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Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the Metropolitan City of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 382,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1,520,000 in the metropolitan area.
Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the time, is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called "the Athens of the Middle Ages". A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici family, and numerous religious and republican revolutions. From 1865 to 1871 the city was the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy.
The Historic Centre of Florence attracts 13 millions of tourists each year, and Euromonitor International ranked the city as the world's 89th most visited in 2012, with 1.8 million visitors. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture and monuments.The city also contains numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti, and still exerts an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics. Due to Florence's artistic and architectural heritage, it has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Florence is an important city in Italian fashion, being ranked in the top 51 fashion capitals of the world;furthermore, it is a major national economic centre, as well as a tourist and industrial hub. In 2008, the city had the 17th highest average income in Italy.
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone CET (UTC+1)|
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
|LANGUAGE :||Italian (official)|
|AREA :||102.41 km2 (39.54 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||50 m (160 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||43°47′N 11°15′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 48.6%|
• Female: 51.4%
|AREA CODE :||055|
|POSTAL CODE :||50121–50145|
|DIALING CODE :||+39 55|
Tourism is the most significant industry in central Florence. From April to October, tourists outnumber local population. Tickets to the Uffizi and Accademia museums are regularly sold out and large groups regularly fill the basilicas of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, both of which charge for entry. Tickets for The Uffizi and Accademia can be purchased online prior to visiting.
Florence is believed to have the greatest concentration of art (in proportion to its size) in the world. Thus, cultural tourism is particularly strong, with world-renowned museums such as the Uffizi selling over 1.6 million tickets a year. The city's convention centre facilities were restructured during the 1990s and host exhibitions, conferences, meetings, social forums, concerts and other events all year.
Florence has approximately 35,000 hotel beds and 23,000 other accommodation facilities (campsites, guesthouses, youth hostels and farmhouses), giving potential for overall stays to exceed 10 million visitor/nights a year. Visitors also include thousands of day-trippers brought in by cruise ships (to Livorno) and by road and rail. In 2007, the city ranked as the world's 59th most visited city, with over 1.729 million arrivals for the year. It has been estimated that just under one-third of tourists are Italians, the remainder comprising Americans (20%), Germans (13%), Japanese (8%), Britons (7.8%), French (5.7%) and Spaniards (5%).
Florence originated as a Roman city, and later, after a long period as a flourishing trading and banking medieval commune, it was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, it was politically, economically, and culturally one of the most important cities in Europe and the world from the 14th to 16th centuries.
The language spoken in the city during the 14th century was, and still is, accepted as the Italian language. Almost all the writers and poets in Italian literature of the golden age are in some way connected with Florence, leading ultimately to the adoption of the Florentine dialect, above all the local dialects, as a literary language of choice.
Starting from the late Middle Ages, Florentine money—in the form of the gold florin—financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, to Lyon and Hungary. Florentine bankers financed the English kings during the Hundred Years War. They similarly financed the papacy, including the construction of their provisional capital of Avignon and, after their return to Rome, the reconstruction and Renaissance embellishment of Rome.
Florence was home to the Medici, one of history's most important noble families. Lorenzo de' Medici was considered a political and cultural mastermind of Italy in the late 15th century. Two members of the family were popes in the early 16th century: Leo X and Clement VII. Catherine de Medici married king Henry II of France and, after his death in 1559, reigned as regent in France. The Medici reigned as Grand Dukes of Tuscany, starting with Cosimo I de' Medici in 1569 and ending with the death of Gian Gastone de' Medici in 1737.
The Etruscans initially formed a small settlement in 200 BC as the settlement of Fiesole (Faesulae in Latin), which was destroyed by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 80 BC in reprisal for supporting the populares faction in Rome. The present city of Florence was established by Julius Caesar in 59 BC as a settlement for his veteran soldiers and was named originally Fluentia, owing to the fact that it was built between two rivers, which was later changed to Florentia ("flowering"). It was built in the style of an army camp with the main streets, the cardo and the decumanus, intersecting at the present Piazza della Repubblica. Situated at the Via Cassia, the main route between Rome and the north, and within the fertile valley of the Arno, the settlement quickly became an important commercial centre.
In centuries to come, the city experienced turbulent periods of Ostrogothic rule, during which the city was often troubled by warfare between the Ostrogoths and the Byzantines, which may have caused the population to fall to as few as 1,000 people. Peace returned under Lombard rule in the 6th century. Florence was conquered by Charlemagne in 774 and became part of the Duchy of Tuscany, with Lucca as capital. The population began to grow again and commerce prospered. In 854, Florence and Fiesole were united in one county.
Margrave Hugo chose Florence as his residency instead of Lucca at about 1000 AD. The Golden Age of Florentine art began around this time. In 1013, construction began on the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. The exterior of the baptistery was reworked in Romanesque style between 1059, and 1128. This period also saw the eclipse of Florence's formerly powerful rival Pisa (defeated by Genoa in 1284 and subjugated by Florence in 1406), and the exercise of power by the mercantile elite following an anti-aristocratic movement, led by Giano della Bella, that resulted in a set of laws called the Ordinances of Justice(1293).
Rise of the Medici
Of a population estimated at 94,000 before the Black Death of 1348, about 25,000 are said to have been supported by the city's wool industry: in 1345 Florence was the scene of an attempted strike by wool combers (ciompi), who in 1378 rose up in a brief revolt against oligarchic rule in the Revolt of the Ciompi. After their suppression, Florence came under the sway (1382–1434) of the Albizzi family, bitter rivals of the Medici.
In the 15th century, Florence was among the largest cities in Europe, considered rich and economically successful. Life was not idyllic for all residents though, among whom there were great disparities in wealth. Cosimo de' Medici was the first Medici family member to essentially control the city from behind the scenes. Although the city was technically a democracy of sorts, his power came from a vast patronage network along with his alliance to the new immigrants, the gente nuova (new people). The fact that the Medici were bankers to the pope also contributed to their ascendancy. Cosimo was succeeded by his son Piero, who was, soon after, succeeded by Cosimo's grandson, Lorenzo in 1469. Lorenzo was a great patron of the arts, commissioning works by Michelangelo,Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. Lorenzo was an accomplished musician and brought composers and singers to Florence, including Alexander Agricola,Johannes Ghiselin, and Heinrich Isaac. By contemporary Florentines (and since), he was known as "Lorenzo the Magnificent" (Lorenzo il Magnifico).
Following Lorenzo de' Medici's death in 1492, he was succeeded by his son Piero II. When the French king Charles VIII invaded northern Italy, Piero II chose to resist his army. But when he realized the size of the French army at the gates of Pisa, he had to accept the humiliating conditions of the French king. These made the Florentines rebel and they expelled Piero II. With his exile in 1494, the first period of Medici rule ended with the restoration of a republican government.
Savonarola and Machiavelli
During this period, the Dominican friarGirolamo Savonarola had become prior of the San Marco monastery in 1490. He was famed for his penitential sermons, lambasting what he viewed as widespread immorality and attachment to material riches. He blamed the exile of the Medicis as the work of God, punishing them for their decadence. He seized the opportunity to carry through political reforms leading to a more democratic rule. But when Savonarola publicly accused Pope Alexander VI of corruption, he was banned from speaking in public. When he broke this ban, he was excommunicated. The Florentines, tired of his extreme teachings, turned against him and arrested him. He was convicted as a heretic and burned at the stake on the Piazza della Signoria on 23 May 1498.
A second individual of unusually acute insight was Niccolò Machiavelli, whose prescriptions for Florence's regeneration under strong leadership have often been seen as a legitimization of political expediency and even malpractice. In other words, Machiavelli was a sort of political thinker, perhaps most renowned for his political handbook, titled The Prince, which is about ruling and the exercise of power. Commissioned by the Medici, Machiavelli also wrote the Florentine Histories, the history of the city. Florentines drove out the Medici for a second time and re-established a republic on 16 May 1527. Restored twice with the support of both Emperor and Pope, the Medici in 1537 became hereditary dukes of Florence, and in 1569 Grand Dukes of Tuscany, ruling for two centuries. In all Tuscany, only the Republic of Lucca (later a Duchy) and the Principality of Piombino were independent from Florence.
