Travel better with our tourists' guide to Florence
Hello and welcome to our Florence Travel Guide. This time we're here to help you travel better in this beautiful city and learn all about the things to do in Florence.
Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy and lovingly nicknamed the City of Lilies; it was once the seat of the Renaissance and regular stomping ground of illustrious names such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. To this day, Florence is one of the world's foremost culture capitals, with nearly a third of the world's art treasures residing within the city. It is also 123 miles from Venice, which we've just got back from. Check out our travel guide here.
If like us your time is brief, it can be easy to miss some of the city's hidden secrets that could help you travel better in Florence, such as how women travelling alone can get discounted taxi fares, where to get the best views of Florence and how hand gestures can make all the difference in a conversation. Fortunately, you're in the right place to be in the know and make the most of the things to do in Florence.
In our Florence travel guide we'll cover:
- How to get to Florence
- The best ways to travel around Florence
- Where to eat in Florence
- Art and culture in Florence
- Do you need to be able to speak Italian to enjoy Florence
- How to make the most of your money in Florence
So grab your camera and phrasebook, and come with us on a whistle-stop tour of art, culture, delicious food and Florentine charm!
How to get to Florence
Travelling to Florence is easy by plane, train or automobile! Let's take a look at some of the most popular choices on offer:
How to get to Florence by plane?
Flying to Florence from the UK is normally the quickest way to get to there from the UK, taking just over 2 hours to touch down in Italy. While you're at it, if you book yourself an airport lounge you can squeeze in a last-minute flick through your Italian phrasebook while indulging in the peace and quiet with complimentary glass of bubbly. If you've never booked an airport lounge before, take a look at some of the secrets of UK airport lounges and find out how you could get in on the action.
What's Florence's nearest airport?
The city of Florence does have its own, small airport, however most budget airlines will fly into Pisa instead as it's only an hour's bus ride away. With that in mind, let's take a look at the options of how to get to Florence from both Florence Airport and Pisa Airport.
How to get to Florence from Florence Airport
Florence is easy to reach from its namesake airport, being just 3 miles outside of the city centre. Here's the best choices of how to make this 'stone's throw' of a journey:
- A taxi cost us €22 for a single and took 15 minutes to reach Florence.
- The dedicated Volainbus costs €6 for a single and €10 for a return, taking 30 minutes to reach Florence. It runs every half an hour from 5:30am and then hourly from 8:30am until half midnight.
How to get to Florence from Pisa Airport
If you're coming from Pisa Airport, the best thing to do is to take the Terravision direct bus transfer to Florence. The journey takes about an hour, and costs:
- Adults - €4.99 each way
- Under 13s - €4
- Under 5s - Free
Alternatively, why not treat your holiday to a better start and book an airport transfer from either airport? You'll have peace of mind, knowing your transport is sorted and booked for you before you've even stepped on the plane. Take the stress out of getting to your hotel, you know you deserve it!
How to get Florence by train
The main rail station into Florence, Firenze Santa Maria Novella, is located in the city centre and conveniently near the main tourists spots. Although taking the train is one of the most affordable ways to travel to Florence, it can take nearly an entire day from London, with connections to catch in Paris. This is something to bear in mind if like us, your time in the city is short and you want to enjoy as many of the best things to do in Florence as possible.
How to get to Florence by car
If you're hitting the road to Florence, then a hire car is the best option for travelling through Europe. However be aware that hire cars are not allowed in the historic city centre. The ZTL is a zone inside the main ring road where unlicensed vehicles will be fined.
Our best advice for road trippers is to stay outside the ring road and either catch the bus or walk into the city centre.
Not rented a car abroad before? Take a gander at our guide on how to book car hire abroad.
What are the best ways to travel around Florence?
Now you've arrived in Florence, dropped your bags off and perhaps treated yourself to a drink from the minibar, it's time to start exploring this beautiful, historic city. Let's dive in to some of the best options available:
Should I travel through Florence on foot?
Florence is ideal for pedestrian travellers, as the city centre is so small; it should only take about 25 minutes to cross on foot. What's more, almost all points of interest and the best things to do in Florence's city centre are pedestrian friendly.
