Florence Italy Tourist Information for Sightseeing and Travel Tips

Florence Italy tourist information for a superb sightseeing experience, also known as Firenze, for its classical art, cuisine, great shopping and Renaissance architecture. This is a city that you will never tire of, no matter how long you stay, because there is so much to see and do.

Florence Italy is known for its classical art, cuisine, great shopping and superb architecture. Florence will often be a traveler's first port of call when visiting Italy if they love art and sculpture. It was here in the 1400s under the patronage of the Medici family that the classical age was nurtured.

As a result, Florence is full of examples from the sculptures of Michelangelo and his David, the architecture of Brunelleschi including the dome of the Cathedral to the paintings of Botticelli and his Venus. Once can visit this Tuscan city again and again and never tire of it, as there is always something new to see or learn about.

Because there is so much to see in Florence, unless you are going to be spending months on end in the city, it would be better to decide before you go as to what is important to you, to see. Then get yourself a hotel that is central to what you want to see. Then divide the city up into sections and visit the sites within each section noting good restaurants in Florence for you to eat at.

There are many churches to visit in Florence, but really the area between the two churches both east and west of the city, the Santa Croce and the Santa Maria Novella
is the area that you need to concentrate your visit. There really isn't any need to travel beyond these boundaries unless you are in Florence for any extended time.

Of course there are several good museums to visit, the Uffizi Gallery being one of them. However, it is best to book online for these much visited museums if you want to avoid standing for long hours in the queues. This is especially so in summer when temperatures can be really hot in Florence.

Also, I suggest that you check the opening times before going anywhere. There is nothing worse leaving a day to visit a museum or attraction only to find that dreaded sign. "Chiuso" - closed. Sundays and Mondays are the days where you can find museums or attractions closed although slowly Florence is slowly being dragged into the 21st century in this regard.
 

The Province of Florence and the City of Florence Italy

People are often confused when doing research on Italian places as often you have capital towns taking the same names as the provinces. Florence is no different. Besides the city of Florence, there is also the Province of Florence which is made up of a number of areas, as can be seen below with all the municipalities making up this area.
 

Municipalities Making up the Province of Florence

Bagno a Ripoli Barberino Val d'Elsa Barberino di Mugello Borgo San Lorenzo
Calenzano Campi Bisenzio Capraia e Limite Castelfiorentino
Cerreto Guidi Certaldo Dicomano Empoli
Fiesole Figline Valdarno Firenzuola Firenze
Fucecchio Gambassi Terme Greve in Chianti Impruneta
Incisa in Val d'Arno Lastra a Signa Londa Marradi
Montaione Montelupo Fiorentino Montespertoli Palazzuolo sul Senio
Pelago Pontassieve Reggello Rignano sull'Arno
Rufina San Casciano in Val di Pesa San Godenzo San Piero a Sieve
Scandicci Scarperia Sesto Fiorentino Signa
Tavarnelle Val di Pesa Vaglia Vicchio Vinci

Where is Florence Italy?


Florence the Province is part of the region of Tuscany. As you can see from the map below Florence has several neighbours; Prato, Pistoia, Lucca, Pisa, Siena and Arezzo. As a result, Florence is easily reached from just about anywhere in Tuscany. Which is good to know if you want to visit Florence the city for a day trip.

We have property in the Arezzo Province, and it takes us about an hour and a half from Arezzo to Florence on the A1.

Florence is also a good place to base yourself if you want to
travel Tuscany , as it is very central.
 

Florence Italy Tourist Information - What to see


Florence Italy with the Dumo dominating the scene
 

Florence Cathedral and the City of Florence with the Northern Tuscan Hills in the Background

Florence Cathedral


* The Piazza del Duomo is the best place to start your sightseeing in Florence as most of the major sights are within easy walking distance from here. You can walk from one end of the city to the other in about 30 minutes.

It's here, at the Duomo (The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) where you can either climb to the top for the wonderful views or climb to the top of the bell tower (Giotto's Campanile) next door. Both will give you a wonderful sense of how the city is laid out. Do go inside the Duomo, it is a fantastic church filled with art works of great importance.

The Florence Cathedral (Duomo) is the 4th largest church in the whole of Europe and has, in the past seen congregations 10,000 strong when the out of control monk Savonarola was preaching against the papacy.

It is in the Duomo where you could have, at one time, found Michelangelo's Pieta and the Choir Stalls by Donatello and Luca della Robbia, but now moved to the Museo
dell'Opera del Duomo, though many other pieces of art are still in their original place.

The pavement made of colored marble, was completed over the 1500s and 1600s by numerous artists, including one of the greatest; Baccio D'Agnolo.

Although the foundation stone to the cathedral was laid in 1296 it wasn't until 1436 that the dome to the cathedral was finally completed by Filippo Brunelleschi and
work continued throughout the 15th and 16th centuries on the internal fittings and finally the external marble facade wasn't completed until the 19th century.

Open:
Mondays - Fridays 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Saturdays:10:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. except the first Saturday of the month when it closes at 3:30 p.m.
Sundays: 1:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.