18th and 19th centuries
The extinction of the Medici dynasty and the accession in 1737 of Francis Stephen, duke of Lorraine and husband of Maria Theresa of Austria, led to Tuscany's temporary inclusion in the territories of the Austrian crown. It became a secundogeniture of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, who were deposed for the House of Bourbon-Parma in 1801, themselves deposed in December 1807 when Tuscany was annexed by France. Florence was the prefecture of the French département of Arno from 1808 to the fall of Napoleon in 1814. The Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty was restored on the throne of Tuscany at the Congress of Vienna but finally deposed in 1859. Tuscany became a region of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
Florence replaced Turin as Italy's capital in 1865 and, in an effort to modernise the city, the old market in the Piazza del Mercato Vecchio and many medieval houses were pulled down and replaced by a more formal street plan with newer houses. The Piazza (first renamed Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele II, then Piazza della Repubblica, the present name) was significantly widened and a large triumphal arch was constructed at the west end. This development was unpopular and was prevented from continuing by the efforts of several British and American people living in the city. A museum recording the destruction stands nearby today.
The country's second capital city was superseded by Rome six years later, after the withdrawal of the French troops made its addition to the kingdom possible.
After doubling during the 19th century, Florence's population was to triple in the 20th, resulting from growth in tourism, trade,financial services and industry.
During World War II the city experienced a year-long German occupation (1943–1944) and was declared an open city. The Allied soldiers who died driving the Germans from Tuscany are buried in cemeteries outside the city (Americans about nine kilometres (5.6 miles) south of the city, British and Commonwealth soldiers a few kilometres east of the centre on the right bank of the Arno). In 1944, the retreating Germans demolished the bridges along the Arno linking the district of Oltrarno to the rest of the city, making it difficult for the British troops to cross. However, at the last moment Charle Steinhauslin, at the time consulate of 26 countries in Florence, convinced the German general in Italy that the Ponte Vecchio was not to be destroyed due to its historical value.
Instead, an equally historic area of streets directly to the south of the bridge, including part of the Corridoio Vasariano, was destroyed using mines. Since then the bridges have been restored to their original forms using as many of the remaining materials as possible, but the buildings surrounding the Ponte Vecchio have been rebuilt in a style combining the old with modern design. Shortly before leaving Florence, as they knew that they would soon have to retreat, the Germans executed many freedom fighters and political opponents publicly, in streets and squares including the Piazza Santo Spirito.
At the end of World War II in Europe, in May 1945, the U.S. Army's Information and Educational Branch was ordered to establish an overseas university campus for demobilized American service men and women in Florence, Italy. The first American University for service personnel was established in June 1945 at the School of Aeronautics in Florence, Italy. Some 7,500 soldier-students were to pass through the University during its four one-month sessions .
In November 1966, the Arno flooded parts of the centre, damaging many art treasures. Around the city there are tiny placards on the walls noting where the flood waters reached at their highest point.
On 25 May 2016 the BBC reported that a sinkhole, thought to have been caused by a bursting of a water pipe, opened up a 200-meter hole on the Arno river bank in Florence.
Florence has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa), slightly tending to Mediterranean (Csa). It has hot summers with moderate or light rainfall and cool, damp winters. As Florence lacks a prevailing wind, summer temperatures are higher than along the coast. Rainfall in summer is convectional, while relief rainfall dominates in the winter. Snowfalls happen almost every year, though often they do not leave traces on the ground. The highest officially recorded temperature was 42.6 °C (108.7 °F) on 26 July 1983 and the lowest was −23.2 °C (−9.8 °F) on 12 January 1985.
Climate data for Florence
|Record high °C (°F)||21.6|
|Average high °C (°F)||10.9|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||6.5|
|Average low °C (°F)||2.0|
|Record low °C (°F)||−23.2|
|Source #1: Servizio Meteorologico|
|Source #2: World Meteorological Organisation|
Florence lies in a basin formed by the hills of Careggi, Fiesole, Settignano,Arcetri, Poggio Imperiale and Bellosguardo (Florence). The Arno river and three other minor rivers flow through it.
Tourism is, by far, the most important of all industries and most of the Florentine economy relies on the money generated by international arrivals and students studying in the city. Manufacturing and commerce, however, still remain highly important. Florence is also Italy's 17th richest city in terms of average workers' earnings, with the figure being €23,265 (the overall city's income is €6,531,204,473), coming after Mantua, yet surpassing Bolzano.
Industry, commerce and services
Florence is a major production and commercial centre in Italy, where the Florentine industrial complexes in the suburbs produce all sorts of goods, from furniture, rubber goods, chemicals, and food. However, traditional and local products, such as antiques, handicrafts, glassware, leatherwork, art reproductions, jewelry, souvenirs, elaborate metal and iron-work, shoes, accessories and high fashion clothes also dominate a fair sector of Florence's economy. The city's income relies partially on services and commercial and cultural interests, such as annual fairs, theatrical and lyrical productions, art exhibitions, festivals and fashion shows, such as the Calcio Fiorentino. Heavy industry and machinery also take their part in providing an income. In Nuovo Pignone, numerous factories are still present, and small-to medium industrial businesses are dominant. The Florence-Prato-Pistoia industrial districts and areas were known as the 'Third Italy' in the 1990s, due to the exports of high-quality goods and automobile (especially the Vespa) and the prosperity and productivity of the Florentine entrepreneurs. Some of these industries even rivaled the traditional industrial districts in Emilia-Romagna and Veneto due to high profits and productivity.
Food and wine production
Food and wine have long been an important staple of the economy. The Chianti region is just south of the city, and its Sangiovese grapes figure prominently not only in its Chianti Classico wines but also in many of the more recently developed Supertuscan blends. Within 32 km (20 mi) to the west is the Carmignano area, also home to flavorful sangiovese-based reds. The celebrated Chianti Rufina district, geographically and historically separated from the main Chianti region, is also few kilometres east of Florence. More recently, the Bolgheri region (about 150 km (93 mi) southwest of Florence) has become celebrated for its "Super Tuscan" reds such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia.
Since there are a large number of tourists around, the center of Florence is brimming with webcafés and telephone call centers. Most evenings there are long lines for access to the phone-booths.
You can also buy a pre-paid card which will give you a steep discount on international calls by dialing a special number.
Wireless LAN access is becoming popular. Even when offered for free, you will need to provide your name and contact details to the provider of the service to obtain an access code. This is because of Italian anti-terror laws. Anonymous access is not possible.
Prices in Florence
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€1.00|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||€6.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||€30.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||€50.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||€67.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||€7.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||€3.50|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€3.50|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||€8.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||€17.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||€0.18|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||€5.20|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||€2.30|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||€76.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||€33.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||€83.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||€1.20|
65 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
211 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Florence's Amerigo Vespucci International Airport (IATA: FLR) (known to locals as "Peretola") has good connections to the center of the city, which can be reached in about 15 minutes by taxi or bus.
The Ataf-Sita "Vola in Bus" ("Fly by bus") service costs €6 one way (€10 return), and makes the circuit between the airport and the central train station every half an hour from 5:30AM to 8PM, then once an hour afterwards. Note that 5:30AM bus leaves from the corner of Valfonda and Piazza Adua which is north of the train station instead of from the ATAF-SITA bus station which is on the west side of the train station. You can buy the ticket on the bus.
