Sunday, May 7, 2017

Travel: Florence Travel Guide to Florence

The Complete Travel Guide to Florence, Italy

Florence (Firenze in Italian) has so much character and charm it's no wonder it's on most travellers "must visit" lists.

I'd recommend a 2-3 day visit but I know many people feel the itch to return to this magical city again and again.

Here I'm sharing my favourite spots and tips for travelling in Florence.

Visiting Italy

Florence would be great to tack on to a visit to Rome or Milan as it's pretty centrally located. 

That being said, my biggest tip for travelling to Italy is to take your time! Italy is such an incredible country with so much to see and do- trying to do it all on one trip is pretty impossible. 

Pick and choose your cities and allow enough time to really get a sense of a place. Two-three days is ideal for most locations (I spent two nights and 3 days in Florence) but Pisa for example could be a 1/2 day visit and Venice would just require an overnight stay - in my opinion. 

Remember that you lose approximately 1/2 a day when you travel from city to city - keep that in mind while you plan your route and also consider the location of the cities you are visiting. 

I wouldn't fly from Rome to Venice and then go to Florence and then go to Milan for example. Look at a map to figure out what the best path would be to avoid the unnecessary time and money that travelling from one end to the other would cost you. 

If you keep these things in mind, I'm sure you will be able to work out a travel plan that makes the best of your time and budget!

At the train station in Rome - Termini Station

How to get there

I travelled to Florence from Rome via Tren Italia train. The train tickets were easy to purchase in advance and the route was simple. It will take you about 1.5 hours to reach there and the ticket would cost about 60 dollars CAN or about 35 EUR.  

Tip: Book your ticket for an early morning ride (9am) so that you will be able to make the most of the day when you arrive in Florence (Firenze).

I really enjoyed the train ride because it gave me a chance to get a sense of the landscape - when you get closer to Florence, the greenery is just stunning. It also gave my husband a chance to have a quick nap. 

Some of my friends and family have also rented a car from Rome and then driven it to Florence and felt it gave them a bit of freedom while travelling. Keep in mind you would have to figure out parking etc and where you would be picking up and returning your vehicle.

Tip: There are tolls on the way and you should keep the correct coins ready - don't expect to get any change back if you overpay.

Where to Stay

My husband and I stayed at a cute Bed and Breakfast, Hotel Santa Croce, near the Pointe Vecchio. It was walkable from the train station and close to everything we wanted to do while we were in the city. We didn't take any cabs while we were there because of the great location!

Keep in mind, European inns and BnBs are not like North American hotels. They have a lot of character but are also smaller and usually don't have elevators. What they do have is charming and helpful staff who will help you make the most of your trip. 

Tip: Chat with Bed and Breakfast owners to find out the best spots to eat, drink and hang out. 

The Hotel Santa Croce (150 CAN/night) was the perfect place for us because the room was clean - albeit small and simple. The convenient location and the knowledgable staff made it perfect for us as we didn't come to Florence to hang out in the hotel room.  The owners also provided breakfast in the morning and helped us to plan our route for the day. 

If you are looking for more luxurious accommodations try the Pitti Palace (350 CAN/night) or the Kraft Hotel (370 CAN/night) - if you are going during off-peak times you may find these hotels for less, I'd recommend checking Trip Advisor and making sure the location is central. 

Tip: I'd suggest finding a hotel near the Ponte Vecchio so that you can walk to most of the places in this guide.

What to Do

Scope a Killer View

One of my favourite things to do while travelling is check the city out from an incredible vantage point. My favourite view in Florence is from the Piazzalle Michaelangelo. It's quite a climb to get up there but it's well worth the view! 

Tip: Go in the early morning or early evening for the best photos.

Wine Tasting 

Take a bus into the Tuscan countryside to enjoy one of the beautiful wine tours and tastings. Tastings in Italy are accompanied by incredible platters of meats and cheeses. It is definitely a food experience you don't want to miss. 