Florence Baptistery 

The Baptistery of San Giovanni, Florence

The popular Florence Baptistery with the Bronze doors visible left.

The Florence Baptistery of San Giovanni has wonderful Byzantine mosaics as well as Gheberti's Gates of Paradise  which are gates that were so named by Michelangelo after viewing them, and the name stuck.

There are 3 sets of doors to the Baptistery, however the Gates of Paradise are the most famous for its 10 wonderful panels showing biblical scenes.

It was only after 5 panels were knocked off the door and another left hanging in the great Florentine flood of 1966 that after some restoration work had taken place that it was realized just how wonderful the work was under the grime and dirt. It was only in 2000 that serious restoration on the panels took place.

The original doors are no longer in the Baptistery. They have finally been restored to their former glory and can be viewed at the Museo dell' Opera  del Duomo from October, 2012.

Despite this, the Baptistery is still worth a visit. Just make sure that you visit when the Baptistery is open. The Baptistery only opens at noon so leave this building to visit last out of the three. Admission is free.

Open: Mondays - Saturdays 12:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Sundays: 8:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Admission E3.00

The Duomo, the Campanile and the Baptistery make the Piazza Duomo an impressive public space.

Florence Italy Tourist Information - Artwork in  Florence 

There is a rare pleasure to be gained from seeing paintings in the places for which they were originally created. Therefore, try not to miss the following:
 

Artwork in Santa Croce

* Giotto's frescoes of St. Francis and Ghirlandaio's fresco cycle in Santa Croce. It is in Santa Croce that you can also see the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo. Off the cloisters is a chapel designed by Brunelleschi and decorated by Luca della Robbia.

There is also a small museum with The Last Supper painted by Taddeo Gaddi and Cimabue's Crucifix restored after the terrible flood of 1966 when it was damaged.

The magnificence of this church is such that the French writer Stendhal felt so dizzy and overcome that he couldn't walk afterwards for a short period. This condition is known as Stendhalismo or Stendhal's Disease named by Florentine doctors who are said to treat about 12 cases of this phenomenon each year. So, have a look for
yourself. Hopefully you don't get caught up in the disease!

Santa Croce has had a long history of being an area for artisans. For 200 years, from the 14th - 16th centuries, Santa Croce housed huge dye vats for their famous dyeing trade. Before the floods of 1966  the area still used to be filled with many artisans. However, after the flood most artisans moved away and leather workshops were established to sell their wares to tourists.
Santa Croce Florence

Santa Croce, Florence

The piazza of Santa Croce has certainly witnessed some violent history in the passed. During the time of the monk Savonarola heretics were burned at the stakes, and book burnings continued until 1580.

However, despite seeing violence there were also more pleasant occurrences. During the time of Lorenzo the Magnificent the piazza was where elaborate pageants were held. During the 16th and 17th centuries football matches were held here too. A disc, dated February 10, 1565 on the ground floor of the frescoed Palazzo dell' Antella
marks the center line.

The Artwork at Santa Maria del Carmine

* Masaccio's Adam and Eve in Santa Maria del Carmine. Don't miss the Brancacci Chapel with its wonderful frescoes by Masaccio that were started in 1425 and have been studied by Fra Angelico, Raphael and Michelangelo.

For some trivial history, it was on the steps of the Santa Maria del Carmine that Michelangelo's nose was broken by Pietro Torrigiano.

Mascacio's artwork at the Santa Maria del Carmine church

Artwork by Masaccio in the Santa Maria del Carmine Church

Artwork at Palazzo Medici-Riccardi

* Benozzo Gozzoli's Journey of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi on Via Cavour. Another palace that belonged to the Medici family with 360 degree frescoes where various members of the Medici family are on horseback traveling through Tuscan countryside.

It was at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi that 21 year old Lorenzo the Magnificent accepted the control of government and was visited by Emperor Charles VIII and Charles V of France. Uccello's Battle of San Romano once hung in the bedroom of Lorenzo.

Artwork at Santa Felicita

 * Pontormo's Deposition in Santa Felicita
 

Artwork in the Piazza della Signoria

* Piazza della Signoria where on the steps in front of the Palazzo Vecchio stand the statues of Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli, and Michelangelo's David, replaced by a copy in 1873 when the original was moved to the Galleria dell'Accademia.

There is also the Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna, and Perseus by Benevenuto Cellini. To the far left of the steps is the Neptune Fountain by Ammannanti which
Michelangelo described as "A waste of good marble". While in the part of the square where the old commercial tribunal is located stands the Equestrian Monument to
Cosimo I.
Neptune's Fountain in Florence, Italy22

Neptune's Fountain, Florence Italy


However peaceful this square looks today, it was certainly a lot different during the late 1400s.
 

Savonarola's Florence and San Marco

Savonarola's brass plaque of his death in Florence Italy. During this time Savonarola's preaching against the papacy was reaching its peak and he was getting his bands of boys to loot wealthy houses and dragging out things of value to place on bonfires in the square known as the Bonfires
of Vanities
.