If you land at Florence and you are really broke (or the airport buses are running late), normal city buses run frequently to the centre from a street 10 minutes walk away. Tickets are €1.20 instead of 6 for the airport bus. The bad news is you will have to sprint across one side of the autostrada! Leave the terminal, walk past the airport bus stop, and cross the northbound carriageway of the autostrada on a pedestrian crosswalk. This brings you to a bus stop, but with almost no services. Continue across the southbound carriageway, where you have to run because there is no crosswalk, and go under the flyover. Take the little residential street directly opposite, and turn right at the other end into Via Pratese. A bus stop, and a newspaper kiosk that sells tickets, are across the street. Any bus from that side of the street will drop you near Santa Maria Novella train station, and they run about every 15 minutes. If the kiosk is closed you can try paying the bus driver, but it costs €2 and he won't give change.
To get back to the airport from central Florence, a cheap easy option is the coach to Prato, which stops right outside the airport. They leave from the CAP bus stop at the end of Via Nazionale near SMN station, round the corner from McDonald's. Look for big blue coaches. Buy your ticket (€1.20) from the CAP office right next to the bus stops. You can do this in advance. The journey takes less than 20 minutes, and buses run every 30 minutes (every hour on Sundays). Ask the driver for "aeroporto" or "Peretola" (name of the suburb it is in).
There is a €25 flat rate for taxis from the airport to any place in the historic center of Florence. They will charge €1 extra for each piece of luggage handled by the driver.
Much cheaper flights to destinations throughout Europe can be found at Pisa International Airport (IATA: PSA) in Pisa. Low-cost airlines which fly to Pisa include Thomsonfly, Easyjet, Ryanair, Transavia, Wizzair and HLX. Pisa airport and Florence are connected by rail and by bus. Both leave from and arrive at the main entrance to the airport. The bus station in Florence is immediately across the street from the main railroad station, "Firenze SMN". Train schedules are available at Trenitalia. Bus schedules are available at Terravision. The train costs €7.80 one way, the bus costs €6 one way, and €10 for return. The buses run more often. Some trains do not arrive at the main railroad station, and others require a change at Pisa Centrale.
Modern, fast trains connect Florence with Italy's main cities, and local trains from other parts of Italy and express trains from around Europe arrive in Florence. The main station is Firenze Santa Maria Novella (also referred to as Firenze SMN), on the edge of the historic old town. Other small stations are Firenze Campo Marte (near Florence Stadium) and Firenze Rifredi. If you take an Intercity train to Florence, you may need to change at Rifredi for another train to Firenze S.M.N. The transfer between stations via train is usually already covered by your train ticket (to check for this, your train ticket should not differentiate between the Florence train stations and will simply say "Firenze"). If you happen to have a long wait for the transferring train, it is also possible to take a bus to the city centre, but this is probably not covered by your train ticket. You can walk from Rifredi station to the center of town, but it will take about an hour and you will need a map to navigate.
You might want to consider the overnight train connections to Florence from Paris or most German towns. For example, the train from Florence to Munich leaves at 21:53 and arrives in Munich the next morning at around 08:00. You can sleep comfortably the entire way and it costs about €100. However, recent reports indicate that overnight train service in much of Europe - including the service between Florence and Paris - has deteriorated badly in recent years, and prices have risen. It is now much cheaper, and, of course, much faster, but not as beautiful and nice, to fly EasyJet from Paris - Orly to Pisa and take the approximately 1 hour train or bus ride from the Pisa airport to the main railroad station, Firenze SMN, in central Florence.
The train to Vienna takes about 12 hours and costs €70.
Bus stops have clear, schematic labelling of the routes and are all named according to the street name or major landmark nearby. They do not always give an indication of bus times, however, so it is sometimes difficult to figure out how long it may take till the next bus arrives. Tickets must be bought in advance from Tobacconists or newspaper sellers, and are usually valid for one hour over the whole network, so that you can just hop on and off at will. They cost €1.20 for 90 minutes, and multiple day tickets are also available. Tickets are also available on the bus, sold by the driver, at an increased price of €2 (therefore, no more excuses in case of ticket control).
Better value is the €5 day ticket also from Tobacconists or news agents, best to add your name to the ticket and show your pass if needed by ticket control. Same as with cheaper. Tickets on first use need to be inserted into the ticket machine on the bus.
Florence is connected by good highways to the rest of Italy. The easiest way to get in and out of the city from the A-1 Autostrada, which connects Florence to Bologna, Milan and the North, and to Rome and the South, is to use the "Firenze - Impruneta" exit. This is the same route for those leaving for or arriving from Siena on the "Fi-Si" highway. If you are arriving from or leaving for Pisa and the West on the A-11 Autostrada, it may be best to go by way of Firenze-Scandicci and use the A-1 to connect to and from the A-11.
Driving in the historic center - inside the wide "viale" where the old city walls were (and still are, on the southern side of the Arno) - is strictly prohibited, except for residents with permits. Enforcement is by camera, and is ferociously efficient. If you drive in the prohibited areas, you will be tracked down, and you will receive stiff fines in the mail.
Every 40 seconds, a motorist in Florence receives a traffic violation according to figures recently released by city officials. Traffic police issue approximately 90 tickets every minute, over 12,900 tickets a day. The fines on these tickets average out to about €140 per year, per motorist, and they bring about 52 million to city hall each year, making it one of Italy's most heaviest fined cities. Local officials note that the amount of money that enters the municipal budget through traffic fines has tripled in the last 10 years. Centre-right councilors in Florence argue that the city issues much too many traffic violations. ‘A city that counts some 365,000 residents, should not be issuing traffic tickets that amount to €52 million. Milan (1,324,110 residents) in comparison issues €81 million in traffic fines, but it is considerably bigger than Florence.' Of the traffic violations that issued by traffic police in 2008, around a 54% were issued to motorists who entered the limited traffic zones (ZTL) without the required permit; a 29% were given to drivers who parked in no-parking zones; a 2.6% were issued for speeding; and a 0,009% were given for having run a red light.
Most fines are as a result of limited traffic zone (ZTL) violations. There is a very strictly defined route to get in and out of the city for car rental agencies in the Via Fineguerra and the Borg'Ognissanti, just south of the Firenze SMN railroad station. If you rent there, be sure to ask at the office how to get in and out without violating the ZTL.
Parking in garages and parking lots is expensive, costing €30 per night.
There are three kinds of parking places on the street: white, yellow and blue. White is for residents only, yellow ones are reserved, so you can park only on the blue places. The price is €1 per hour and you have to pay from 8AM to 8PM (12 hours). Leave the ticket inside the car in a visible place. Attention: you need coins for the parking - the machine won't accept banknotes or cards.
You can also find 'free' parking at all hours at "Piazzale Michelangelo" on the south side of the town. However, there are time limits for how long you can leave a car, which are rigidly enforced, and if you violate those limits, your car will be towed. It's about a 20 minute walk to the city centre (down the stairs and across the Arno). It has gorgeous views of the city as well.
Transportation - Get Around
The Firenze Card is a 72 hour pass for Florence allowing access to 72 museums. The cost is €72 per person. In some museums you can queue jump the reservations procedure with the pass but it is best to check with individual museums. NOTE: As of 01 November 2015, the Firenze Card no longer covers public transportation. To add public transportation to your Firenze Card you have to buy an extra Firenzecard+ for €5.
Most of the major tourist sights in Florence are within easy walking distance of each other. It is possible to walk from one end of the historic center of Florence to the other - North-South or East-West in a half hour. Walking is not only an easy way to get around, it also offers the chance to 'take in' much more of the city life. Be warned though, that electric motor scooters are small enough to fit where cars cannot. They are silent but quick and in the summer they often travel into the plazas. Some of the streets in central Florence are closed to traffic. Many more are simply too narrow for buses to get through. Therefore, bus and car tours are not recommended. This is a very small, very compact city that really needs to be seen by foot. And, of course, if you need to, you can always buy a new pair of shoes in Florence.