Our advice is to take the time to really enjoy Florence; walking as much as possible will give you a more intimate insight into the city than any other mode of transport.
PRO TIP: remember to take some good walking shoes, a day of walking in Florence can take its toll on the unprepared soles!
Should I travel through Florence by bus?
Yet if like us, you're staying in the suburbs of Florence, then catching a bus might be your best solution. The city has a good, reliable bus service, with fares costing the following:
- 90 minutes (in advance) - €1.20 (£1)
- 90 minutes (on board) - €2 (£1.70)
- 24 hours - €5 (£4.40)
- 3 days - €12 (£10.60)
- 7 days - €18 (£16)
Note that day and weekly tickets can only be purchased in advance. For routes and maps, head to ataf.net.
Should I travel through Florence by taxi?
If you'd rather take a taxi around Florence, don't forget that they can't be flagged down in the street; you'll have to find one of the many taxi ranks around the city instead. They should display common fares inside, so check how much you should be paying before agreeing to ride.
We think it's definitely worth remembering that women travelling alone between 9pm and 2am are entitled to a 10% discount when taking a taxi. Just make sure to ask, as some drivers will not automatically offer it.
Where to eat in Florence
Trying some of the delicious local cuisine is one of our favourite things to do in Florence. We think you can't do much better than sampling what's on offer in the city's multi-storied central market (Mercato Centrale), located in the recently renovated old centre of Florence.
What can I find on the ground floor of Florence's Central Market?
On the ground floor, you can find loads of stalls, offering a wide range of local foods. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try some authentic Tuscan delicacies, such as pig's feet, giant sheets of tripe and whole chickens with every appendage still attached - including the head. Disgustoso.
For the less tolerant palate, there's also a range of cheeses, cured meats, olives on offer, as well as cluster of seafood stalls in the northern corner, where you can find fresh, locally sourced fish and shellfish to tempt the taste buds. Our favourite stall is Da Nerbone, founded in 1872, it's a cafeteria style eatery offering a choice of traditional sandwiches and salads that are perfect for a light lunch whilst meandering through all the things to in Florence. However it's worth remembering that as Da Nerbone is positively swamped at lunchtime, expect to queue for their culinary delights.
What can I find on the first floor of Florence's Central Market?
A trip to Florence's central market isn't complete without checking out the magnificent food hall, upstairs from the ground floor market. Recently reopened in 2014, there's no shortage of restaurants and bars offering an authentic Florentine experience. You can also rest assured that most dietary requirements will be catered for, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.
What art and culture is there in Florence?
If there is one aspect of Florence that epitomises the city, it's art and culture. Housing a third of the world's art treasures (according to UNESCO), Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and is a must for art aficionados or those that are just curious about culture. But with so many things to see and do in Florence, it can be tricky to know where to look first. To help you get started, let's focus on some the best places to enjoy art and culture in this unique city:
The Uffizi Gallery museum houses the Medici family's art collection, and is positively packed to the rafters with Renaissance masterpieces. Visitors can see Botticelli's incomparable 'Birth of Venus' amongst other great works.
There are few works of art more famous than Michelangelo's statue of David, which is housed in Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia. The 14 foot, marble statue stands inside the gallery, however you can also find a smaller replica on display in its original location at the Palazzo Vecchio.
il Duomo di Firenze
Florence Cathedral, known locally as il Duomo di Firenze, is the city's most famous basilica. Inside you can find Vasari's fresco of the Last Judgement, or climb the 463 steps to the top for panoramic views of the skyline. We love all the art you can find in the Florence, but we can't think of anything more stunning than seeing arguably its best work of art - the city itself.
The famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is a medieval construction that stretches across the Arno River and can be found near the Uffizi gallery. Interestingly, it was the only bridge in Florence to survive the German retreat during World War 2, as even Adolf Hitler declared that it was too beautiful to bomb.
Ponte Vecchio is also noteworthy due to the fact it's one of the last bridges in Florence to still house shops and merchant stands. It's a great place to pick up a souvenir, if you were so inclined.