Unfortunately, his zealous preaching and his prediction that Lorenzo Medici was going to die soon, and did, Savonarola then influenced the Florentines in a big way.

When Savonarola called for the Bonfires of Vanities priceless artworks were destroyed as well as precious books and manuscripts, jewelry, ancient relics and statues, cosmetics, fine clothing, mirrors, musical instruments and many priceless works of early Renaissance art.

However, it was also in this square that Savonarola was finally burned at the stake.  

If you look closely you will see a bronze plaque on the floor marking the spot where Savonarola was burned in the piazza. Every year on 23rd May people remember his death by placing flowers on the site.

Before Savonarola was dispatched with, he lived in San Marco and his monastic cell is still there which one can see when you visit the Fra Angelico Museum.

* Fra Angelico's museum in San Marco. San Marco was a Dominican Monastery that also became Fra Angelico's home and the home of Savonarola.

San Lorenzo

* The church of San Lorenzo next to the market which includes the Medici chapels containing the tombs of this famous family adorned with huge reclining figures
sculptured by Michelangelo, as well as Lorenzo, the Duke of Urbino.

The outside of this church is very plain, this is because the church is unfinished, despite being the oldest church in Florence, consecrated in 393 A.D. The building as it exists today was enlarged by the Medici family over the 1400s and 1500s.

The plain facade of the Church of San Lorenzo, Florence's oldest church

* The Uffizi Gallery that used to be the offices for the Medici family contains more Renaissance art than any other museum on earth.

Here you will be able to see wonderful paintings and works by Raphael, Leonardo di Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Botticelli, Giotto, Caravaggio and Rembrandt to name just a few wonderful masters of their craft. With about 1,700 paintings on display expect to spend at least 3-4 hours here to do it justice.

- Top 10 Paintings to see at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence Italy:

1) Botticelli's Birth of Venus
2) Leonardo di Vinci's The Annunciation
3) Michelangelo's Holy Family
4) Giotto's Maesta
5) Caravaggio's Bacchus
6) Botticelli's Primavera
7) Piero della Francesca's Frederico di Montefeltro and Battista Sforza
8) Titian's Venus of Urbino
9) Parmigianino's Madonna of the Long Neck
10) Ucello's Battle of San Romano

Opening Times:
 
Tuesdays - Sundays 8:15 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.(last entry 45 minutes before closing time. It also opens until 10:00 p.m. on Saturdays during the high season)
Closed Mondays, 1st January, 1st May, 25th December.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus with Venus emerging from a clam shell

My favorite painting of all time -  Botticelli's Birth of Venus. Seeing it here doesn't do it justice.

Florence Italy Tourist Information - Other Museums in Florence, Italy

There are of course other, more famous museums in Florence, but try to make it to the Bargello which heaves with remarkable sculptures. Added interest is that the Bargello used to be Florence's prison and medieval town hall as well as the residence of the Chief Magistrate. It's here that you can see the city's best Donatello collection of artworks. The courtyard is very pretty with the loggia and staircase dating back to the 1300s. You can find the Bargello on Via del Proconsolo.

Open: Mondays - Sundays 8:30 a.m. - 1:50 p.m.
Closed 1st, 3rd, 5th Sunday and 2nd and 4th Monday of each month. Admission charge.
The Medieval Staircase of the Bargello, Florence Italy

The Medieval Staircase of the Bargello, Florence 

But it is not all about paintings and sculpture. It's important to wander slowly around Florence at dusk, perhaps take a stroll in the afternoon heat around the Boboli Gardens on the southern side of the Arno. The gardens are attached to the Palazzo Pitti, once home to the Medici family.

Palazzo Pitti has the finest private city garden known as the Boboli Gardens and it's the largest private building in Florence with a wonderful art collection. Inside this once Royal residence are 7 museums with the world's best collection of art by Titian and Raphael.

Open: Palatina and Appartamenti Reali
Tuesdays - Sundays 8:15 a.m. - 6:50 p.m.
Closed Mondays
Gallery of Costumes, Museum of Porcelain and Museum of Silver
Mondays - Sundays 8:15 a.m. - 1:50 p.m.
Closed 2nd and 4th Sunday and 1st and 3rd and 5th Monday of each month.

Visit the Palazzo Vecchio. It was the most important civic building in medieval Florence and continues to this day to be Florence's seat of government. With the main
section of the palace being built between 1229 and 1314. In this old palace are rooms richly decorated by Vasari and some of the greatest artists of the 16th century Florence.
Palazzo Vecchio at night
 

Palazzo Vecchio at night

Photographic opportunities for Florence, Italy

For a wonderful view of Florence if you don't get to Fiesole, make the walk up the hill to the south of the river crossing either at the Ponte Vecchio or Ponte alle Grazia which is the bridge closest to the viewpoint, passing Galileo's house to the interesting church of San Miniato al Monte, and then descend via Piazzale Michelangelo for a stupendous view of the city.

Get your camera out here for a great shot of the city that also includes the lovely dome of the Cathedral. Just above the Piazzale is the Coffee House (Palazzina del Cafe) built in 1873. Stop awhile and take in the ambiance before going back down to the city.