Taxis are available, but it may be best if you have your hotel or the restaurant you are eating at call ahead. Taxis should be called by phone and the nearest one available is sent to you through the company's radio system with its meter ticking away. In Florence, it can be difficult to hail a cab from the street curb. You either call for one or get one at the very few taxi stands. One popular taxi stand is at the central Santa Maria Novella Train Station and in a few major squares. The first taxi in the taxi stand line should be free - ask in case of doubt. Be aware that most taxis do not take credit card for payment. Be sure to have cash and ask in advance in case you only have a credit card with you. Please note that taxis in Florence are relatively expensive. Tipping is not expected, unless the driver helps you carry luggage etc.
There is a bike rental service organized by the city. Bikes can be hired at several points in the city (and returned to the same place). One of the most convenient for tourists is located at SMN station. There are other locations at many railway stations, but often with restricted opening hours.
While there are hills north and south of the center of town, almost all of the historic center of Florence is easy for bikers, because it is as flat as a hat - flatter than that. But there is a problem: Traffic is terrible with buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles, motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians are fighting for almost no space. So pay attention.
Beyond the city bikes, some of the hotels in town provide their guest with free bicycles. Bike shops also often rent bikes and some of them organize guided bike tours in the countryside.
Another way of getting around is by using the public buses from ATAF. A day ticket costs €5 and a 3 day ticket costs €12. A four-ride ticket costs €4.70. To get the best price you may have to go to the central bus station. You can buy tickets at tabacchi (shops selling tobacco, which are marked with official looking "T"s out front"), kiosks/newsagents/bars where the symbol "Biglietti ATAF" is shown, as well as at the ATAF ticketing office at the bus station outside Santa Maria Novella train station. Remember to ask for a bus map. Several ticket options are available. One very convenient is the 4-rides ticket and the "Carta Agile". The former needs to be stamped when entering the bus (from the front and rear doors of buses - the central door is supposed to be exit only; though now it is more accepted to enter from the central door). The latter has an embedded electronic chip and needs to be held close ("swiped") to the upper part of the ticket machine inside the bus: the "beep" of the machine will inform you that a ticket has been paid and the display will show you how many more tickets ("swipes") you have left. Within 90 minutes of stamping/swiping you can hop-off & hop-on on any bus of the urban ATAF network. Unfortunately and completely against Italian law, it is not uncommon to see bus drivers talking merrily on their mobile phone while driving. Don't expect riders to complain about it and don't panic - they will still drive with the same non-comfortable style as when they are "only driving". Hold tight to hand rails as Florence traffic is unpredictable and frequent sudden braking is necessary. Bus rides are not by all means "smooth". Buses are "safe" but pick pocketing is quite common. Please keep a close eye to your belongings and avoid showing off cash/jewelry/etc. especially in very crowded buses (especially for lines 17/23/14/22 - generally speaking any crowded bus can give a chance to pick pocket).
There is one tram line operating in the city of Florence. It connects Santa Maria Novella train station in central Florence with the southwestern suburb of Scandicci on a 7.4 kilometer route with a total of 14 stops. The tickets used on ATAF buses can also be used on the tram. Hours of operation: daily 500 AM-1230 AM. Frequency: 3–11 minutes depending on day and time of travel [www]. Duration: about 23 minutes between Santa Maria Novella and Scandicci. This tram began service on 14 February 2010 and is the first streetcar line in the city of Florence since 1958.
Driving inside the historic center of Florence is virtually impossible.
Only residents with permits are allowed to drive there. Enforcement of the "Limited Traffic Zone" or "ZTL" is by camera. Violators will be tracked down and fined, but the fine may not arrive for a year or more after the infraction. The fines start at about €90. Once you enter the forbidden zone, it is virtually impossible to pass only one camera, and each time you do, it is a separate fine.
In addition, Florence has some of the tiniest streets in Europe, an amazingly fiendish one-way system that confuses even the locals, and some streets that just come to an abrupt end, with little or no warning.
Parking on the street in the historic center is out of the question. It may only be done by residents with a permit, and all other cars are towed away instantly - if not sooner - to some godforsaken suburb from which it will cost you hundreds of euros to get yours returned.
That said, you may be able to arrange a very temporary - about 30-minute - exemption through your hotel, which will need your license number and other information to make arrangements with the authorities. You will then have to get the car from the hotel out of the ZTL before the exemption expires.
A car can be useful to reach some destinations just outside the city centre, like Fiesole or Settignano (these sights are also reachable by bus service), or for day trips to wonderful places such as Siena, Volterra, Arezzo, etc. It is possible, if a bit tricky to rent a car in Florence and get out of town and back to the car rental agency without violating the ZTL. Those tempted to do so, should make sure to get precise directions from the rental agency.
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There are a few places to buy things, from the high-end jewelry stores lining the Ponte Vecchio to some of the most famous shops in the world; Gucci, Pucci, Ferragamo, Valentino, Prada, Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Buccellati, Frette, as well as many more wonderful shops that aren't yet world famous. Souvenirs related to art and Florence's sights can be found everywhere. Books, leather goods, art handcrafted journals, frames, pencils etc. in that gorgeous Florentine paper with swirls of color and gold are great gifts.
It is increasingly difficult to find bargains, but keen-eyed shoppers can still find good deals on smaller, side streets running off of those above and elsewhere in the center of town. Better stores in/near the city center offer superb leathers at sometimes decent prices...perhaps after some bickering. Goldsmiths on the Ponte Vecchio display beautiful and quality work, but can be very expensive. Shops that are not located in the very centre of the city are significantly cheaper. There are also superb shopping streets, such as the Via Tornabuoni, the Via del Parione, and the Via Maggio. The San Lorenzo market is now largely for tourists. There are also a couple of collections of "outlets" in the suburbs.
Some of the most uniquely Florentine shops and sights can be found in the Oltrarno, which is Florence's "Left Bank" and home to countless generations of artisans. This section of town can be found by crossing "Ponte Vecchio" (the old bridge) or Ponte Trinità from the center. This "undiscovered" Florence is a must-see.
- Enoteca Mondovino, Via S. Agostino 27-29/R, .Decent wine and Liquor store with interesting collection of potable bitters in the back (Italian and German).
- Beaded Lily Beads & Designer Jewelry, Via Toscanella 33r (In the Oltrarno - Steps from Piazza Della Passera *Walking directions posted on website), . An inspiring array of unique beading supplies, handmade designer jewelry, Italian Tubular Wire Mesh Ribbon, Italian chains, yarns and more. Now offering glass beadmaking and jewellery design courses.
- Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Via della Scala 16 N. An old pharmacy, which sells high-qualitiy beauty products like soaps, shaving cream, eau de Cologne.
- Pitti Vintage - Italian & European Vintage Clothing & Accessories, Borgo degli Albizi 72r, , e-mail:[email protected]. Fendi, Ferragamo, Gucci, Lancetti, Valentino. Specializes in Italian and European designer and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces.
- Cose Del 900 - Italian Glass Connection, Borgo San Jacopo 45R(Just two minutes from Ponte Vecchio.), , e-mail:[email protected]. Monday - Saturday 10:30AM-7:30PM. Since 1981 - Specializing in sized-to-order, affordable beaded jewelry featuring handmade Murano glass beads.
- Zei Cinofilia, Via P. Colletta n.30/32r, . 9AM-7PM.Since 1962 the pet shop has been selling stylish Italian accessories for cats and dogs.
- Ortigia SRL, Borgo San Jacopo 12R (next to the Ponte Vecchio), . Luxurious soaps, scents, creams, candles and lotions inspired by the aesthetics, colours, and scents of Sicily.
- Creature Diverse (Bottega d'Arte), Borgo San Jacopo 76/r (just across river from central Florence), . noon-7:30PM. Sarah, the designer/owner of this jewellery and curio shop, doubles as a designer for some of the best known luxury brands (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc). Buy her stylish, hip originals here. Great souvenirs for women (or Jewellery wearing men). €20-€40 and up.
