Florence Travel Guide

Florence, Italy, is one of the most iconic cities in Italy. The incredible art history, delicious food, and stunning Renaissance architecture make this city a powerhouse amongst popular European destinations for visitors.

Welcome to our Florence travel guide. Here you’ll find key details about the city, including best times to visit, how to get around, and key things to know about the culture.

Key Details

Province/State: Tuscany

Country: Italy

Population: 382,258

Time Zone: Central European Time

Languages Spoken: Italian

Currency Used: Euro

Our Take

Florence, Italy, is renowned worldwide for its rich cultural heritage, representing the pinnacle of the Renaissance era. Situated in the heart of Tuscany, this city boasts a wealth of artistic, architectural, and historical treasures that continue to captivate visitors. You don’t have to be an art connoisseur or history buff to appreciate all that this city has to offer.

When visiting Florence, expect to be wow-ed by the city’s romantic charm, stunning Renaissance art, and delicious food. I’ve been able to see Florence in the spring, middle of summer, and early fall, and I have to say that any of these times are great for a Florence trip. Here are some of my top tips for visiting Florence:

  • Pre-book tickets to museums.
  • Don’t skip visiting the Tuscan Hills on a day trip.
  • Watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo at least once.
  • Seek out a (somewhat) elusive wine window.
  • Indulge in delicious food.
  • Avoid visiting in July and August; visit in May or September instead.
  • Best Time to Visit

    The best time to visit Florence is between May and September. I recommend avoiding visiting Florence in July and August due to the high influx of tourists, high accommodation prices, and sizzling temperatures. The months of May, June, and September are awesome because you can enjoy amazing weather with lower prices and fewer visitors.

    May: May is a lovely transition time weather-wise in Florence. Visitors can enjoy cool mornings and evenings and warm afternoons. Trofeo Marzocco, or the flag-throwing competition, kicks off the month of May in Florence every May 1st. This event takes place in Piazza della Signoria and includes a parade and other free activities. The Giardino dell’Iris, or Iris Garden, is also in full bloom in May. The iris is one of the main symbols of the city.

    June: June marks the kickoff of summer, with a ton of fun and interesting events held throughout the city. Events in June around Tuscany include medieval fairs, food festivals, music festivals, and so much more. It’s certainly pretty warm at this time of year, but not nearly as crowded as in July and August.

    July and August (peak season): I would avoid July and August, but if you can’t, you won’t be disappointed by the warm weather and endless things to see and do. This is the peak tourist season for a reason. Book all your tickets in advance, or risk standing in extra long lines. I also recommend looking at the best restaurants in Florence and making reservations for ones you absolutely don’t want to miss.

    September: September is my favorite time to visit Florence and the Tuscan region. The weather is cooling down, but it’s still nice and warm during the day, and there are fewer tourists. This is also a great time to take day trips to popular tourist destinations such as San Gimignano, Pisa, and Saturnia.

    How to Get There

    By Air: Florence is served by the Amerigo Vespucci Airport. This international airport includes direct flights from the United States. Upon landing, take the T2 tram line directly from the airport to the Santa Maria Novella train station, just outside Florence’s city center.

    By Train: Italy has one of the best and most efficient train systems in Europe. Santa Maria Novella is the main train station in Florence and connects the city to the rest of the region, other large Italian cities, and even international hubs. This is a great way to get around the country and admire its beautiful scenery, especially if you’re traveling light.

    By Road: Tuscany is one of the most picturesque regions in Italy and, therefore, the perfect place for an iconic Italian road trip. However, you must pay careful attention when driving in Florence. Many streets are reserved for local traffic and monitored by cameras. You will get a ticket if you mistakenly drive down one of these restricted streets.

    How to Get Around

    I love renting a car in most destinations so I can travel and explore on my own time. However, Florence is one of the few places where I would not rent a car. The city center is highly pedestrianized, and many roads are reserved for local traffic, so you may get a ticket for a fine if you turn down the wrong street (yes, I know this from experience).

    Instead, Florence is best explored on foot. The city is small, and most top sights can be found in the city center. The only place you may want to catch a taxi or Uber is Piazzale Michelangelo; it’s on a hill and not in the city center.

    Additionally, I highly recommend building in some time to visit other amazing places around Tuscany. You can find the best gelato in San Gimignano, relax in the natural hot springs of Saturnia, or see the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. These places can be accessed through guided tours or Italy’s robust train system.

    Cultural Heritage

    At the heart of Florence’s cultural legacy is its art. The city was home to some of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli. Their masterpieces adorn the walls of museums and churches throughout the city, with iconic works such as Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus drawing millions of visitors each year.

    Florence’s architectural heritage is equally impressive. The cityscape is dominated by the magnificent Duomo, or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, with its iconic red-tiled dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. Nearby, the Palazzo Vecchio stands as a testament to the city’s political and cultural power during the Renaissance, while the Ponte Vecchio, with its rows of shops built along its medieval arches, is a symbol of Florence’s commercial might.

    Beyond its art and architecture, Florence’s cultural heritage extends to its traditions and cuisine. The city is famous for its Tuscan cuisine, which emphasizes fresh, locally sourced ingredients and simple yet flavorful dishes. Visitors can sample traditional Tuscan specialties such as ribollita, a hearty vegetable soup, and bistecca alla Fiorentina, a thick and delicious grilled T-bone steak.