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

View of the city of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

In the middle of the piazzale is dominated by one of the city's two replicas of Michelangelo's David. If you stand at the center of the balustrade facing the Arno and above the tower of San Niccolo you will see, looking left to right across the city of Florence:

The bell-tower of the Signoria, the top of the tower of Santa Maria Novella, the Badia tower and immediately to its right the cupola of the San Lorenzo Cappella dei Principi, the white marble tower of the Duomo, Brunelleschi's dome and further along the minaret-like tower of Santa Croce, the green dome of the Synagogue, and the concrete tower of Nervi's stadium complex.

In the distance left to right are the hills and valleys of Northern Tuscany.

Florence Italy Tourist Information - The Arno River and the 5 Bridges of Florence 

There are 5 bridges that span the Arno River and link the two banks in Florence.

1) The Ponte Vecchio
2) The Ponte delle Grazie
3) The Ponte Santa Trinita
4) Ponte alla Carraia
5) Ponte Amerigo Vespucci
 

1) Ponte Vecchio

A visit to Florence would not be complete without going down to the Arno River to walk along the Ponte Vecchio. This is the oldest bridge over the Arno River and probably was already in existence in a different format during the time of the Romans. Although the bridge was swept away several times due to flooding, at least twice during the Middle Ages, the present bridge as it looks today was designed in 1345 by Taddeo Gaddi.

The history of the shops on the Arno River that you see today have existed since the 13th century first belonging to tanners, then butchers, linen merchants, greengrocers and blacksmiths.

However, in 1593, Ferdinand I decided that these "vile arts" were inappropriate for a passage that linked the two ducal palaces. The shops were then vacated and 41 goldsmiths and 8 jewelers were brought in to occupy the shops at twice the rent, and who in due course enlarged the shops and ended up building the houses that one can see today that project over the river. Many of the present jewelers and goldsmiths have occupied their shops for generations.

We are very lucky to have the Ponte Vecchio to visit as it was the only bridge in Florence that wasn't destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War as they felt that the bridge was so beautiful that they couldn't destroy it.

2) The Ponte della Grazie

The Ponte della Grazie was the oldest and longest bridge in Florence, having been originally built in 1227 and then redesigned in 1345 with 9 arches. Again buildings were added to the bridge in the Middle Ages similar to those found on the Ponte Vecchio but eventually these were abandoned and torn down to make way for railway tracks during the 1800s.

During the Second World War the bridge was destroyed by the Germans and the bridge that you see today was finally finished in 1953.

3) The Ponte Santa Trinita

The Ponte Santa Trinita was the Holy Trinity Bridge is the oldest bridge in the world of that particular architectural style. This bridge in its time has been destroyed by 3 major floods during the 1200s, 1300s and again in the 1500s,  and then blown up during the Second World War by the Germans. The bridge you see today was completed in 1958.

If you want a great view of the Ponte Vecchio for some super photographic opportunities then head for the Ponte Santa Trinita.

4) The Ponte alla Carraia

The Ponte alla Carraia was also destroyed by the 3 major floods affecting the Ponte Trinata, as well as collapsing under the weight of a crowd of people who had gathered on the bridge to watch a floating production of Dante's Inferno in 1304 and all were drowned.

Florentine's are known for their wit and so the joke soon emerged that those who were looking for Hell that day soon found it!

The present bridge was rebuilt in 1948 after it was destroyed by the Germans in 1944.

5) Ponte Amerigo Vespucci

The Ponte Amerigo Vespucci wasn't built at the time of the Second World War, but no doubt, had it existed this bridge would have been destroyed too. However, it was only completed in 1957.

Arno River showing 3 of the 5 bridges of Florence Italy

The Arno River showing 3 of the 5 bridges; the Ponte Vecchio, the Ponte Santa Trinita and further back the Ponte Amerigo Vespucci seen from the Piazzale Michelangelo

Florence Italy Tourist Information - The Porcellino of Florence

Finally, don't forget to put a coin in the mouth of the bronze porcellino in Mercato Nuovo and rub it's well-worn, shiny snout. By doing so ensures that you will be coming back to Florence in the future.
The bronze boar statue outside the Central Market of Florence
 

The well-visited and rubbed bronze boar - Porcellino at the Central Market

Florence Italy Tourist Information - 12 hour Itinerary

Book all your tickets online to avoid the crowds.

Visit the Accademia first thing in the morning and see Michelangelo's paintings and sculptures including his famous statue of David. Queues are long at this popular Florence Museum. Therefore, take the opportunity of of skipping the lines to the Accademia and buy your tickets online.

Then make your way over to the Duomo. Visit the cathedral and climb the dome to get the lovely views of the city. If it is noon, visit the Baptistery for the mosaics and frescoes as well as the bronze front doors.

Take some time out for lunch. Enjoy the ambiance of the passing parade.

You will find that even in Florence places close for lunch. So head over to Santa Croce to see the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo and the wonderful artworks. There is also a leather workshop that you can visit here.