- Ottica Fotografia, Via dei Pecori, 19r, . Monday - Saturday 9AM - 6PM. Claims to be the oldest shop in Florence, and this can easily be believed. The shop has survived just infront of the Cathedral and is well worth a visit - especially if you need glasses made or repaired, good quality inexpensive sunglasses, or old school camera film. (Or anything else from an odd assortment of interesting items found in the window!) Owner Mario speaks fluent Italian, French and English.
- Albrici, Via dei Serragli 20R, , e-mail:[email protected]. Monday 3pm-7pm Tuesday - Saturday 9am-1pm 3pm-7pm. Antiques and home decor store located in the traditional neighborhood of the artisans' workshops of Florence, the Oltrarno. It's been recognised by the city of Florence as a "Historical Florentine Store" due to its 50 years-long history.
- Recollection by Albrici (Albrici), Via dei Serragli 22R, e-mail:[email protected]. Monday 3pm-7pm / Tuesday - Saturday 9am-1pm 3pm-7pm.. Inside the historic store Albrici, Recollection is a place for selected vintage clothing and accessories that tell the history of fashion from the 1920's to the 1990's.
Beware: If the police catch you while buying a knock-off version of something with a brand from an (illegal) street vendor, you can be fined up to €10,000. You'll see plenty of people on the street selling imitation Gucci sunglasses, Rolex watches, and Prada purses dirt cheap. It's okay if the item doesn't have a real brand on it, but buying a knock-off is illegal.
Remember that restaurants have separate prices for food to go or eaten standing up versus sit down service; don't try to sit at a table after paying for food or coffee from the restaurant's to go booth. Also ask always beforehand for the price if you want to sit at a table. Otherwise you might be uncomfortably surprised. Cappuccino al banco i.e. standing up might cost €1-3; but at a table €4.
Florence's food can be as much of a treat to the palate as the art is a treat to the eye. There is good food for any price range, from fine restaurants to take out food from window stands. The best price/quality ratio you will find outside the historical center where normal Italians go to eat. The worst ratio is probably in the neighbourhood of Mercato di San Lorenzo where there are a lot of tourist restaurants, while many of the best restaurants in the city are found in the Santa Croce district. In some, requests for pizza may be met with a rebuff. For local pizza look for small shops near the Duomo.
The best lunch places don't always turn out to be the best dinner places. Dinner in Florence really starts sometime between 7PM and 9PM. If a place looks like they're preparing to close before 8PM, it might not be the best option for dinner. Reheated pasta is not very tasty.
Typical Tuscan courses include Bistecca alla fiorentina which is huge t-bone steak weighing from 500g to 1,500g. It has always price given per 100g, e.g.€3.5 etto (an etto is a "hectogram" or 100 grams-ettogrammo). Crostini toscani are crostini with tuscan liver pâté.
There is also a uniquely Florentine fast food with a 1,000-year history -lampredotto, a kind of tripe (cow stomach, or calf for preference, but a different part than the more familiar white "honeycomb" kind, dark brown in color; the name comes from its wrinkled appearance, which apparently reminds locals of a lamprey fish). The trippaio set their carts in the public squares in the center, dishing out the delicacy straight from the cauldron in which it is being boiled with herbs and tomatoes, chopping it and slapping the portions between halves of a Tuscan roll; the top is dipped in the broth. A mild green parsley- or basil-based sauce or a hot red one goes with it.
There are many gelato (Italian ice cream) stands; some connoisseurs consider the better Florentine gelato the finest in the world. Often gelato is made in the bar where you buy it. Because of this there are many exotic flavors of ice cream like watermelon, spumante or garlic. It's hard to find a gelato place open very late, so after dinner might not be an option. Near the Duomo though, there are a few places open after 10PM.
Tuscany is also the wellspring of cantuccini, also called biscotti di Prato. (Please note that in Italian, the singular of biscotti is un biscotto). It's traditional to enjoy them after a meal by dipping them in Vin Santo ("Holy Wine"), a concentrated wine made from late-harvested grapes, but you can also buy bags of them in stores throughout the city and eat them however you like.
There are numerous caffè and pasticcerie where you can find excellent sandwiches. Pizza sold by weight is an equally excellent solution for budget dining (vegetarian and vegan options are almost always available), as is anycaffè displaying a "Primi" card in its window where you'll find pastas and other dishes at low reasonable prices. The delis (rosticcerie) are very affordable (and the food is often quite good), and some also have dining tables if you don't want to take away.
You can buy the makings for a picnic or snack at the Mercato Centrale. This large market has everything you might need, often at more affordable prices than supermarkets. The stalls will also sometimes vacuum seal whatever you buy so you can take it home with you.
A general rule: the closer you are to the historic old town, the higher the price.
- L'Azdora, Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 14R. Very tasty and cheap food.
- Il Vegetariano, . Via delle Ruote, 30 r. A welcoming budget restaurant that serves delicious and healthy food to a nice mix of locals and tourists. One can sit in the more formal front room, the eclectic middle room, or the peaceful outdoor garden in the back. Daily changing menu with vegan and gluten-free items clearly marked, many luscious desserts on display, salads, soups, hearty brown bread, and a good selection of coffee, tea, wine, beer, and liqueur.
- I fratellini, Via dei Cimatori, 38R, . Nothing but the essentials: panini (€2.50) and wine (€1.60+) from a tiny hole in the wall. Patrons eat on the sidewalk while resting their glass of wine on small shelves nested along the street wall.
- Oil Shoppe. Via S. Egidio 22r. This quaint deli has affordable (€4) hot and cold sandwiches made with a variety of meats (try the meatball sandwich), sauces and fresh vegetables. You can get a meal deal with chips and small drink for €6.50. It is open from 10.30AM to whenever the bread (white, wheat and sub rolls) runs out, which is usually between 6 and 7 in the evening. During the peak period of February to June, it can get very crowded in the day with students, but their love for the sandwiches there is apparent in their loyalty. A good mid-day meal to take with you on the go as you explore Florence, Via S. Egidio is not too far off the beaten track. The Oil Shoppe also sells its own extra virgin olive oil, which they generously use in their sandwiches.
- Trattoria Mario, . Via Rosina 2/R (near Piazza Mercato Centrale); (no bookings) The restaurant opens for lunch and they sit you with other people walking into the restaurant. There is a menu on the wall and the food is great and if you can, save room for a secondi (meat plate).
- Trattoria Le Mossacce, Via Del Proconsolo, 55R, .Lunch until 2PM, Dinner starting at 7PM. A local eatery that has been well-reviewed by multiple publications. Local produce and meats are prepared simply using traditional recipes and time-honoured tradition. Some pastas are made fresh daily, so ask for the daily special. If you want to experience Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine-style steak), they do it amazingly without breaking your wallet. They sell and cut the steak from a larger rib slab in increments of 100g (with a minimum of 500g per serving). Primi: 3-6, Secondi €6-25.
- Leonardo, Via de' Pecori 11, . 11:45AM-2:45PM for lunch, 6:45PM-9:45PM for dinner. Closed on Saturday. A cozy self-service restaurant at the corner of Via de' Pecori and Via de' Vecchietti. About 2 min walk from Duomo. Although there is a menu at the entrance, it is better to go straight to the restaurant, see what they have on their counters and pick what you like. You can also order Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Primi €3.5-4. Secondi €4.5-5.5. About €10 per person for a full-course dinner.
- Za-Za, Piazza del Mercato Centrale 26R. A very nicely decorated restaurant with many vegetarian choices. You can choose to sit inside or outside in the piazza. The menu is huge, lots of choices, and the prices are fair. Service is outstanding, they really cater to your needs. Make sure to try the chianti house wine. Highly recommended. Beware: between the two doorways for Za Za, there is another, far more touristy trattoria. At first glance, it looks like part of the same place. Don't be fooled! €10-12 for a dish.