Should I book a tour through Florence?
We recommend booking a tour with touringflorence.com to get an expert, insider view on all of Florence's hidden treasures. Local knowledge is invaluable when visiting somewhere new, so dive in, book a tour and experience Florence like a pro.
Do I need to be able to speak Italian to enjoy Florence?
When travelling to a new, foreign-speaking destination, it's always a worry that your English might not be understood. After all, quizzical look and awkward silence are never ideal.
With that being said, do you need to be able to speak Italian to enjoy your Florentine holiday?
Good news! English is spoken and understood throughout Florence, particularly in the tourist hot spots. To survive here you don't need to be fluent in Italian, but it certainly helps to learn a few key phrases and words; the effort will be appreciated by locals, and it's a good chance to show off your skills to friends and family!
What phrases should I learn for my Florentine holiday?
- Hello - Ciao (informal) or Buongiorno (formal)
- Goodbye - Ciao (informal) or Arrivederci (formal)
- Yes - Si
- No - No
- Please - Per favore
- Thank you - Grazie
- Do you speak English? - Parla inglese?
- I don't understand - Ho capito
Should I use hand gestures when speaking Italian?
It's a common stereotype that the Italian language is very animated and emotive. Much of this stems from the use of hand gestures in the language, which is believed to have derived from competition for attention in busy cities. When used correctly, they are a fun way of emphasising what you want to say. Let's take a look at a couple of our favourites:
Cosa Vuoi (what do you want?) - Fingertips together and wagged towards face
Delizioso (delicious) - Rub finger into cheek
How to make the most of your money in Florence
So far we've established how to get to Florence, as well as the wealth of culture, places to eat and things to do during your Italian holiday, but to enjoy all of these things it helps to know how many euros to bring.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how to make your money go further on your Florentine holiday.
How much money should I bring to Florence?
Like the rest of Italy, Florence's currency is euros, however prices in the city's tourist hotspots can be pretty high compared to the rest of the country. We think it's a good idea to purchase tickets to attractions before your holiday, so you can spread the cost and avoid carrying a lot money.
If you're still unsure about carrying money on you through the busy Florentine streets, we recommend picking up a currency card, such as the FairFX money card before you leave. You can load the card up with your travel money before you set off for Florence, meaning all your funds are readily accessible wherever you are.
What's more, the exchange rate will be set there and then at the best rate for you. Then you can travel with peace of mind, knowing you're protected from the volatility of the currency market.
Where can I get the best deals in Florence?
As with most popular destinations, you can expect to pay a lot more when sitting out on the main squares of Florence. For the best deals, have a trek just a few streets away from the tourist spots; you'll be amazed at how quickly the price drops!
If you're looking to frequent Florence's bars and clubs, be prepared to fork over €3-4 for a beer and €8-10 for a cocktail in some of the trendier haunts. We think Piazza Santa Croce is definitely worth a visit on a night out. Saluti!
You'll also find many restaurants in Florence offer a service called Aperitivo, from 6/7-9pm, where you buy a glass of wine (or equivalent drink for those who aren't fans of a nice Chianti) for €7 and get an all-you-can-eat buffet included in the price. A reasonably priced, authentic Italian experience!
How much did we spend?
Here's a breakdown of some of the costs* of our Florence trip:
- Lunch - €8 (£7)
- Coffee - €2.50 (£2.20)
- 4 Bed apartment - ₤109 per night
- Toilets - €1 (90p)
- Uffizi Gallery - Adult: €25 (£22), 18-25 and teachers (EU): €20 (£17.70), Under 18: Free
- Galleria dell'Academia - Adult: €20 (£17.70), 18-25 and teachers (EU): €15 (£13.30), Under 18: Free
- il Duomo di Firenze - Free
*Rate of exchange correct on 09/02/18.
That's is from us in Florence. We hope we've given you a taste of just some of the amazing things to see and do in this spectacular city. But reading about it and experiencing it first hand are two very different things, so treat yourself and travel better to Florence.
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