You cannot leave without having a gelato. The best gelato can be found not far from here at Vivoli. It's back towards the main part of the city on Via Isole delle
Stinche at number 7.

Now head towards the Uffizi Gallery. Don't get here later than 4:00 p.m. to allow yourself 3 hours to take in the wonderful artwork. I have always loved Botticelli's Birth of Venus where I first saw a life size copy in a museum on a totally different continent when I was only about 12 or 13 and remember being totally mesmerized by
the sheer beauty of the painting. Seeing the real deal here was definitely a highlight for me.

Again, you don't want to spend hours and hours in a queue wasting precious travel time when you don't need to. Skip the line and buy your Uffizi Gallery tickets online before you go.

Finally, soak up the atmosphere by taking a stroll along the Arno with the locals and go across the Ponte Vecchio into the Oltrarno for an evening meal.

Florence Italy Tourist Information - What to see and do in Florence for Extended Trips

If you are staying in Italy for a while, and you should in order to do this city justice, then there are other places of interest that could be visited other than what has been discussed above.

Bellosguardo in the Province of Florence Italy

One such place is Bellosguardo. Bellosguardo is a hilltop village south of the city of Florence. It is a 30 minute walk from the city going from either Porta Romana or
San Frediano. Although it is a bit of stiff climb your efforts will be rewarded with fantastic views as Bellosguardo means "fine view".

The road, Via Bellosguardo, splits in two after it gets to the piazza. On the eastern side of the piazza is the park of Villa Ombrellino where Alice Keppel the last mistress of Edward VII lived from 1925 to her death in 1947. Her daughter, Violet Trefusis also died at Villa Ombrellino.

If you want to see who else of fame lived here there is a plaque in the piazza naming them.

The best views from this village can be viewed from the garden of the Villa di Bellosguardo reached by a little road running along the northeastern side of the Ombrellino park.

Oltrarno a Suburb of Florence Italy

A Piazza in Oltrarno, Florence

Very few tourists take the time to visit the area south of Florence or even cross the river to the other side known as Oltrarno. However, it is here where you can visit the Pitti Palace with its Boboli Gardens and see great views of the city at Piazzale Michelangelo. But there is more to this relatively unexplored area of Florence.

Oltrarno has a very distinctive character. After Cosimo I chose the Pitti Palace to live this side of the river in the 16th century the area became the most fashionable address in Florence. The most interesting street in Oltrarno lined with old palaces is Via Maggio, linked to the shopping strip of Via Tornabuoni by the beautiful bridge of Santa Trinita.

Oltrarno today is a working class neighborhood where you can also find some of the oldest and wealthiest Florentine families still living in palaces and villas where they lived for centuries. You can find some of the most fashionable restaurants and food shops around San Jacopo, or you can eat cheaply at many of the family-run tattorias around, or from a market stall in Piazza Santo Spirito.

Not only that Oltrarno is an area of artisans practising many arts and crafts that can be seen on our guided walking tour of Oltrarno. Visit craftsmen who have been artists here for generations; paper marbling makers, silversmiths, sculptors, engravers. This is a fascinating tour of Florence that you don't want to miss.

Porta Romana and the Old City Walls of Florence Italy

Old city of walls of Florence, Italy Explore the old city gate of Porta Romana and the city walls. Porta Romana is an old city gate found in the southern part of the city. It was built in 1326 but today the tower has been reduced in size but the doors are original, as is the 14th century fresco of the Madonna.

You can follow a stretch of preserved city wall north along Viale Petrarca to Piazza T. Tasso.  The Viaole dei Colli Alti winds eastwards from Porta Romana to Piazza F. Ferrucci, and it is now possible to walk along the city walls as far as the Belvedere. Look out for the villa in Via Columbaia where Florence Nightingale was born in 1820.

San Miniato Florence Italy

Interior of the San Miniato church in Florence.

The interior of San Miniato

San Miniato is a jewel of a church that stands above the city on the highest of the hills to the south east. Apart from the Duomo, San Miniato is the oldest and most loved churches in Florence.

This lovely little church was built in the 11th century with 13th century mosaics. Spend some time in the cemetery next door for an interesting experience.

Florence Italy Tourist Information - 5 day Itinerary of Florence

If you are staying in Florence for a 5 day visit this is our suggestion to take in some of the more important sights.

Day 1: In the morning visit the Piazza della Signoria with the Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia dei Lanzi. Then spend at least 3 hours at the Uffizi Gallery.

After lunch visit the Torre al Gallo, the wide and beautiful road known as Viale dei Colli and San Miniato all on the south Bank with a view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo. It is at the Torre (Tower) that Galileo made his astronomical observations. It is also from the tower that you can get a great view of the city and the valley of the Arno.

Day 2: Visit Or San Michele, the Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral, Campanile and Baptistery. If time allows spend time at the Museum of Santa Maria del Fiore.

In the afternoon visit Fiesole.

Day 3: In the morning visit Santa Croce and the National Museum.

In the afternoon visit the Archaeological Museum and Santissima Annunziata.

