Florence

For other places with the same name, see Florence (disambiguation).

Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital of the region of Tuscany in Italy, with a population of about 366,500. The city is a cultural, artistic and architectural gem. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence was the home to powerful families, creative geniuses and scientific masterminds who left their legacies in the city's many museums and art galleries.

Understand

The Duomo

Politically, economically, and culturally Florence was the most important city in Europe for around 250 years, from some time before 1300 until the early 1500s.

Florentines reinvented money, in the form of the gold florin. This currency was the engine that drove Europe out of the "Dark Ages", a term invented by Petrarch, a Florentine whose family had been exiled to Arezzo. They financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, Lyon and Hungary. They financed the English kings during the Hundred Years' War. They financed the papacy, including the construction of the papal palace in Avignon and the reconstruction of St. Peter's and the Vatican when the papacy returned to Rome from the "Babylonian captivity".

Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio pioneered the use of the vernacular, the use of a language other than Latin. In their case, Tuscan, which, because of them, became Italian. Because Dante, et al., wrote in Tuscan, Geoffrey Chaucer, who spent a lot of time in Northern Italy and who stole Boccaccio's little stories, wrote in English. Others started writing in French and Spanish. This was the beginning of the end of Latin as a common language throughout Europe.

The Florentines, perhaps most notably Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1466) and Leon Batist'Alberti (1404-1472) invented both Renaissance and neoclassical architecture. These architectural styles revolutionised the way Rome, London, Paris and every other major city in Europe from Barcelona to St. Petersburg were built.

Florentines were the driving force behind the Age of Discovery. Florentine bankers financed Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese explorers who pioneered the route around Africa to India and the Far East. It was a map drawn by the Florentine Paulo del Pozzo Toscanelli, a student of Brunelleschi, that Columbus used to sell his "enterprise" to the Spanish monarchs, and which he then used on his first voyage. Mercator's famous "Projection" is a refined version of Toscanelli's map, taking into account the Americas, of which the Florentine was obviously ignorant. The western hemisphere itself is named after a Florentine writer who claimed to be an explorer and mapmaker, Amerigo Vespucci.

Bridges over the Arno

Gallileo and other scientists pioneered the study of optics, ballistics, astronomy, anatomy, and so on. Pico della Mirandola, Leonardo Bruni, Machiavelli, and many others laid the groundwork for our understanding of political science.

Opera was invented in Florence.

And that is just a smidgen of what went on in this city, which never had a population above 60,000 from the first attack of the plague in 1348 until long, long after it became unimportant.

And there were the Medici, perhaps the most important family that ever lived. The Medici's changed the world more than any other family. Forget all the art for which they paid. They taught first the other Italians how to conduct state-craft, and then they taught the rest of the Europeans. Just to cite one example: Catherine de' Medici (1519-1589), married Henry II of France (reigned 1547-1559). After he died, Catherine ruled France as regent for her young sons and was instrumental in turning France into Europe’s first nation-state. She brought the Renaissance into France, introducing everything from the chateaux of the Loire to the fork. She also was to 16th and 17th century European royalty what Queen Victoria was to the 19th and 20th centuries – everybody’s grandmamma. Her children included three kings of France, Francis II (ruled 1559-1560), Charles IX (ruled 1560-1574) and Henry III (ruled 1574-1589). Her children-in-law included a fourth king of France, Henry IV (ruled 1589-1610), plus Elizabeth of Hapsburg, Philip II of Spain (of Armada fame), and Mary Queen of Scots.

And that is without mentioning any "artists". From Arnolfo and Cimabue to Giotto, Nanni di Banco, and Uccello; through Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Donatello and Massaccio and the various della Robbias; through Fra Angelico and Botticelli and Piero della Francesca, and on to Michelangelo and Leonardo, the Florentines dominated the visual arts like nobody before or since. And this list does not include many who, in any other place would be considered among the greatest of artists, but in Florence must be considered among the near-great: Benvenuto Cellini, Andrea del Sarto, Benozzo Gozzoli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Fra Lippo Lippi, Buontalenti, Orcagna, Pollaiuolo, Filippino Lippi, Verrocchio, Bronzino, Desiderio da Settignano, Michelozzo, the Rossellis, the Sangallos, Pontormo, just to name a few. And this list does not include the prolific Ignoto. Nor does it include the near-Florentines, such as Raphael, Andrea Pisano, Giambologna, the wonderfully nicknamed Sodoma and so many more, such as Peter-Paul Rubens, all of whom spent time in Florence and were educated by it.

Get in

By plane

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 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 office 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.

By train

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.

By car

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.

By bus

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.

Get around

Firenze card

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.

By foot

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.

By bicycle

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.

By taxi

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.

By bus

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).

By tram

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 500AM-1230AM. Frequency: 3–11 minutes depending on day and time of travel . 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.

By car

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.

See

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):

The golden doors of the Baptistery

Museums

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
Galileo's Original Instruments, Museo Galileo

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.

Old town centre

The Palazzo Vecchio
Galileo's Tomb, Santa Croce

South bank of the Arno

The Boboli Gardens seen from the Palazzo Pitti

Do

Giotto's Tower, from Duomo di Firenze

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.

Outside the city

Learn

Photography

Italian language

Cooking

Buy

View from Piazzale Michelangelo

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.

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.

Eat

Santa Maria Novella, a wonderful church right near the train station

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.

Budget

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 any caffè 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.

Mid-range

Facade of the Basilica of Santa Croce. The statue in the shaded background is of Dante Alighieri, the famous author, and to the immediate right is the entrance to the Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce, which contains a Crucifix painted by Cimabue that was damaged in the 1966 flood but looks good, anyway, following a careful restoration

Splurge

Dessert

Drink

Stories from the Legend of St Benedict, frescoes by Spinello Aretino in San Miniato al Monte

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.

Bars

Clubs

Sleep

As elsewhere the price of hotels in Florence has been climbing quickly in the last few years. The golden rule here is if you want something cheap you'll have to stay outside of the historic center. The area around the train station is cheaper, but not as safe, especially for women travelers at night. If you are looking at big chain hotels you should be aware that they are usually quite a distance from the centre, the Novotel for instance is almost at the airport.

Certain hotels, particularly those oriented toward business travellers offer special reduced rates during the weekend (e.g. Starhotel Michelangelo) or during slow weeks like Baglioni. Sometimes you can also get a substantial discount by reserving online. In the train station there is a tourist information office which also offers hotel reservations; you can often get good deals through them at the very last minute, but it's not guaranteed.

Budget

There are quite a number of one or two star alberghi within a short distance of the station. Young women can find accommodation with certain convents at very low prices, and usually in historic locations. On the other hand, you'll have to forget about any late-night Tuscan craziness.

Camping

Hostel

Bed and Breakfast

Hotels

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

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.

Stay safe

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.

Stay healthy

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.

Go next

The SITA bus station is just west of the train station in Florence. This is where to go to catch a bus to Siena, San Gimignano, and so on. If you're at the roundabout, facing the train station, go 90 degrees left and stay on the left until just past the fork. You will see the entrance to the SITA garage on your right.
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