet your expectations no matter what! I highly recommend booking a walking tour of the city when you first arrive. There is so much more to this city than meets the eye, and more than I could tell you! Learn more about the Florence Republic, the rise of the Medici family, Brunelleschi’s dome, and some incredible hidden secrets that many people don’t know about. Check in Airbnb Experiences for a plethora of knowledgeable and affordable tour options!
One of my favorite activities from the summer was to gather with friends and head up to Piazzale Michelangelo with a bottle of wine and some snacks to watch the sunset on the steps. The Piazzale is one of the busiest spots in the city at most times of the day because it has the best views of Florence! Check the seasonal times of when the sun will set, and try to arrive a half an hour or more before the sun is timed to set to get a seat on the steps. There will be musicians playing for tips, and it is really a lovely time! The walk to get up to the square is about one and a half miles up hill, but you can get a taxi from one of the many queues around the city center.
If you want to shop:
If you want to spend some serious money at the major designers, look no further than Via de’Tornabuoni. Everyone from Balanciaga, Valentino, Ferragamo, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Chanel, and so many more all have stores here. It is a very beautiful and popular street, and you’ll find many people strolling, window shopping, and performers playing music.
If you want to shop for leather goods, textiles, scarves, and souvenirs that don’t come from a tacky tourist shop, I would suggest going to the Mercato Nuovo within the Loggia del Porcellino (near Piazza della Republica and the Piazza della Signoria) or the San Lorenzo Market (next to San Lorenzo Basilica). Both markets offer a huge array of goods at reasonable prices. For higher quality leather and exotic skins, visit the area around Basilica di Santa Croce where they are most famous.
The Ponte Vecchio has had jewelry stores on its arms since the 16th century, and has a plethora of family-owned and luxury shops to purchase jewelry and gems from. Be warned however, because the markups will be very high. I compare it to 47th street in in New York City as far as variety, packed window arrangement, and prices. There are plenty of amazing jewelry stores throughout the city with great histories and knowledgeable shop keepers, but if you want the novelty of shopping from a store on the Ponte Vecchio, go for it!
If you want to see churches:
There are a countless number of churches in Florence that belong to numerous denominations of Christianity. As a visitor, you would be welcome into any church that is open during business hours, and I guarantee it will be very, very old and beautiful. Read my article on my favorite churches in Florence to see the ones I most recommend a visitor going to!
If you want to go to museums:
As the center of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is home to a countless number of amazing museums, all filled with priceless and famous works of art. Read my full article about my favorite museums in Florence for my top choices, and a big tip I can give you to make your life a little easier when you go. Happy visiting!
Where to eat:
Before I give recommendations to my personal favorites, I have to say that every restaurant you find will all have delicious, fresh food. The difference in prices will come from fame of the place and/or the location. If you want to have a meal in the Piazza del Duomo, you should go for it! Enjoy the glorious view of the cathedral, baptistry, and campanile, and the performers that will come around and play for tips. Just know that the price mark up of a €6 cappuccino and €15 bruschetta will come from the location, and not the quality of ingredients or preparation of the food. If you visit a small osteria or trattoria on a side street, the prices will be significantly lower. I would even argue that sometimes the food is better at the smaller places! For dinner, most restaurants will open around 7, and a good dinner time is about 8, but I’ve come into restaurants past 10 pm and they are still in full swing!
Osteria Santo Spirito – I can’t even recall how many meals I’ve had here because I’ve been there so many times! It is my personal favorite restaurant in the city, mostly for sentimental reasons. During the high tourist season (June-September) definitely make a reservation and see if you can sit outside. On the off season you’d probably be okay just showing up at the time you want to eat. The outdoor seating is set up all year round … I remember having a meal there three years ago in March and sitting outside with all of my friends and having the best time! They are molto famoso for their gnocchi au gratin with truffle oil; I’ve gotten that dish a countless amount of times, but everything on the menu will be amazing! (Piazza Santo Spirito, 16/R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy).
Gusta Pizza – in between Via Maggio and Piazza Santo Spirito, it is my favorite pizza place in. the. world. I found them more than six years ago on my very first trip to Florence, that came recommended by a local. They specialize in wood-fired, Neapolitan pizza, and only have a short menu of classic Italian pizzas. From my first bite, I knew this was the best pizza I’ve ever had. Gusta is always suuuper busy, and usually has a line that goes out the door, but it goes rather quickly so don’t worry! My favorite pizza is the Calabrese pizza with spicy salami 😋. (Via Maggio, 46r, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy)
Colle Bereto – Another sentimental favorite of mine! It is a great restaurant for any meal, but my favorite time to go is for aperitivo. An aperitivo is a pre-meal drink and snack meant to whet your appetite, and can almost be compared to a “happy hour”, but they are actually quite different. Each day, Colle Bereto comes out with a huge buffet of Italian classics: little pizza’s, pastas, salads, little sandwiches, and so much more! The drinks on average are around €12 (I always get a spritz), and the buffet comes with your drink. Aperitivo starts at 6:30, and could basically double as your dinner … I’ve done that several times! Have a seat outside and enjoy the comings and goings in Piazza Strozzi. (Piazza degli Strozzi, 5, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy)
View on Art – This is my absolute favorite, favorite, favorite hidden gem in the city!!! On top of the Hotel Medici on the 6th floor, you will have the most amazing aerial view of the cathedral, with surprisingly very few people around! I have brought so many friends here for a pre-dinner drinks, and everyone is always astounded when they first arrive and see the views. My suggestion would be to go before the sunset and enjoy the views, a Spritz, and a light aperitivo! (Via dei Medici, 6, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy)
And there you have it: my ultimate, “curated” guide to la mia città preferita del mondo. I hope you loved reading this as much as I had writing and planning it! It took so much work, time, and personal experience to put this together, and I am so happy and proud of the way it has come out. When you next go to Florence, I hope this can be a useful tool to help you navigate your way around, if you go to any of the places I mentioned, tag me on Instagram, and ENJOY!!!! Salutè a te!