Florence is the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region and the birthplace of the Renaissance – so expect magnificent architecture and stunning art. Last June my family and I went on a week-long trip to Florence, Italy for a family vacation.
Here’s my ultimate Florence travel guide!
What to Expect —
Languages: You’re in Italy so expect the locals to speak the romance language of Italian but, don’t worry like most of Europe, you can almost always find someone within the city who speaks a little English.
Currency, Credit Cards & ATM: Italy uses the euro, so expect to exchange your $ into euro notes before or upon arrival. You can always withdraw money from an ATM as needed rather than carrying too much cash with you at once. Credit cards are accepted at some locations, Visa tends to be the most widely accepted. Just pay attention to foreign transaction fees and international exchange rates!
Getting Around —
Getting to Florence: We chose to fly from America to Rome, rather than to Florence because of cost and the timing of flights. Choosing what is best for you is most important in international travel. Flying into Rome then taking a high-speed train into Florence was the easiest option for our large group of 7 travelers. Although, our plan did not go well because half of our group missed a connection and was rerouted twice making an 18 hour travel day into a 37 hour travel day (It was the worst). Traveling to Europe doesn’t always go the smoothest but, don’t let this hold you back! You will get there eventually!
*** Pro Tip*** Make sure you have at least a 2 hour layover between state and international flights, trust me.
Getting around Florence: We walked and wandered everywhere! You will fit right in with the locals if you do this and see more of the city this way. If you are traveling from the airport or the train station you can always order a taxi or a private driver if you are pressed for time/ are carrying luggage. I would not recommend driving, the streets are narrow, chaotic, and not to mention that drivers are insane.
Where to stay —
The location: Our family rented a villa in the heart of the city through Inspirato, which is a luxury destination travel club that has some amazing locations throughout the world. Now I know this isn’t feasible for everyone, but I would still 100% recommend staying as close to the center of Florence when looking for accommodations. You will have more access to all of the museums, food, and nightlife within a couple minuets walk this way.
What to eat —
Lunch at Mercato Centrale: Not only is this a fun place to wander through, but there is traditional Italian food for a great price found here. You can shop for your dinner and snacks if you are looking to cook food in your villa or Airbnb as well! Price Point- $
Lunch at Fiaschetteria Osteria Nuvoli: We stopped here for our first lunch in Florence after a Florence resident recommended this place and we were so happy that she did. Very typical florence cuisine at a nice price. Casual atmosphere and not so easy to find (although very central), but the food was fantastic and the house vino was great. Price Point – $
Dinner at I’Parione Restaurant: I highly recommend making a reservation to try this wonderful Florentine style restaurant. My favorite pasta I had the whole time I was in Italy was from here. You can tell the locals love it and if they do then it has to be great! The service was great, the food was great, overall just great! I wish I could go back just for this pasta sometimes. Price Point – $$-$$$
Dinner at L’Osteria Di Giovanni: Dine here for a nice evening in the city with traditional Italian food. The atmosphere and the ambience is great. A little bit more fancy but still pretty causal like most Italian spots you will find. A reservation is recommended! Price Point- $$-$$$
Drinks: We ended up finding local bars that we would wander into after mid-afternoon shopping and our dinners. One rooftop bar I could not recommend more would be the La Terrazza Rooftop Bar at the fashionable Hotel Continental. It is a swanky cocktail bar with some of the best views in Florence located right next to the Arno, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Palazzo Vecchio and San Miniato. Price Point $ – $$
What to do —
Museums: Go see as many as you can! We went to the Galleria dell’ Accademia, Cappella Brancacci, Plazo Pitti, and Santa Felicita to name a few. Buy the Firenze card if you plan on going to multiple museums. With the Firenze card you can enter all the museums with priority access. It was suggested to us to buy the card at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence based on where we were located and the ease of access.
Bridges over Arno River: They are all an amazing sight to see and I encourage you to walk around the river to see a few of them. We spent time at the most famous of them, the Ponte Vecchio with houses and shops located right on this bridge, it can be pretty crowded but when you find some space to yourself it is magnificent!
The Duomo and The Bell Tower: We unfortunately missed our reserved time slot to see inside this iconic architectural feat. Get there early or buy a pass in advance. But even the views from outside of the Duomo and the Bell Tower were worth it. I encourage you to come see it at all different times of the day. At night the crowds disappear and it makes for some pretty amazing photo ops!
The Palazzo Vecchio: This picturesque town hall is worth the lines and the crowds. Take a walk inside the courtyard to see intricately designed area. Shop the street markets around this area. Grab some gelato or a slice of pizza and enjoy the views!
Shopping in Florence: The best roads for luxury brand shops are located on; Via De’ Tornabuoni and Via Della Vigna Nuova. For casual clothing shops go to; Via De’ Calzaiuoli and Via De’ Cerretani. For Italy’s famous leather shops you can find them on; San Lorenzo and Santa Croce.
I fell in love with the culture, the the charm, and the people of Firenze! I hope this inspires you to travel to this beautiful city.