If you’re thinking about traveling to Italy and don’t know how to choose between the north and the south, if you’ve already been to Rome and visited all the museums in the city, or if you’re just looking for an exciting, enjoyable trip, with spectacular views and one of the best culinary experiences in the world – Florence is the perfect choice for you.
Many people who fly to Italy and choose to go on a trip outside of Rome will not miss the city of Florence and will include it for two or three days in their trip but no more than that. But it really doesn’t have to be that way – Florence and its surroundings are a focal point for a trip in themselves and are considered one of the most popular and sought-after destinations in Europe.
Since Florence and the area around it are so diverse and offer endless employment, attractions and experiences to tourists, the question arises: how do you even begin to plan your trip to Florence? It’s good that you asked, that’s exactly what we’re here for.
First of all – how long are you flying for?
Usually, a trip of a limited number of days (2-4 days) will concentrate on the city and its uniqueness such as its famous architecture and museums. However, even on such a trip, it is recommended to go outside the city at least once for a day trip, and there is no shortage of options since the Tuscany region is one of the most beautiful regions in Europe.
The building of Florence is undoubtedly the Cathedral of Santa Maria. It is one of the largest cathedrals in the world (the fifth largest) and rises to a height of 103 meters! All this was built over 170 years and there is no way you can remain indifferent when you see it from any point in the city. In addition, the bell tower that is adjacent to the cathedral is also impressive and is an observation point of the city from a height of 82 meters (if you have the strength to climb of course).
Apart from that, you can enjoy and walk the Ponte Vecchio bridge, which is a street built on a bridge over the Arno river with houses and shops and famous for its variety of jewelry and art shops.
In the beautiful Boboli Gardens from the Renaissance you can walk along the pastoral paths and be exposed to the impressive observation points of the old city of Florence, these gardens were built as a courtyard of the Pitti Palace where the rulers of the city (the Dukes of the Medici family) used to live.
If the endless works of art of the Italian Renaissance are your thing then of course this is the perfect place for you (after all, this is the city where Michelangelo, Leonardo and Botcelli lived). Two museums in the city require a visit, the first: the Uffizi Gallery, which is one of the best art museums in the world, and even if it’s not an area that speaks to you, walking the corridors of the museum (which was the storage of the works of the Medici family) is impressive in itself. The second museum is the Academy of Arts, where you can see the giant statue of King David, and this in addition to the many impressive works that include woven tapestries that tell the story of the creation of the world.
You have already realized that you should leave the city for at least one day, and there are several ways to do it: recommended places to visit are Siena with its impressive old city center, Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower, San Gimignano which is a beautiful small town with walls overlooking the hills Green Tuscany, Livorno which is a coastal city full of canals known as “Venice for the poor” and La Spezia which lies on the bay with green cliffs and tiled houses touching the water or by its familiar name “Cinque Terre”.
What style will you choose to travel?
A road trip? An urban experience? A trip to admire the crazy art in the city? Of course I will combine all of them since Florence knows how to meet all your requirements and beyond.
As mentioned, the recommended places to visit in the city are very diverse in their areas of interest. Opening a quick map (not a paper map, referring to Google) you will see that within Florence most of these places are within walking distance of no more than 15 minutes and even if you want to go a little further, a city bus will definitely meet this requirement. For most places outside the city, public transportation is very good and the options are many and varied.
A highly recommended option is a star trip based in Florence (a star trip is a trip where you return to sleep in the same city/hotel every night) made possible thanks to Italy’s public transportation, which allows access to almost any city. The city’s train station is right in the center of the city (a 5-minute walk from Santa Maria Church) and the bus terminal is also adjacent to the train station (the tickets are bought at the central station or at the kiosks scattered throughout the city or late in the evening and are valid for onward journeys for 90 minutes, just like in Israel) .
As a rule, to the big cities around we prefer to use the train and buses and if we want to get to the surrounding towns and villages we prefer to rent a car. For a star trip, the recommendation is not to rent a car and try to exhaust the cities surrounding Florence because of the risk that you will find yourself standing in the traffic jams of the city and burning precious time, looking for parking and exposed to reports.
In the villages and towns surrounding Florence you will discover the beautiful nature of Tuscany (besides the short jump to the nearby cities), so in such a situation the recommendation is for a circular route (that is, a route that you leave from Florence and sleep in places close to the route, which allow us to continue from the point where we left off). This route is only suitable for those who intend to spend four days or more (if not, you simply won’t have enough time to see the city itself and it’s a shame), and unlike the Star Tour here it is recommended to rent a car. This will allow you to reach beautiful natural points such as Ponte Della Maddalena (also known as the Devil’s Bridge), Bagni San Filippo which are hot springs with hiking trails around, the green area of Chianti and full of wineries and the Canyon Park – Adventure Park (for more places see guide to Tuscany). It should be taken into account that renting a car, like anywhere in the world, is efficient but more expensive.
what are we eating?
