Florence Visitor GuideFlorence is the capital of the Tuscan region which spans from the Mediterranean Sea about halfway across Italy, in an area in the northern half of the country. Florence has quite a temperate climate with hot, humid summers when there is little rain and humid, cool winters.
Why visit Florence?
Florence is considered to be the birthplace of Renaissance and as such is home to some spectacular art galleries with immense amounts of astounding pieces. While inside you’ll find artworks, outside you’ll find breathtaking architecture and centuries old churches. As if that’s not enough all of this is amongst the breathtaking backdrop of the green, rolling Tuscan hills where impeccable wines are produced. The wine isn’t all you can enjoy in Florence, the cuisine in the city is simple delectable. As you can see, the reasons to visit Florence are numerous!
Best time to visit Florence
Florence is hot, humid and crowded over the summer and quite cool come deep winter. The two best months for a visit are usually May or October, considered to be shoulder season. You’ll still find plenty of crowds but not the total chaos of deep summer and the temperatures will be at a nice, comfortable middle point.
Top 5 things to see and do in Florence
- Florence Cathedral: One of the most impressive pieces of architecture in the city, the cathedral is famous for its red tint and its climbable, Giotto's Campanile bell-tower.
- Uffizi Gallery: One of the most impressive collections of Renaissance art in the world, the Uffizi Gallery is not to be missed.
- Ponte Vecchio: The gravity defying bridge which stretches across the Arno has lasted through centuries of war, thanks, in part, to its beauty. Today is packed with jewelry shops selling traditional Italian designs.
- Piazzale Michelangelo: Take in the breathtaking view of the entire city from a viewpoint across the river. The terrace has reproductions of Michelangelo’s famous works.
- Mercato Centrale: two floors of traditional food vendors selling wine, cheese, meats, fish, oil and spice.
- David: Visit the Galleria Accademia to gawk at the imposing statue of David by Michelangelo, along with other masterpieces such as the Rape of the Sabines.
- Wander in Piazza della Signoria: This square is the centre of all activity in Florence, surrounded by centuries old art, sculpture, and in the shadow of Palazzo Vecchio.
- Bistecca: You must eat the famous T-bone steak of Florence, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, charcoal grilled in local style.
Where to stay in Florence
Florence is an impressively compact city and in its fairly small area it packs a strong punch. That is especially true in the dead center where the tourists focus on the hot spots of the city. If you like to be right in the thick of it and have everything quite literally at your doorstep then the closer to the Duomo you are the better. If you’re looking for a bit more space and are happy to do some walking to get to the main attractions, then you’ll want to head a bit to the outskirts maybe Oltrarno - across the Arno - in San Niccolò & San Frediano. All throughout the city you’ll find accommodation to fit every budget. From cheap hostels to five-star luxury, Florence has it all.
Getting around in Florence
Florence is ideal for walking. Once you are in the city center everything is close by and often walking is the quickest way to get where you need to go. If you’re not able to walk the entire time you can use the public buses or get a hop on hop off pass which will give you some freedom.
Day trips from Florence
Florence, being tucked deep in the Tuscan region of Italy, has some perfect day trip options right at its doorstep. If you’re a wine drinker you’re very much in luck as vineyards abound throughout the sweeping hills of Tuscany and either on your own or with a guided group, you can make a trip of winetasting. If you’re not too keen on the wine, there is still plenty else to see, from smaller cities, to cycling through the countryside, the options are endless.
What to eat and drink in Florence
- Bistecca alla Fiorentina (eat): Florence steak, the most famous dish of the city is a large t-bone steak deliciously cooked to perfection. Where: Sostanza
- Pici (eat): A traditional Tuscan, hand rolled pasta it is often served with a wild boar sauce. Where: Trattoria Osteria Da Que' Ganzi
- Schiacciata (eat): quite similar to focaccia, this is the Florentine take on the bread which includes more salt and oil. Where: All'Antico Vinaio
- Tuscan Wine: The wines from all throughout the regions are mouthwatering, but Chiantis are especially prized. Where: Fiaschetteria Nuvoli
Planning a Florence visit as a family
Florence can be a challenge for families with younger children as so many of the attractions are quite sophisticated and art or history focused. That being said there is no reason to cancel your trip or head elsewhere. You’ll just have to do some extra planning to be sure everyone involved in the holiday stays happy. Skip over some of the bigger museums and focus instead on the cathedrals and towers where kids can have some freedom in movement and mom and dad can still take in the impressive artworks. Work in lots of park time and a few extra gelatos.
Find a place a bit outside of city center so you won’t be overwhelmed by the crowds the moment you’re out the door. Also keep in mind that Italians welcome children into the everyday fold, so don’t stress.
Planning a Florence visit as a couple
Florence takes no effort to make it a romantic city. Book yourself into one of the many, amazing five-star hotels and aim for a view to kill. Spend time along the Arno riverbank or taking in the view of the city from the other side. Sip wine and eat spaghetti. There is little better to make your trip perfectly romantic.