Day 4: In the morning visit the Riccardi Palace, San Marco and the monastery and the Accademia.
Beautiful ceilings of the Riccardi Palace

The ceilings of the Riccardi Palace are dazzling

In the afternoon visit San Lorenzo with the New Sacristy, Santa Maria Novella and the Cascine Park.

Day 5: In the morning visit the Palazzo Strozzi, Via Tornabouni for some retail therapy and Piazza Santa Trinita, Santo Spirito and the Pitti Gallery.

In the afternoon visit Santa Maria del Carmine, the Boboli Gardens and if you have time take an excursion out of the city to Vallombrosa.  
The statue of Bacchino in the Boboli Gardens of the Pitti Palace, Florence
 

The Statue of Bacchino in the Boboli Gardens

Florence Italy Tourist Information - Where to Meet the Locals

The best place to fine real Florentines is at the Mercato Centrale a huge modern atrium where many Florentines go to  buy their meat and cheese. However, this is pickpocket paradise, so hang on to your wallets here!

The grander sort of Florentine also congregates at the cafe Procacci in Via Tornabuoni where you have to try the excellent truffle panini.

Florentines can also be seen strolling the streets during the traditional pre-dinner walk practiced throughout towns and cities of Italy and known as the passeggiata. Areas for the passeggiata in Florence are along Via Calzaiuoli and down Via Roma and across the Ponte Vecchio.

If you are wondering where to eat and you are looking for some top restaurants in Florence see our page on Florence Restaurants for more details.

Florence Italy Tourist Information - Things to Do in Florence

Besides visiting museums and monuments  there are many other places to visit and things to do in Florence. There is nothing better than a small, guided tour. All of these tours are just that, small, personalized tours where you will get the most out of the places you visit.

Florence river cruise on a traditional wooden boat.
Take a river boat cruise up the Arno on a traditional Florentine boat and see the city from an entirely different angle.  I suggest you take this romantic cruise at sunset. On one of only 4 barchettos (traditional Florentine wooden boats) left in the city, you can savor the beauty of the city while sipping a glass of chilled Prosecco. You won't have the boat to yourself in the high season, but you might be lucky if you take this tour out of season as there is a maximum of 12 to this tour.

Florence Shopping Tours
You could also indulge in some great shopping opportunities in Florence. Explore not only the food markets but also the general markets for leather goods which are worth exploring if you are looking for bargains, as well as Prada and Gucci outlets.



Florence photography walking tour.
If you are a photographer, or just like taking photos and would like to know more about photography and how to take great photos of Florence then come and join this walking photography tour. A professional photographer will guide you through his city and guide you on how to get the best out of your camera.


Guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Take a guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery with 19 other people for an in depth explanation of the main sites and artwork in this world famous museum. Of course you could explore the museum on your own, but you are bound to miss so much without a guide.



Chianti wine tasting tour from FlorenceThere are also tours for the Chianti wine area, the rest of Tuscany or even Cinque Terre the 5 small villages where you can only visit all 5 either by foot or by sea. Take the wine tour and you will visit a well-known vineyard and sample three prestigious wines: Chianti Classico, Chianti Reserve and Vin Santo dessert wine. The wines are accompanied by local traditional snacks.


Tuscany day tour from Florence
No one should visit Florence without taking a trip into the Tuscan countryside, especially in the spring when the fields are covered in poppies. This Tuscany tour will take you to Siena, a Chianti vineyard for some wine tasting and lunch, followed by a trip to the medieval towes of San Gimignano.


Italian cookery classes in Florence
Learn to cook a 4 course Italian meal from starters to dessert with a chef in his private home in the center of Florence. This cookery class is very popular. You will start off your tour buying ingredients for the classes at the Florence Central Market then head for the villa to cook your dishes.

If you are looking for more guided tours of Florence, then have a look at the rest of the  tours on offer for this art-crammed city.
 

Things to Do in Florence for Kids

Unfortunately, Florence is not such a great city for kids. There isn't a lot for them to do, and if you have children at an age where they need to be entertained you may have a miserable trip. However there are a few things that children will find fun to do:

* Climb to bell tower of the Campanile
* Visit the wax works at La Specola
* Piazza Torquato Tasso, near the near the Carmine in Oltrarno is an open green space with a playground found on the southern side of the Arno.
* The main park at Cascine is some way out of the center of town.
* Visiting the market where they can rub the nose of the porcellino - a bronze statue of a wild boar - and putting a coin into his mouth.
* For good children there is Dreoni Giocattoli at number 31-33 Via Cavour. This is Florence's largest toy store and a great place for kids, both big and small, to explore.
 
Dreoni Giocattoli toy store in Florence

Inside the Dreoni Giocattoli toy store

Florence Budget Travel: Florence Cards for Museums and Gardens

There are 2 types of cards you can buy in Florence that will allow you direct access into churches and museums without waiting in long queues.
 

1) Firenze Card

If you are going to be in Florence for at least 72 hours and you are planning to visit a number of art galleries and museums in Florence then you will want to get the Florence Card.