So there’s no way we’ll talk about a destination in Italy without dedicating an entire chapter to food, which is why we’ve put together a number of recommendations for excellent food in Florence and the surrounding area:
Osteria Santo Spirito – an amazing restaurant of Italian food located a little up the hill in the area of the Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace, so try to combine it with the trip in the area. The restaurant can be a little expensive, depending on what you want to order, 8-18 euros for an average dish and meat dishes between 22-38 euros. In any case, you don’t have to go wild with expenses in order to enjoy the place.
Gustarium – an amazing pizzeria whose pizzas have excellent dough. You can add almost any topping you can imagine to the pizzas. The place is right in the city center (3 blocks from Santa Maria Cathedral) and with a paid score of 5 on TripAdvisor that is hard to argue with. The price range is normal but please note that the pizzeria is open every day only between 12:00 and 17:00
If you are willing to go a little further to try an excellent pizza, try Melloo‘s pizza, which is located outside the old city (you can get there using bus line 24 from the city center or tram line 2T outside the train station and get off at the restaurant). The price is not that expensive: NIS 20-60 per dish (EUR 4-15), which is not unusual compared to other restaurants, even in Israel.
All’ Antico Vinaio – 10 minutes’ walk from the city center is the best sandwich in town, don’t be tempted to give it up because the line seems long or because a sandwich sounds banal to you, and go devour the place where tourists and locals enjoy fine street food. The price range ranges from NIS 28-58 (€7-14).
La Strega Nocciola – Italian gelato has long been a must in Italy, so don’t miss this place. The gelateria, which some claim is the best in all of Italy, has two branches in the city – one in the center and the other on the banks of the Arno River and overlooking the Uffizi Museum.
Mercato Centrale – Florence’s central food market that includes both Italian and Mediterranean food and is located 10 minutes’ walk from the city center. In the market you will also find quality street food restaurants in the same style and it definitely allows you to absorb the Italian food culture even on a rainy day, since it is covered.
Recommended hotels in Florence
The required balance between a high-quality hotel and a reasonable price is very sharp in a city that receives 5 million tourists a year, but there are quite a few hotels in Florence that respect this equation:
Milu – a boutique hotel located right in the center of the city and designed in a very modern and artistic way. The hotel has a courteous staff that provides 24/7 service, a breakfast that includes more than the European average and a coffee machine that will be at your service throughout the day. The rooms are definitely spacious and deliver the goods: cable TV, comfortable beds and quiet even in the rooms facing the street side. In addition, you will find a compact and equipped roof terrace that you will be happy to sit on with a cold beer in the evenings. Price range: NIS 300-450 per couple per night.
La casa del garbo – the hotel is located in the heart of Signoria square in a building from the 16th century that currently offers rooms and suites designed from the Renaissance period. The hotel staff helps in making reservations for any place you ask (restaurants, trains, museums, etc.) and allows you to make the most of your time in the city. Breakfast is served in a small but varied room and can also be requested a little earlier. Price range: NIS 300-400 per night Suite 500-800 per night (depending on the type).
La gabbia del grillo – a building with excellent apartments for rent. The apartments include a fully equipped kitchen, air conditioner, TV, coffee machine, dining area and furniture, internet and parking. In addition, there is also a balcony, a small lounge and an inner garden where you can read a book or drink a cup of coffee. The location in the heart of the city right next to the Cathedral of Santa Maria and Adin provides guests with peace. Price range: NIS 500-900 a night. Please note that the place must be booked well in advance because the demand is high.
WOW hostel – the hostel is not in the city center (a 20 minute walk) but if you compromise on the location you will find good facilities at very fair prices. The hostel is colorful (literally), also offers a social life with a pub that includes a terrace. If you want to get to know and meet young people from all over the world, this is an excellent place for you. During the summer there are also free yoga classes. Price range NIS 150-200 for shared rooms, and NIS 200-300 for double rooms per night.
A little shopping for the soul
It is true that the fashion capital of Italy (and Europe as a whole) is Milan, but Florence will meet the demands of Israelis’ severe brands and designer stores. As expected, the prices will be very expensive, so you should arrive when you know what you want to buy and preferably also know the model of the product. Via dei Calzaiuoli is the street with the leading brand shops, but you can also find other shops in nearby streets.
If you want to spend a whole day shopping, try the Centro Commerciale I Gigli mall. The mall is located about 10 kilometers from the city, but you can reach it by train from the station in the city center to Calenzano station and from there bus 303 to the mall or walk for about 8 minutes. Of course, in the mall you will find all the famous clothing stores and designers as well as those that are a little less and even a Primark store.
Barberino Designer Outlet – the largest surplus store center in the Florence area. Although it is a bit remote, still on a sunny and pleasant day it is worth coming here and walking around among the shops located on both banks of a stream, definitely pastoral. The prices still won’t be cheap, but if you want designer clothes and brands, you can find deals here, especially during the sales and holidays.
A trip to Florence – over and we will not pay
So if you’ve decided to go to Florence on your next trip to Italy (how could you not?), you should plan your trip very well and know what you want to do because if you want to see everything the city and its surroundings have to offer, even a month won’t be enough. Although the trip will not be the cheapest option, the crazy experience is guaranteed and when the vacation is over you will swear to come back again.