Florence Recommendations

Sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo

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Looking for things to do in Florence? I’ve spent more than a few days in the Renaissance city, and I want to share what I like to do there. For your convenience I’ll put a hyperlink glossary here so you can click and skip to the section of interest.

  1. Getting to Florence
  2. Transportation in Florence
  3. Where to Stay
  4. What to Do
  5. Eats and Drinks

Getting to Florence

For most people staying in Florence, the closest train station will be the main one, Firenze Santa Maria Novella (sometimes written as Firenze S.M. Novella). The below recommendations make that assumption. The other nearest station could be Campo di Marte

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If you’re flying into Florence, you’ll want to take the above-ground tram from Peretola Aeroporto to Unità. Tram tickets can be bought from a machine on the tram stop platform. 

If you’re coming by train from elsewhere in Italy, your target station is Firenze Santa Maria Novella.

If you fly into Rome Fiumicino Airport, I suggest you take the train to Florence. From Rome Fiumicino airport, you will have to take a train to one of the main hubs in Rome – Termini or Tiburtina. From there you can take a regional train (lower cost, longer) or high speed (more expensive, much quicker) to Firenze Santa Maria Novella. New for 2022 is a train that goes directly from Rome Fiumicino airport to Florence, but at the time of this writing it is only offered once per day, at 1:53pm. 

My suggestion with buying train tickets in Italy is to skip the line at the machine and buy the tickets on TrainlinePlease check out my post, Essential Resources for Italy Travel.

Getting Around Florence

I’m a big fan of walking and taking rideshare rental bikes (Lime, Ridemovi). If you use a rental bike, I suggest you set up the app before leaving because the issues are easier to sort out in the AirBNB than on the street. Florence is quite walkable, more-so than Rome. 

Alternatively you can use public transit which works pretty well (both the tram and the bus). The tram is unfortunately quite limited and only covers the area from the main station and northwest from there. At the time of this writing, the Florence public transport has not yet adopted an easy way to buy tickets electronically. So you have to buy tickets from a Tabacchi (small store with a “T” outside) or from a magazine stand.

Check out My Favorite Apps for Traveling in Italy.

Where to Stay in Florence

For booking accommodations, my go-to services are Hostelworld and Booking.com, and AirBNB (though AirBNB seems to be getting more and more expensive as of late).

Because Florence is fairly small, you can stay anywhere within a 15 minute walking radius of Piazza della Repubblica and be close enough to everything. 

Some hotel options to consider*:

  • Budget-friendly: B&B Stupido Hotel – Not only does it have a hilarous name, but it’s reasonably priced and is in a great location.
  • Mid-to-high range: 25hours Hotel Florence Piazza San Paolino – some good friends stayed here and raved about the experience. Even just walking into the lobby is an experience, and the themed rooms make it even more memorable.
  • Luxury: Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo – if I wanted to/had the funds to ball out, I would stay here. The Four Seasons is probably more elegant, but it’s too far outside of the center.

For budget travelers in Italy, check out The Best Hostels I’ve Stayed in Throughout Italy.

*Please note: as a frequent, solo traveler, I usually stay in hostels, not just for the cost savings, but also for the community experience. So, my hotel recommendations may not always be places I have personally stayed. However, most people want to stay in hotels, so I want to provide recommendations. I vet online reviews and geographical location for every place I recommend, and will only recommend places that I would stay myself if budget allowed.

What I Like to Do in Florence

For the main attractions in Florence (Uffizi Gallery, Academia, Boboli and Bardini Gardens, the Duomo), tickets for these can be found here. If you can afford it and have time, I highly recommend getting a paid tour to attach more meaning to what you’re looking at. My go to places for tours are  GetYourGuide and Viator. For tickets, I’m a big fan of one-stop-shops, so for that reason I like Tiqets.

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Wine Tasting in the Chianti wine region – This tour was recommended by a friend, so I did it along with four others and we absolutely loved it. There are lots of vineyard tour options in Tuscany (I know, shocker), but what sold me on this one was the pick-up and drop-off in Florence. We had a great tour guide and visited two vineyards, with plenty of wine and snacks along the way. 

Il Duomo and related items – I bought the Brunelleschi pass. Gives you flexibility to use over three days and lets you climb to the top of the dome (inside and out), the nearby Giotto tower, Opera Museum (which is not just about opera music don’t worry), and a couple other things. Price is about $35 per person.

Ponte Vecchio – This medieval bridge was the only one in Florence that wasn’t destroyed during World War II. It is filled with jewelry stores and tourists, so it’s more pleasing to look at from a distance. Good photos of the outside as well as from the bridge, but if you’re trying to get pictures down the river there’s better spots (several bridges)

Ponte Vecchio

Giardino Boboli and Giardino Bardini – These are a great way to get out of the city for a couple hours. Actually finding the entrance to Boboli was tricky, but ended up being at Pitti Palace. Find tickets for the gardens plus the Uffizi Gallery here.