- Il Giardino di Barbano, Piazza Indipendenza 3-4r, . This restaurant just on the edge of the center offers a great way to escape the tourist restaurants and enjoy a good pizza between the locals. This restaurant offers great wood oven pizza's (try the O' Sole Mio) that you can enjoy in the garden (in summertime) or take-away and friendly staff (that recognize you on your second visit). €6-10 euro per pizza.
- al Tranvai, . Piazza T.Tasso, 14 r. An excellent restaurant for authentic Tuscan fare away from the tourist centre. This place gets very busy around 8PM with the locals so be there a bit before. Very traditional Tuscan food at decent prices. 1st courses at €7 and 2nds at about €10 to €16. Vino at €4/0.5L. The rabbit, asparagus souffle and fiori fritti are excellent and the service very welcoming and warm.
- "Il Latini" Restaurant, . Via dei Palchetti, 6r. You actually are seated at a table with other people and that is the fun of the restaurant. The owner visits each table and everyone is in a great mood. It is the combination of all that is mentioned above plus the personalities of the waiters make it a fun place to eat, visit and enjoy the whole Florentine experience. At 7:30PM when it opens, you will see a crowd outside the restaurant trying to be first in line. The restaurant is bigger than it looks. Even if you do wait, they bring you wine and cheese to those in line. The line is worth it. You might try and ask the owner if you could see the cellar because that is where there is a small private dining area for wine lovers (group party) and the wine is stored there.
- Palle d'Oro, Via S. Antonino, 43/45R (From Santa Maria Novella train station walk a bit south (about 200m) then you will get to Piazza Dell'Unita Italiana. Via S. Antonino looks almost like an alley, from the plaza it will be on your left side), . Three generations of the same family have managed the restaurant, started as a wine seller (they have also been producing wine). They specialize in Tuscany traditional food. Quality of food is excellent, since they are not only good cooks, but also use very good quality ingredients. They had a fixed price meal for €13 choice of 1st course, 2nd course, side and mineral water. Decent house wine for €2/0.25L. Closed for dinner (but still open for lunch) Tuesday - Thursday as of June 2012.
- Trattoria Cammillo, Borgo San Jacopo 57/R (near the fountain at the 5 way dangerous intersection south of the river), . closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Fairly good Tuscan cuisine, with a number of options for vegetarians and vegans. Make reservations or arrive at 7PM.
- Sancho Panza, Via De'Vanni, 2/4 R (next to Piazza Gaddi), . open for diner only, closed Wednesdays. Excellent Italian cuisine (pizza, meat, fresh pasta...).
- Restaurant Terrazza Brunelleschi, , fax: . Piazza Unità Italiana, 6. From the Panoramic "Terrazza Brunelleschi" Restaurant you can catch all of Florence in a glimpse: the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore designed by Brunelleschi and Giotto's famous campanile, the roofs of the age-old buildings of the historical center and the green hills that surround the city on the horizon.
- Enoteca Pinchiorri, . Via Ghibellina, 87. Situated in the center, near Santa Croce, perhaps the most expensive and exclusive winery and restaurant in Florence. You will choose from a selection of the best Italian wines. Expect to spend more than €100 each, but according to your wine taste, it can easily reach much higher prices. You will be presented with separate bills for the food and for the wine.
- Il Cibreo, , fax: . Via Dei Macci, 118/R. In the center near Santa Croce. Vast and great choice of Tuscan food, with highly selected ingredients. €50-100 each.
- Trattoria da Tito, . Via S.Gallo 112/r. Although a bit of a walk from the main attractions, this restaurant speaks for itself with madatory reservations. Great Italian food with the great Italian atmosphere. Dinner often includes impromptu free drinks and a lively wait staff. €50-100 each.
- Gelateria dei Neri, Via dei Neri 20r. Ice cream in many flavors, some experimental, all excellent.
- Festival Del Gelato, Via Del Corso 75. 50 flavors and has an upbeat atmosphere
- Perché No Via dei Tavolini 19. Freshly made daily from quality ingredients. The pear will be made with real pears and will taste of pears. Typically fruit flavors will be made with seasonally available fruits. Chocolate flavor will taste of cocoa rather than chocolate milk-powder. If you are a chocolate fan, this is the place to go. Specialties are "sorbetto" (ice cream made with water rather than milk, both with fruit and standard flavors, and "mousse" ice creams. Ask for the "special" taste of the day.
- Vivoli, . Via Isole delle Stinche, 7/R. Close to Piazza Santa Croce. Vivoli has a good gelato fruit selection, so definitely try the fragola, or strawberry. Make sure that you ask for the cream on top as well, because it adds another element to an already great dessert.
Coffe & Drink
Tap water is safe but those who prefer bottled water will find it plentiful.
Make sure to sample the excellent wines of the region.
Chianti is the local wine that can be ordered cheaply. Many eateries will offer carafes of various sizes of "house chianti", usually for under €4.
Sights & Landmarks
Florence is filled with many churches stuffed with some of the finest art in the world: Santa Maria del Fiore, San Miniato al Monte, San Lorenzo, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Trinita, the Brancacci Chapel at Santa Maria del Carmine, Santa Croce, Santo Spirito, SS Annunziata, Ognissanti, and more.
Then there are the art galleries. The Uffizi and the Pitti Palace are two of the most famous picture galleries in the world. But the heart and soul of Florence are in the two superb collections of sculpture, the Bargello and the Museum of the Works of the Duomo. They are filled with the brilliant, revolutionary creations of Donatello, Verrochio, Desiderio da Settignano, Michelangelo, and so many other masterpieces that create a body of work unique in the world. And, of course, there is the Accademia, with Michelangelo's David, perhaps the most well-known work of art anywhere, plus the superb, unfinished prisoners and slaves Michelangelo worked on for the tomb of Pope Julius II.
To get a great overview of the city, you have plenty of choices: climb the dome of the Cathedral or Giotto's Bell Tower which is much easier or head for Piazzale Michelangelo a large parking lot on the hillside just south of the center of town, or climb a bit further to the church of San Miniato al Monte, a sublime 11th century masterpiece, with superb Renaissance sculptures. At vespers, the monks add to the beauty with chants. Unsurprisingly the historic centre of Florence has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Piazza del Duomo
Santa Maria del Fiore topped by Brunelleschi's dome is the third largest Christian church and dominates the skyline. The Florentines decided to start building it in the 1200s. At the outset they were unsure how they were going to do it. It was "technology forcing", not unlike like the American Kennedy Administration's decision to put a man on the moon. The dome was the largest ever built at the time, and the first major dome built in Europe since the two great domes of Roman times: the Pantheon in Rome and the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. In front of it is the medieval Baptistery, where every Florentine was baptized until modern times. The two buildings incorporate the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in their decoration. In recent years, most of the important works of art from those two buildings and from the wonderful Bell Tower, designed by Giotto, have been removed and replaced by copies. The originals are now housed in the spectacular Museum of the Works of the Duomo, just to the east of the Cathedral. Buy a single ticket for €15 (concessions €3) to enter the following monuments (one entry per monument, valid for 24 hours after first use):
- Santa Maria del Fiore. Also known as the Duomo di Firenze is the city's beautiful Gothic cathedral, the symbol of the city. Brunelleschi's huge dome was an engineering feat of the Renaissance. A statue of Brunelleschi is sited in the piazza, with his figure looking upwards towards his dome. It is possible to climb the Dome (entrance on the side of the church), which has 464 steps. Usually has a long lineup.
- Giotto's Tower (Campanile di Giotto). Adjacent to the Duomo, you can climb the tower for a magnificent 360-degree view of the Duomo, Florence, and the surrounding area, and requires some tenacity to climb 414 steps.
- Baptistery. Famous for its bronze doors by Andrea Pisano (14th century) and Lorenzo Ghiberti (15th century) and a beautiful interior the vault of which is decorated with 13th century mosaics (the only medieval set of mosaics in the city).
- Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Duomo), Piazza del Duomo 9 (Directly behind the dome end of the cathedral), . (Reservations)The Cathedral Museum, with artworks formerly in the Duomo and surrounding religious buildings, including sculptures by Donatello, another version of the Pietà (different from that one of Saint Peter's Basilica, in Vatican, Rome) by Michelangelo, and the losing entries in the famous contest held in 1401 to design the doors of the Baptistery. Models and drawings of the Cathedral. Worthy. Currently under going reconstruction and will re-open October 29, 2015.
Old town centre
- Palazzo Vecchio. Old city palace/city hall, adorned with fine art. The replica of Michelangelo's "David" is placed outside the main door in the original location of the statue, which is a symbol of the Comune of Florence. The site displays an important collection of Renaissance sculptures and paintings, including the Putto, by Verrochio, and the series of murals by Giorgio Vasari at the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Houndreds) - the hall which used to display the now lost Renaissance masterpiece, that is, the so-called Battaglia di Anghiari, by Leonardo da Vinci. "Museum" or "Tower and Battlements": €10 adults, €8 concessions. "Museum" and "Tower and Battlements": €14 adults, €12 concessions.
- Ponte Vecchio. The oldest and most famous bridge over the Arno; the only Florentine bridge to survive WW2. The Ponte Vecchio (literally "old bridge") is lined with shops, traditionally mostly jewellers since the days of the Medici. Vasari's elevated walkway crosses the Arno over the Ponte Vecchio, connecting the Uffizi to the old Medici palace.
- Santa Croce. Contains the monumental tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Dante, and many other notables in addition to artistic decorations. There is also great artwork in the church. And when you're done seeing that, a separate charge will gain you admission to the Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce, where you can see a flood-damaged but still beautiful Crucifix by Cimabue (Giotto's teacher), which has become both the symbol of the flooding of Firenze in 1966 and of its recovery from that disaster. The Pazzi Chapel, a perfectly symmetrical example of sublime neo-Classic Renaissance architecture is also worth visiting. 6€.
- Santa Maria Novella (near the train station). A beautiful church with great artwork, including a recently restored Trinity by Masaccio. Also, the Chiostro Verde, to your left when facing the front entrance of the church, contains frescoes by Paolo Uccello which are quite unusual in style and well worth seeing, if the separate entrance is open. Off of the church's cloister is the wonderful Spanish Chapel which is covered in early Renaissance frescoes. €5 adults, €3.50 concessions.
- Orsanmichele. A beautiful old church from the 14th century, which once functioned as a grain market.
- San Lorenzo. The façade of this church was never completed, giving it a striking, rustic appearance. Inside the church is pure Renaissance neo-classical splendor. If you go around the back of the church, there is a separate entrance to the Medici chapels. Be sure to check out the stunning burial chapel of the princes and the sacristy down the corridor. The small sacristy is blessed with the presence of nine Michelangelo sculptures.
- San Marco Convent. Houses frescoes by Fra Angelico and his workshop. Fra Angelico painted a series of frescoes for the cells in which the Dominican monks lived.
- Great Synagogue and Jewish Museum of Florence (Sinagoga e Museo Ebraico Firenze), via Farini, 6, . June-Sept, Sun-Thurs: 10:00 - 18:30, Fri: 10:00 - 17:00; Oct-May, Sun-Thurs: 10:00 - 17:30; Fri: 10:00-15:00. Closed except for religious services on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Lovely Moorish-style synagogue built in 1882 and a museum with many artefacts and documentation of Florentine Jewish life going back many centuries; visits are guided. €6.50 total for the synagogue and museum.
South bank of the Arno
- Boboli Gardens. Elaborately landscaped and with many interesting sculptures, behind the Pitti Palace. Wonderful city views. Don't miss the Bardini gardens. Entrance to that is included in the combination ticket price for the Boboli, and it's a short walk from the Boboli Gardens. There are great views of the Duomo from the Bardini gardens. A single adult ticket to the gardens costs €7.
- Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square). Plaza on a hilltop with a great view of the city (go there by bus) or climb the stairs and paths from the Lungarno della Zecca.
- Santa Maria del Carmine. Famous frescoes (Masaccio’s Adam and Eve Banished From the Garden and others by Lippi and Masolino) in the Brancacci Chapel.
- San Miniato al Monte (uphill from Piazzale Michelangelo). The Sacristy contains frescoes by Spinello Aretino. In the cemetery near this church there are graves of famous people of Florence, including Carlo Lorenzi (Collodi) - author of the famous Pinocchio. Also, turn around when you reach the top of the stairs before entering the church, to see perhaps an even greater view of the city than from nearby Piazzale Michelangelo.
- Santa Felicita (on the Oltrarno, or south side of the Ponte Vecchio).Contains frescoes of the Annunciation and a painting of the Deposition of Christ by the brilliant and weird mannerist painter, Pontormo. They are to be found in the Barbadori Chapel, which is to your immediate right when entering the church.
Museums & Galleries
The Uffizi is the most famous, but Florence also has other amazing museums a short walk away with world class artistic treasures. In all, Florence has something over 80 museums. Among those at the top of most lists are the City hall, the Palazzo della Signoria (aka Palazzo Vecchio), a wonderful building with magnificent rooms and some great art; the Archeological Museum, the Museum of the History of Science, the Palazzo Davanzatti, the Stibbert Museum, St. Marks, the Medici Chapels, the Museum of the Works of Santa Croce, the Museum of the Cloister of Santa Maria Novella, the Zoological Museum ("La Specola"), the Bardini, and the Museo Horne. There is also a wonderful collection of works by the modern sculptor, Marino Marini, in a museum named after him. If you are interested in photography, you should not miss the superb collection of works by the early photographers, the Alinari brothers. The magnificent Strozzi Palace is the site of many special exhibits. Note that all state museums, meaning all the main museums, have reduced prices (50% off) for EU citizens aged 18–25 and entry is free of charge for EU citizens aged over 65. It is best to book ahead at the ticket counters as it can be busy.
- Galleria degli Uffizi, Piazzale degli Uffizi, . Tue-Sun 08:15-18:50, Mon closed. Ticket office closes 45min earlier. One of the world's most famous fine art museums with collections of Renaissance paintings and sculptures from classical antiquity. Included is The Birth of Venus by Sandro Boticelli. There are often long lines and several hours' wait is common, starting even before the doors open. You can call +39 055 294883 to make a reservation in advance and walk right in, which is strongly recommended if you can spare the extra €4. The phone operator will give you an extension number which you quote at Gate 3 to pay (cash only) and get the tickets. Online booking is available but is much less convenient because it costs more, has a 24 hour waiting period, your specified time may change and you need to print an email. The restaurant/caffè has a large balcony overlooking the main piazza with good views of the Palazzo Vecchio. It is a great place to take a break for art lovers making a non-rushed visit to this fantastic collection. This cafe is rather expensive however. Street performers are often seen outside the Uffizi. Admission €8 adults, €4 concessions. Phone booking €4 extra. Online booking €4 extra.
- Bargello (Museo Nazionale del Bargello), Via de Proconsolo 4, . 8:15AM-1:30PM Tu-Su and the 1st, 3rd & 5th M of each month. Closed the 2nd & 4th M of each month as well as May 1st. This museum houses one of the best examples of Renaissance and Mannerist sculpture. The works of many great Renaissance sculptors are on display here, including Michelangelo, Donatello, Ammannati, Bandinelli, Andrea and Jacopo Sansovino, Desiderio da Settignano, Giambologna, and Antonio Rossellino. The museum is near Piazza della Signoria and can be seen in a few hours. Admission is €7.
- Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell'Accademia), Via Ricasoli 58-60.Tu-Su 8:15AM-6:50PM. Highlights are Michelangelo's David and the unfinished Slaves. The David was recently cleaned in a controversial project. No photography is allowed inside. Wait times can be under one hour in the off-season. It is possible to reserve at the academia in advance and save yourself the long line. If you're only interested in see David and Rape of the Sabines and are short on cash you can see replicas in Palazzo Vecchio where you can also take pictures. Note that while restoring or repairing art, the gallery often showcases the replicas (you can tell because the toenail is intact for David, for example). €11 (advance booking: €15).
- Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti). On the quieter south bank of the Arno. The former Medici family palace contains galleries of their art and treasures. The Boboli gardens behind the palazzo offer wonderful walks and excellent views of the city and the countryside south of the city.6.5€.
- Museo Galileo, Piazza dei Giudici 1, . 9:30AM-6PM, Tu closes at 1PM. This museum shows the evolution of the instruments used in various scientific fields such as mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy. The room of Galileo Galilei shows some of his original instruments as well as models from his drawings. The room of Spheres and Globes houses an excellent cartographic collection. In a rather macabre twist the museum also has the middle finger of Galileo's right hand on display. €9.
For those making longer stays in Florence, the city also has an interesting archaeological museum (the Etruscan art collection is particularly good), a Contemporary Art gallery, seated in Palazzo Strozzi, and other collections.
Things to do
Great places to walk include along the Arno and across any of its bridges; through narrow, medieval back streets in the Santa Croce area; and in the Oltr'Arno - on the south side of the river, in many ways like Rome's Trastevere or Paris's Left Bank - but far, far smaller.
- Climb the Duomo or Campanile. Traverse the winding staircases inside the duomo or the nearby bell tower to see some of the best views of Florence. Not only can you see the Tuscan countryside in the distance and the impressive palaces and churches of Florence in the fore, but it also shows you just how large the Duomo is.
- Stroll the Boboli Gardens. These extensive gardens behind the Pitti palace provide excellent views of the city of Florence and numerous sculptures in a relaxed environment. Stop in the hilltop café, grab a drink and a seat outside and enjoy the view.
- Street Performers by the Uffizi, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. In the evenings street performers often put on a show here. Performances can range from violin duets to people dressed as sculptures. A nice place to stop while you eat your after-dinner gelato.
- Enjoy the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo. It's a big square on a hill, but somewhat distant from the traditional tourist sites. It's easy to reach it even on foot using the stairs called "Rampe di San Niccolò". They are on the side of the Arno river just in front of the national library. Do this during the summer and during the night to admire Florence's lights.
Outside the city
- Impruneta's spa, Via Cassia 217, Terme di Firenze (From the city of Florence, take the Autostradale Firenze - Siena and the SR2. The spa is on a lefthand turnoff from the R2, approximately 13 km south of the city of Florence.). The thermal waters of Impruneta spring from two sources and are used to treat respiratory diseases, liver, gastrointestinal, and skin allergies.
- La Cite. A very nice and cozy cafe/bookstore. Good prices, nice atmosphere, good books. Borgo San Frediano 20r.
- Enoteca Le volpi e l'Uva, . The must of the tasting wines and savory titbits. Piazza dei Rossi, 1.
- Uffizi Museum The bar at this museum offers an amazing view overlooking la Piazza della Signoria, but it's only accessible through the museum, so you'll have to buy a ticket.
- Irish Pub (The Fiddlers Elbow) Piazza Santa Maria Novella. This pub has plenty of seating, in addition to live music and great staff.
- Bebop-great coverbands everynight and a €4 pint. Can be found north of the Duomo on the right on Via Dei Servi, before you reach Piazza d Annunziata.
- Ambrosia - Found in Piazza de Ambrosia. This is primarily a wine bar, and you can sample some great wines at a low cost provided you come with friends and share the price of whole bottles.
- Rivoire Piazza della Signoria. Founded in 1872 this terrace facing thePalazzo Vecchio is a Florentine institution.
- Paszkowski or Gilli. Situated on the Piazza Republica, next to the hotel Savoy. Note that the terraces on the other side of the piazza are equally pricey.
- Été, Via Faenza 63. A lovely little café with warm service and good local beer and wine. € 3 draft beer.
- Cavalli Club, Piazza del Carmine, 8. Roberto Cavalli, Italian Fashion Designer has one his beautiful clubs located in Florence. The inside has a stage with a projector of Roberto Cavalli's fashion shows running non-stop. The upstairs can be a private lounge for parties or VIP section on certain nights. This club was the most popular on Wednesday nights, but it’s open on the weekends as well. It’s black and leopard interior fits the natural and animalistic designs Roberto Cavalli creates. Roberto and his two sons are frequently at the club so look out! All ages are appropriate and the dress attire here is rather upscale. This is not just a seasonal club so all year visitors are encouraged to go. Drinks run about €10 each.
- Bamboo Lounge Club, Via Giuseppe Verdi, 57/R, , e-mail: [email protected]. 11pm-4am.Bamboo Lounge Club is a great place for young adults and students to party. The music is great from European to American techno and many other worldwide DJs. Bamboo Lounge Club offers VIP tables and has two midsized bars. It is very clean and safe to be in. It is located on Via Giuseppe Verdi not far from the Duomo. Dress is a little more than casual, but not too upscale. The loud music, dancing, and exciting atmosphere gives people a chance to let loose and have fun. The club features mostly house, techno and hip hop music. Women free entrance until 1am Men 10€.
- Tenax, Via Pratese, 46. If you love house and electronic music this is the best club to go to. It’s a two story club, located on the outskirts of Florence, features DJ’s from all around Europe, America, and Australia. This club also holds many concerts during the winter and summer. Many people come from all over to enjoy this clubs atmosphere. The dance floor is extremely large and is always very crowded. Be smart where you keep your bag and wallet because it’s very easy to get pick pocketed in large clubs like this. This club usually has a cover of €20 and the drinks are rather expensive, but it is a great place to experience at least once. It is very different than most of the clubs in Florence because of the multi-story building. To venture here would be best by taxi or bus. Since it is located in the outskirts of Florence walking could be difficult and not advised. There are many people who can help in directions in the Santa Maria Novella Station.
Things to know
- ABC School, Via dei Rustici 7, , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. 9AM-5PM. Italian language school offering language and cultural courses since 1982.
- Centro Machiavelli (Italian language school), Piazza Santo Spirito 4, , e-mail: [email protected]. Italian language and cultural school for foreigners. The structure and the contents of the programmes for the levels are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. The school also organises a programme of cultural activities and excursions to complement the language classes and enable the students to come into contact with the Italian culture and practice Italian in the field.
- Istituto Galilei, Via Alfani 68, , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Italian language school specializing in one-to-one, personalized and small group (max 4 people) full immersion courses.
- Cooking Class. Florence and Tuscany are becoming synonymous with "cooking class". Tuscan cuisine is appreciated worldwide and a cooking class experience is now more and more part of the attraction of Tuscany, as a way of carrying back home memories and improved cooking skills. There are many in the area, either in historical villas in the countryside or in central Florence, from Florentine use of tripe and giblets to the use of organic ingredients from the local producers, and classes range widely in size. During high season, make sure to book in advance.
Safety in Florence
Florence is generally safe, but take precautions against the opportunistic thieves common to major tourist attractions: pickpockets and purse snatchers. Savvy thieves congregate in crowds, particularly around Santa Maria Novella train station. If you have a bag with a classy, noiseless zipper, it will be opened. Also exercise caution on buses: pickpockets can be active on crowded ones and, as everywhere else, they preferably target tourists. Occasionally, some types of beggars can be insistent and distracting while at the same time another thief quietly steals your wallet or phone. Again, this is nothing new to major tourist spots.
Beware of Stendhal syndrome, also known as hyperkulturemia, namely, dizziness caused by being overwhelmed by Florence's fantastic art. Yes, it's a real syndrome, named after 19th-century French author Stendhal, who suffered from it during his stay in Florence. If you get overwhelmed, rest your eyes and legs, get some food (remember gelato), and save the rest of Florence for tomorrow.