You will also be able to use your Florence Card to get into the Boboli Gardens as well as having unlimited travel on public transport around Florence. With over 33 museums open to you with this card, it is well worth the money.
(Picture courtesy of Florence Tourism Board)
 

Florence Card for Discounted TravelMain Advantages of the Firenze Card

  • Free access to major museums, villas and historical gardens in Florence.
  • Admission to museums is granted by showing the card at the entrance, with no reservation requirements.
  • Free travel on public transports: ATAF and Linea buses and trams.
  • Free access to museums and public transport for EU citizens under the age of 18 who are accompanying you.
  • Updated information kit on participating museums.

Main Disadvantages of the Firenze Card

  • You will need to see 3 major museums a day to make any real savings with this card.
  • Florence can easily be seen on foot and if you are young and spritely there is no need to use bus transportation.
  • Not all museums are included: Missing is the the Opera del Duomo, Chiesa di Santa Croce, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Casa di Buonorotti, Vasari Corridoio, Laurentian Library and the Cappelle Spagna.
The cost of the Florence Card is Euros 50.
 

2) Amici degli Uffizi card for Discounted Travel

There is another type of discounted travel card for Florence called the Amici degli Uffizi card .

The validity of the card is for 1 calendar year and there are a number of different price types:

Members:

Individual: € 60,00 (one adult)
Family: € 100,00 (two adults and two children under 18) Youth: € 40,00 (up to age 26 )
 

Travel Tips for Florence Italy

If you are wanting to visit some of the larger museums like the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademmia where Michelangelo's Statue of David is housed, then do so either at the very start of the day or towards the end of the day in order to avoid the crowds if you are visiting Florence during the summer.

You should also give a wide berth to the main thoroughfare from the Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio. It's all modern, built in the 19th century when Florence was briefly the capital, and very crowded. There are plenty of narrow medieval lanes via which you can circumnavigate the crowds.

The other issue you may come across are gangs of scippatori, "snatchers" who are usually kids or either distract you or will be brazen enough to yank gold chains and other jewelry easy to snatch along with handbags, wallets, cameras etc. If you see kids approaching them be stern and say, "Via!" Don't wear flashy jewelry and put your money in a belt or pouch. Keep handbags slung across your chest if possible, and keep a firm hand on your camera. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

I visit Florence often and only once have I come across any trouble with some children who were begging - a usual trick to distract you. However, after being fairly stern they soon disappeared.
 

Florence Italy Tourist Information - When to visit 

Avoid Florence in August. The heat in Florence is stifling as it sits in a basin, and does not make for a pleasurable visit at this time of year. Air conditioning is not a Florentine forte. Also, because August is when most Italians are also on holiday you will find either long queues or places shut that should be open.

With the jostling crowds and hot bodies visiting Florence in August really can be very unpleasant. I have to confess I did it once, but vowed never again. Good weather that also coincides with fewer people is the period just before Easter or between mid-September to mid-October. This is fall and the weather is still good.

The best months for visiting Florence Italy are either May or September. During these months it is cool enough to enjoy the various sites yet still summery enough to take great photos and trips into the surrounding hills. The countryside around Florence in May is wonderful with wild flowers and fruit blossom.

In September the weather is drier and cooler than that of May and so even better for starting your tour of Florence.

The weather in Florence between November to March is cold, wet and can at times be misty and fairly miserable when temperatures drop due to the cold wind that comes
off the Appennines known as the tramontana. However, there are also days during these months when the weather can be good. But coming to Italy during these months is really like playing roulette as you never know when things will be good.

Florence Italy Weather Forecast

Average Temperatures for Florence:

   January April July October
C   6   13   25 16
42 55  77 60
mm 62 70 23 96
inches     2.5  3   1 4

Skiing near Florence Italy

There are several ski resorts east of the city of Florence in the Appenines. In the Pratomagna hills there are ski resorts at Consuma, Stia and Vallombrosa . Ski resorts here are great choice for families as they are a lot cheaper than the more fashionable resorts in the Alps.
 

Hotels in Florence

There are some lovely hotels in Florence with gorgeous views of the city. We suggest you visit this page to see some of the best of these hotels on offer.

However, if you are looking to see Florence on a budget there are other types of accommodation; apartments, guest houses, and bed and breakfasts.

Getting around Florence Italy

Florence by Foot:

Florence is relatively small, and therefore an easy city to explore on foot. There are a number of companies offering walking tours of Florence. However, it is just as easy to visit the Florence Tourist Office (see contact details below) and pick up a map. They can give you a list of top sights to see over 1, 2 and 3 days.
 

Florence by Bus:

However, if you want to explore further afield then it is worth learning how the bus system works. For example, to get from Port Romana to San Marco is a 25 minute walk. If you are also humping suitcases about, then it would better to take some form of public transport.

Florence by Taxi:

Taxi drivers are not always reliable in Italy, therefore if you are using taxis always make sure that the driver knows where you want to go, and agree on a price before you get into the car. Taxis are white and need to be phoned from the taxi companies or you can pick up the taxi from the train station.
 