Piazza Pitti – Good place to sit in the sun with a snack and relax.

If you have time and want to get out of the busy part of the city, get a take-out lunch, and take it and a towel to this park between 12:30-2 to see how all the Italian college kids spend their lunch breaks.  From what I saw, they just eat, smoke, hang out, and play guitar and sing Italian pop songs together in a non-annoying way. 

Piazzale Michelangelo – best overall [close] view of Florence. Note the food options up here are underwhelming (concession stands with burgers and hotdogs). Great spot for a sunset – just prepare for a crowd. It’s a bit of a climb uphill to get there (but not too bad). I like to take a rental e-bike to get there.

Piazzale Michelangelo sunset
Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo

Bus trip to Fiesole – best overall [distance] view of Florence.

Florence Eats and Drinks

Fiorentine bread – the bread in Florence, notably what you might get for free with your food, is bland because they don’t add salt. Story goes that salt was taxed heavily in the middle ages so they left it out and never put it back in. In my opinion, it’s not worth the calories on its own unless you’re dipping it in something (see “fare la scarpetta”)

Restaurants 

Ostaria dei Centopoveri – Traditional Tuscan, this is a great spot for the famous bistecca alla Fiorentina. This is so good that I wrote a blog post dedicated to it.

where to eat in florence
Bistecca alla Fiorentina at Ostaria dei Centopoveri

Antico Noè – This had great food and definitely the best quaint Italian restaurant feel with its multi-level seating and hand-written menu.

BaccoMatto – if you want a smaller more intimate yet casual setting, go to BaccoMatto. The owner, Daniele, is so hospitable and they have some really amazing food. It’s more on the smaller portion gourmet end of the spectrum without being overly expensive. 

Fuoco Matto – newer style Italian but with great pizza and pasta.  It’s a newer restaurant, which means they like to woo people with free appetizers and limoncello shots, so take advantage of that. 

Tamerò – I had pizza and wine here.  The pizza was really good, and it had a great setting.  I’m told the cacio e pepe (a Roman standard) is the best in the city, though I didn’t try it. Bonus – I went to a meet up here hosted by a cool guy named Marco. Great way to meet and hang out with locals as well as fellow travelers. He does it every week usually.

Mercato CentraleIf you are overwhelmed by options and want to see all the food before you pick, you can go to the Mercato Centrale, essentially a large food hall with some great options.

Trattoria Zà Zà – Traditional Tuscan – this is a very popular restaurant, but for good reason. It has great food and a very cool look inside. Recommended to make a reservation beforehand, and ask to sit inside.

L’antica Pizzeria da Michele Firenze – This leans a bit on the touristy side, but for good reason. It has arguably the most authentic Neapolitan style margherita pizza (the OG of pizzas) in Florence. That’s because it’s the Florence location of one of the oldest pizzerias in the world in Napoli (also the site of Julia Roberts’ indulgence in the pizza in Eat Pray Love):

Where to eat in Florence - Pizzeria da Michele
Pizzeria da Michele – Margherita Pizzas and Frittatine di Pasta
Sandwiches

Florence is known for having some excellent sandwiches. There are three main places to consider. All of which will have a long line most of the time, so I suggest just going where you see the shortest line. 

La Prosciutteria Firenze is a chain which started in Florence, but don’t let the fact that it’s a chain turn you off. I’ve been to the one also in Bologna, Venice, and Perugia, and they’re all great. In addition to sandwiches, they have meat and cheese boards, plus drinks like spritz and beer.

All’Antico Vinaio – According to Trip Advisor, this is the 3rd most-reviewed restaurant in the world. To me, it’s entirely over-rated. Not bad, just over-rated. Unless you go right when they open, you will see a line minimum of 50 people long. This place gets so much tourist traffic, that they had to open 3 storefronts on the same street, and they have staff directing traffic and tell people which line to go to. If you’re just dying to say you went to Antico Vinaio, know there’s another location in Piazza S. Marco which will have a shorter line. 

SandwiChic – Here they make some of my favorite sandwiches in the world. Keep in mind the place is tiny and service tends to be a bit slower than it needs to be. 

Bars, Aperitivi, and Other

Wine tasting and appetizers at BaccoMatto – The owner, Daniele, is kind, funny, accommodating, and very knowledgeable. I love going here for wine and appetizers (great bruschetta). They also have a great dinner menu, with an emphasis on quality over quantity.

Cocktails at Eby’s – this is a cool little bar in a great little area. Perfect for an aperitivo.

Looking for a college bar atmosphere? Check out The Lion’s Fountain, where they probably have a shot named after your college. 

That’s All For Now

That’s it for my Florence recommendations. I sincerely hope you found value in this article.  If you have recommendations of your own or have suggestions on what else you would like to see covered here, please write in the comments below. Additionally, if you’re planning a trip to Italy and need one-on-one support or guidance, check out my services page where you can get in touch with me.

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