    Other influential Italian artists, philosophers, and creatives who came from Florence include Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli, Vespucci, and Donatello. The Medici family, one of the most powerful Italian families, also came from Florence. Their former residence, Pitti Palace, now serves as an incredible Renaissance museum.

    Etiquette

    Etiquette: It is customary in all of Italy to say “Buongiorno” or “Buona sera” when entering a shop or restaurant. Haggling is not common in Florence, including in the open-air markets. Some vendors may be open to it, but overall, it is best to avoid trying to haggle.

    Dining late: Italians typically eat dinner later than Americans. It is normal for restaurants to close or have a limited menu between lunch and dinner hours, so expect not to eat until after 7 pm. For this reason, I always like to have some snacks from the local grocery store. However, it is becoming more common to find restaurants that are open non-stop.

    Local food and wine: You should definitely take advantage of being in Florence by indulging in the amazing local cuisine and wine. You can find a great wine bar at almost every street corner featuring wine from the nearby Chianti region. For a unique experience, keep an eye out for Florence’s elusive buchette del vino or wine windows! Be served wine through an old stone window just like they did 400 years ago! You can find many of these wine windows in the Santo Spirito neighborhood and the city center.

    Dress: Pack your absolute best outfits for a trip to Florence! Florence is a stylish city, and Italians care about how they dress and the way they present themselves. This is not a beach destination, so leave the flip-flops and beach cover-ups behind for other destinations. Instead, opt for timeless pieces, and remember to dress modestly when visiting churches.

    Language: While many in Florence, especially those working in the hospitality sector, speak English, it’s still important to learn a few phrases. Learning phrases such as “Buongiorno” (hello), “Buona sera” (good evening), and “Grazie” (thank you) not only facilitates a conversation but also shows respect for the local language. Don’t assume that everyone you speak to will understand English.

    Local Area

    Duomo (Santa Maria dei Fiori) – This neighborhood in the old town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is certainly the most-visited part of Florence. The iconic Florence Cathedral is a striking landmark and is an anchor for this part of the city. To the north of this cathedral, you’ll find Cappelle Medicee, located in Piazza di Madonna Degli Aldobrandini, which is the tomb of the Medici family and houses some incredible works of art. No matter where you’re staying in Florence, you’re sure to pass through this part of Florence at some point.

    • Attractions: Florence Cathedral, Piazza del Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Repubblica, Cappelle Medicee
    • Accommodations: This is the best place to stay for first-time visitors. It is centrally located and where many of the city’s top attractions can be found. Hotels can be expensive during peak tourist season, but vacation rentals are moderately priced.

    Arno River & Santo Spirito – The picturesque banks of the Arno River are lovely for strolling around and taking in the city’s gorgeous architecture. You’ll find famous museums and boutique art galleries here, including the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace. The Uffizi Gallery has the greatest collection of the best Renaissance art, but the Pitti Palace isn’t too shabby, either. If you need a break from museums, enjoy the beauty of nature in the Boboli Gardens or do some shopping along the ancient Ponte Vecchio.

    • Attractions: Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Boboli Gardens, Pitti Palace, Basilica di Santo Spirito
    • Accommodations: Luxury travelers will love the hotel options near the Arno River, including the Westin and St. Regis. I recommend enjoying a drink at the Westin’s rooftop bar to take in the stunning views of the city.

    San Marco & Santissima Annunziata – Located on the northern end of the historic center of Florence, this neighborhood is characterized by its amazing architecture, two grand churches, and the University of Florence. It has a bit of a lively vibe from the university, but there are also many beautiful, quiet streets.

    • Attractions: Accademia Gallery, Piazza San Marco, Ospedale degli Innocenti, Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica
    • Accommodations: This neighborhood features a good mix of accommodations for every budget. From the Four Seasons hotel to amazing vacation rentals, you can’t go wrong when staying in the San Marco & Santissima Annunziata neighborhoods.

    Santa Croce – If you’re looking for the most incredible nightlife in Florence, look no further than Santa Croce. Located on the eastern side of the historic center, the Santa Croce neighborhood. Aside from the great bars and restaurants, Santa Croce is known for its stunning architecture. Piazza di Santa Croce is one of the most beautiful squares in the city and a great place for sitting at a cafe and people-watching. Many of the buildings in Santa Croce date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

    • Attractions: Piazza di Santa Croce, Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze, Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, Casa Buonarroti
    • Accommodations: Hotels and vacation rentals in Santa Croce range from mid-range to luxury. Stay here if you want to be within walking distance of all of Florence’s best bars.

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    Brittney Liu
    WRITTEN BY

    Brittney Liu

    Brittney is a lifelong traveler from Oahu, Hawaii. She has visited more than 35 countries and is continually researching new places to explore - even though she hates flying. Her favorite destinations have one thing in common: they're warm. With expertise in French Polynesia, Hawaii, and the Mediterranean, you can follow along as she checks out the cleanest beaches and clearest water on the planet. Brittney has also spent most of her 20s living in the South of France.

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