There are two taxi companies in Florence:

Radiotaxi SOCOTA + 39 0554242
Radiotaxi  COTAFI + 39 0554390
 

Florence Italy Tourist Information - Getting to Florence 

By Car: Florence can be reached along the Ligurian Coast from the A12 and then taking the A11. Florence can also be reached from the north and south on the A1. You can drive from Dover in the UK to Florence in less than 24 hours even without using the toll roads. There is also a by-pass if you don't want to go into the city.
 

Florence Map for City By-Pass

Parking in Florence Italy

However, only residents may park their cars in the cities as they have special permits. As a result you will have to leave your car in one of the designated public parking areas. North of the Arno, the car parks nearest the city center are those found under the the train station, just north of Piazza della Liberta, and at Piazza Annigoni near Santa Croce. Then south of the Arno River is the parking area at the Piazza della Calza found at the southwestern tip of the Boboli Gardens. Expect to pay E1 - E1.50 an hour.

If you want to park your car for an extended stay and your hotel doesn't provide parking, and it is always best to book a hotel in Florence that does, then try the
Piazzale Michelangelo where you can find free parking. However, the drawback is that it is about a 20 minute walk from here to the Piazza della Signoria. If you want to catch the bus then look out for #13 or #14. If you park your car here parking is free, and so watch out for the scam of being shown into a parking space by an official looking parking attendant seeking payment.

By Plane: The closest major international airport is Pisa. If you are coming from the USA or Canada you can fly directly into Pisa'a Galileo Galilei airport . However, Pisa airport is 95 km west of the center of Florence.

Florence has a small airport at Peretola which is periodically connected with major Italian airports at Milan and Rome. If you end up flying into the Peretola Airport in Florence then you can take a 30 minute shuttle bus ride or a 20 minute taxi ride to the city center.

Volainbus operates the shuttle service. The first bus out to Peretola Airport leaves the city at 5:30 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 11:00 p.m. and the first bus from the airport leaves at 6:00 a.m. and the last bus from the airport to the city leaves at 11:30 p.m. Tickets can be bought either on the bus or from machines at the airport or bus station.

Buses arrive and depart at the main bus station on Via Santa Caterina da Siena off Piazza della Statione, a few steps west of the Santa Maria Novella train station. 
However, after 9 p.m. the buses then leave from outside the Bar Cristallo in Large Alinari, just off the eastern side of Piazza della Stazione.

If you are coming from Australia or New Zealand there are no direct flights. You will have to fly into either Rome or Milan and take a train or hire a car.

By Train: Getting to Florence by train from London is possible. There are trains arriving in Florence from London 2-3 times a day, depending on the time of year. This
journey also takes about 14-18 hours.
The central station in Florence is called Santa Maria Novella and is about a 10 minute walk from the city center. Timetables indicating trains to Florence or Firenze as it is known locally, can be seen as Firenze SMN. The train station is located just north of the church and square of Santa Maria Novella and a couple of blocks west of the Duomo.

At the SMN you will find left-luggage facilities and a 24 hour pharmacy. Keep an eye on your luggage at all times as this is a breeding ground for thieves. Also avoid the hotel and taxi touts who will try to entice you into parting with your money.

By Bus: The most direct route is to take the Eurostar from London to Paris and then the change for the overnight service on the Palatino for Florence. Or you can take the high  speed TGV from Paris to Milan and then change again for Florence.

Book your Airport or Train Station Shuttles Here

Florence Italy Tourist Office

Tourist Information Office - APT Firenze
Address: Provincia di Firenze, Via Cavour 1r
Opening times Summer (1st March - 31st October): from Monday to Saturday from 8.15 to 19-15, Sunday and Holiday from 8.30 to 13.30
Opening times Winter (1st November -28th February): from Monday to Saturday from 8.15 to 19.15
Phone: 055 290832
Website -  http://www.firenzeturismo.it/index.php?lang=en_EN

APT Firenze
Address: Via Manzoni 16
Phone: 055 23320
Website -  http://www.firenzeturismo.it/index.php?lang=en_EN

APT Firenze
Address: Aeroporto "A. Vespucci"
Phone: 055 315874
Website -  http://www.firenzeturismo.it/index.php?lang=en_EN

Area di Servizio Agip Peretola
Address: Autostrada Firenze Mare (A11)
Phone: 055 4211800

Area di Servizio Chianti Est
Address: Autostrada del Sole (A1)
Phone: 055 621349

Comune di Firenze
Address: Borgo S. Croce 29r
Phone: 055 2340444 - 055 2264524
Website - More info: http://www.comune.fi.it/

Comune di Firenze
Address: Piazza Stazione
Phone: 055 212245
Website - More info: http://www.comune.fi.it/

Consorzio I.T.A. / Hotel information
Address: Stazione S. Maria Novella
Phone: 055 282893

SOS Turista
Address: Provincia di Firenze, Via Cavour 1r
Phone: 055 2760382

Time to say goodbye - A Florentine sunset and the end to a beautiful day!


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