Tip: Hubby and I did the simple wine tasting - no meal and this was the accompaniment! We got one vegetarian plate to give us variety. Make sure you try their amazing aged balsamic vinegar if you go here!

We enjoyed the incredible views at the Castello de Verrazano which was literally a castle in the midst of the lush green hills of Tuscany. 

Tip: To get here take a local bus which will drop you at the foot of the hill. Walk into the gift shop on the corner and let them know you are visiting the winery.

They will arrange a ride up the hill for you. We attempted the walk but were picked up by the winery staff about halfway up because it was insanely hot and we probably looked insanely crazy trying to make it up the hill.

The David 

A must-see in Florence. You will find Michaelangelo's The David at the Accademia.
Visiting shouldn't take more than an hour but the line can be really long. 

Tip: Buy your tickets in advance and book a time to stop by - you will still be waiting but it will be a much shorter line.

The Duomo 

Ah the magical Duomo. You can venture inside or take a tour, but I enjoyed just gazing at it from the outside. It looks beautiful from close up but also from far and is one of the iconic places you must visit while in this city.

Ponte Vecchio

Check out the beautiful bridge, on the way up to Piazzelle Michaelangelo. Make sure you stop to get a picture in front of this landmark!


Don't forget to take in some shopping while you're in this city. You will find some amazing leather goods and designer items here.

Where to Eat 

All' Antico Vinaio is a must visit while you are in the city. This is a local gem where you can get a great Italian sandwich for 5 Euro. Have a glass of wine here for 2 Euro and rest on a stool on the sidewalk to enjoy the authentic eats!

Il Desco Firenze was a true gem. A gluten-free and vegan dish from this restaurant was actually my favourite meal in Florence. It was thinly sliced eggplant, layered with garlic, tomato slices and basil and then baked with olive oil. All the ingredients are grown on the restaurant's own organic farm less than a kilometer away. This is the perfect spot for lunch or dinner.

Ristorante Natalino  was a great place to enjoy classic pasta and fish dishes. The flavour combinations were really unique- I had a pear filled fiocchini with a gorgonzola and pecorino cheese sauce - something I'd probably never find back home.

Tip: Ask your hotel concierge or BnB owner for their favourite spots to dine - it's their city after all! Also- restaurants close at random times during the day so that the people who work there can take a break before dinner.

Check with a local to find out what time you can expect something to be open or call ahead.
an amazing Gelateria is the Gelateria dei Neri - if you pass by try some creamy Gelato!

Street Eats

As you're walking along the street, you will see lots of little shops selling gourmet ice pops, Gelato and pastries - stop and try some! Those are always some of the most memorable eats.

Where to Drink 

Grab a glass of vino in front of the action at Piazza Della Republica. While normally I wouldn't suggest dining in a main square, we actually had a really nice meal here. 

Have a drink or two and enjoy the live music, street performers, horse drawn carriage rides and watch the carousel go round and round. It's a magical place to spend the evening.

Tip: Check out my article on how to escape eating like a tourist in Europe to make sure you enjoy the best meals.

The incredible street artists at Piazza Republica

What to Pack

It can get hot in Florence during the summer months. Check the weather forecast during the weeks leading up to your trip to get a sense of the patterns during the time of your visit. 

I'd suggest making sure you bring:
  • camera
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen
  • cute walking shoes (sandals or tennis shoes)
  • a jacket for the evening
  • shorts 
  • dresses
  • blouses or dress-shirts
  • a pair of nice shoes that you can walk in (lots of cobblestone- don't bring heels)
  • a shawl if you plan on visiting a church
  • a cross body bag with a flap (beware of pick-pockets)
If you have a tip for travelling to Florence, leave me a comment! I'd love to check out your recommendations next time I'm in the city. If you are looking for more tips for travelling in Italy check out my posts on: Pasta in Italy and Breakfast in Italy


  1. I am planning to visit Italy this year. I was planning for a two weeks trip and after reading this article I change my plans, I should make 1 month trip to see Italy to its full ?!!? Replanning it is ! !

    Kim |