By Jessica Russo
Planning your first trip to Florence? We're so jealous! You should be over-the-moon excited. From starting off your mornings with a cappuccino and a pastry to sipping local Tuscan wine while you watch the sunset over the Arno, this medieval city will sweep your off your feet. After many trips to Florence, we've put together this guide of our favorite places, restaurants, and tips to help you make your vacation absolutely perfect.
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What to bring:
Much of Florence's beauty comes from its hilly, stone-paved winding streets. While this gives the city old-world charm, it also makes walking a bit of a challenge, at times. Go ahead and bring cute heels or sandals, but also be sure to pack shoes that you won't mind walking in all day. You'll be happy you put comfort first.
Bring round two- and three-prong adapters (types C and L). Buy 'em now! With this, you'll be able to charge small things like your phone, tablet, and camera. If you're looking to use high-voltage items like hairdryers or flat-irons, you'll need to also purchase an electrical converter, since Italian sockets give off a higher voltage of electricity than American ones. In order to avoid extra costs, heavier luggage, and possible fuse-blowing (yes, really), just use the hairdryer in your hotel room. Thank us later.
A zippered purse or backpack
Comfortable, convenient, and - oh yeah - safe! Italy is notorious for pickpocketers, and while it is rare, it does happen. Don't give those bad guys a chance! Zip up your stuff and you'll instantly become less of a target. A little care can go a long way.
Of course you want to bring all of your most fashionable pieces - you're going to Italy! But, while Italy's people may be glamorous, most of its elevators are not (if they even exist, at all). Florence is so magical because it takes you back in time, meaning, many of its elevators are not modern and are not equipped to carry huge pieces of luggage. Some hotels may not even have an elevator! Also, have you ever tried rolling luggage up and down hilly cobblestone streets? Do yourself a favor and pack light enough that you can lift your bag yourself, just in case.
Where to eat
Oh, the food! In Italy, eating is half the fun. While you'll almost never come across a bad meal, here are some places that you can count on for some of the very best food in Florence. Keep these names and addresses handy!
Our favorite casual restaurants:
- Trattoria Sabatino: Via Pisana, 2/rosso
- Osteria dei Centropoveri: Via Palazzuolo, 31r
- Osteria Tripperia Piazza Il Magazzino: Piazza della Passera
- Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori: Via dei Magazzini, 3r
- Trattoria Mario: Via Rosina, 2r
- Osteria dei Pazzi: Via dei Lavatoi, 1/red
- Ristorante Del Fagioli: Corso dei Tintori, 47-r
- Buca dell'Orafo: Via dei Girolami, 28
Our favorite quick bites:
- La Divina Pizza: Borgo Allegri, 50/red
- Gusta Pizza Via Maggio, 46/red
- Semel (best panini ever!): Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 44
Our favorite wine bars
- Le volpi e l'uva: Piazza dei Rossi, 1R
- Enoteca Alessi: Via delle Oche, 27/red
Our favorite gelaterias:
- Perche No!: Via dei Tavolini, 19R
- La Carraia: Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r
- Vivoli: Via dell’Isola delle Stinche, 7/r
Our favorite bakeries:
- Pasticceria Nencioni: Via Pietrapiana, 24
- Panificio Brunori:Borgo Pinti, 16
Bonus: Mercato Centrale - Via dell'Ariento, 2nd floor
Check out this bustling food hall filled with tons of different things to try! One thing's for sure: go hungry.
Top Must-See Sites
The worst thing you can do on a trip is rush so much that you don't have time to take in the true sights, sounds, and feel of a city. So, plan out your days logically and make sure to take everything in. Aim to visit 2-3 sites per day, and try to plan it so that they're in close proximity to one another! Spend the rest of your time leisurely meandering through the hidden medieval alleyways and relaxing with an aperitivo at a cute cafe.
Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral/Duomo
This jaw-dropping complex is as rich in history as it is in beauty! Look up in awe from the surrounding plaza, or step inside and climb to the top for once-in-a-lifetime views. A couple helpful hints: purchase tickets in advance and wear sneakers!
Stroll through this bustling pedestrian walkway filled with fine jewelry stores, leather shops, musical performers, and picturesque views! At the north end of the bridge, you'll find the famous Uffizi Gallery, and at the south end, you'll be near the Boboli Gardens. While the Ponte Vecchio is a must-visit, definitely check out the surrounding bridges, which offer spectacular views of the Ponte Vecchio from afar!
See famous works by Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Filippo Lippi, Michelangelo, Giotto, Raphael, and other legendary artists at this world-renowned museum. Like the Duomo, be sure to purchase tickets in advance to avoid long lines (and to make sure reservations are still available).
Are you ready for postcard-worthy pictures and views that will take your breath away? While the hilly walk up is a bit of a hike, it is more than worth it. And, if you're that afraid of the walk, you can always take a car or bus 12 or 13 up! Enjoy a glass of wine or a cappuccino at the hill-top cafe as you gaze out at the dreamlike view of the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, and a sea of terracotta roofs.
Florence is filled with gorgeous Renaissance works, however, Michelangelo's Statue of David may very well be the most famous. Go ahead and take a selfie with him! Then, take a gander at all the other mesmerizing pieces of art in the gallery.
These structures are some of the most eye-catching in all of Florence. At the Basilica of San Lorenzo, you'll find the Medici Chapels, which date back to the 16th- and 17th-centuries! Step inside to see some of the most ornate frescoes, statues, and stonework you'll ever see.
Piazza della Signoria
Step back in time! Look up at the grand, castle-like Renaissance structure that is Palazzo Vecchio. Feast your eyes on the statues at the outdoor Loggia dei Lanzi gallery while you slurp up some creamy gelato!
Florence is easily walkable, but after climbing up to the top of the Duomo or Piazzale Michelangelo, you might not want to walk all the way back to your hotel. Taxis are always an option, but so are public buses! Keep your eyes out for orange, purple, or blue ATAF and LI-NEA buses that zip around the city. Purchase your ticket from authorized sales points (bars, newsstands, etc.) before boarding. You can choose to buy an ordinary, single-use ticket or a mulptiple ride ticket! See Florence bus route timetables.
Day trips by Train
Purchase a ticket, then hop on the train at Santa Maria Novella station!
All trains are run by Trenitalia, and you might even take a high-speed Frecciarossa train to some destinations! Feel free to purchase tickets online (sometimes with certain class options) or from machines/tellers at the station. For train times and more, click here.
Rome - 1h 20m
Siena - 2h
Lucca- 1h 30m
Pisa - 1h 5m
La Spezia/Cinque Terre - 1h 30m
Useful italian phrases
Sure, you might think: "I don't need to learn Italian, I have my cell phone," however, it's not a bad idea to memorize these key phrases, or jot them down and keep 'em in your wallet.
Hello/Goodbye (casual) - Ciao!
Thank you - Grazie
Please - Per favore
Yes/No - Si/No
Excuse me - Mi Scusi
I don't understand. - Non capisco.
Do you speak English? - Parla inglese?
Where is the bathroom? - Dove la toilette?
How much does that cost? - Quanto costa?
Is the tip included? - Il servizio e incluso?
I would like... - Vorrei...
The check, please. - Il contro, per favore.
Let's be honest, waving your hands around will probably work, too.